CINCINNATI — Kroger Co. is starting to expand an automatic car wash operation that complements its gas stations.
The latest in the initiative is expected to open in August in Grove City, Ohio, according to Kroger's partner Skilken, a Columbus, Ohio, developer that has a 50-year relationship with the retailer.
“During one of our meetings with Kroger, it came out that they had been looking to partner up with a car wash company but hadn't found anyone,” Skilken President Ken Gold told SN. Kroger had been trying for many years with several different companies but couldn't come to an arrangement, he said.
“That was all I needed to hear,” Gold said. “Kroger gave us an opportunity to come up with a concept and it has worked perfectly.” The resulting Ken's Car Wash, founded by Gold, has a brick exterior, many windows, “gorgeous architecture” and whenever possible is located adjacent to the fuel center, Gold added.
The first of the car washes opened in November in Delaware, Ohio, and another opened in Mansfield, Ohio, in December. Eight more are in “some form of entitlement or construction,” Gold said. Five of the eight will be in Ohio and three are located in Kroger's Delta division, which covers Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Beyond that, Skilken is working with the retailer to plan more car washes in Kroger's Delta division and its Great Lakes division, which covers Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia. “We feel the model works in many states and although we don't know where it will go exactly, we hope it goes up throughout Kroger's marketing area,” Gold said. Kroger now has a total of 608 gas stations across all divisions.
“People are already driving 15 minutes to get to the existing car washes,” Gold said. They are designed so that customers can buy a car wash along with their gas, paying for it at the fuel pump, and then “come right across to get your car wash,” he said. The washes range from a $6 “soft touch” to an $11 “ultimate.”
The architecture is meant to complement Kroger stores, as well as to appeal to their primary customer base of women. “Sixty percent of our customers are women so we want them to feel secure and safe by having the windows in the units,” Gold said.
Gold would not provide the financial details of the partnership and Kroger did not respond to SN's request for comment.
The Ken's Car Wash website states that the business is a separate entity from the Kroger Co.