A Splash in the Past: International Innovation

Innovation at Tommy's Express Car Wash

The Essenburg family established Quality Car Wash in 1969 and expanded to seven locations across West Michigan. Years of innovation and operations experience propelled the Essenburgs to offer their car wash parts and equipment through Tommy Car Wash Systems. In 2016, the Tommy’s Express franchise was born with a vision to establish a recognized national car wash brand and expand globally.

The worldwide implementation of Tommy’s Express Car Wash was a vision that began with Tom Essenburg and was passed down to Ryan Essenburg, the current president of Tommy’s Express.

Being a leading innovative mind in the car wash industry, Tom Essenburg was a founding member of the enhancement group for car washes, a group of the top car wash owners in the world. 

With the primary goal of observing recent trends and innovations in the car wash industry, both the good and the bad, the enhancement group would travel around the country to different wash sites. 

They would take notes on what they found and then discuss the next step for the industry and how to utilize and implement these innovations to help solve problems at their own locations.

After privately discussing, the enhancement group would attend conventions to speak about the future of car washing and the direction they saw the industry heading. 

Tom would speak to packed crowds eager to hear what he experienced traveling with the group, such as the recent innovative trends and how those trends changed his outlook on the industry. His wealth of knowledge captured the attention of international eyes, leading many to travel to Holland, Michigan, to see how Quality Car Wash processed so many cars in such little time.

The innovations of Tom Essenburg

Tom Essenburg with Ryan Essenburg

The Quality Car Wash on S. Washington St. was the one they came to see. It featured a 180-foot tunnel. The added length improved speed and wash quality due to the increased dwell time of the product and the additional cleaning equipment in use.

The Essenburgs were also one of the first in the industry to utilize a subscription model, which promoted unlimited wash plans.

Of course, not all innovations come to fruition. Innovation is fraught with failure.

Occasionally, this was the case for Tom as he continued coming up with ideas to make the wash a better and cleaner experience for guests.

Through trial and error, this experimentation led to some of the most remarkable findings and innovations in car wash history, such as the game-changing conveyor belt system that has become the industry standard for top-of-the-line guest experience. 

Thanks to the Essenburgs’ innovative spirit and engineering, Tommy’s Express has become a globally-recognized brand within the car washing industry.

Experience the innovations of Tom Essenburg and his family for yourself by stopping at your local Tommy’s Express

And for more information, view our history timeline here or read more about the Quality Car Wash and Tommy’s Express story.