December 19, 2002
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Business Owner Doug Roberts in the pet wash area at his new venture, Kiss and Hug Pet and Car Wash, which recently opened on the south end of town.

Car, pet wash open for business

Adding to its many features, Yellow Springs can now claim one of the state’s first pet washes, and almost certainly the first carwash that calls itself Kiss and Hug.

The Kiss and Hug Pet and Car Wash, owned by Chris and Doug Roberts — whose names, not coincidentally, rhyme with Kiss and Hug — opened three weeks ago on the south edge of town on U.S. 68, and is now open 24 hours a day.

On a recent Saturday, business was good, as one villager vacuumed the carpet of his red Toyota in the self-serve bay while another negotiated the automatic carwash, sitting tight as his station wagon moved slowly through the bay, blasted by hot soapy water, then sprays of clear water followed by gusts of warm air.

The Roberts hope the positive response so far indicates that local residents want their cars shiny and their pets clean.

“The demographics show that this town should support a wash,” said Doug Roberts, who manages the business. “By and large people seemed excited to have one.”

The wash features two self-serve bays, where car owners can, for $1.25, using a pre-soak solution, wash with high-tech soaps and a foam brush, rinse with a high or low-powered rinse and polish things off with a power gloss wax.

“You can get much more out of this than just wash and rinse,” Chris said.

Most of the same options are available in the automatic bay, where drivers can insert bills or a credit card for a basic $5 wash and wax, or up to $7 for premium treatment.

But villagers don’t have to negotiate the new car wash by themselves, since Doug Roberts is spending most of his days there, providing customer service as well as keeping everything running smoothly.

“Statistically, the owner-operated carwashes always do better,” he said. “Having someone there to help has got to be a plus.”

When he’s not helping customers, Roberts might be in the machine room, which is crowded with large metal boxes, hoses, pipes and tubes. Here, he monitors the chemical levels and makes sure hoses and valves are working correctly.

“It’s a lot more involved than you think,” he said.

Running the Kiss and Hug is nothing new to Doug Roberts, who first got into the carwash business 18 years ago, as co-owner of the Bubble Brush wash in Xenia. That business began after his partner sent away for a government pamphlet listing the small businesses with the best chance of success — a carwash topped the list.

When the partners sold the business several years later, Roberts opened a bike repair shop in Yellow Springs. Although his businesses have involved a variety of services, they all revolve around the same activity — fixing things.

“I’m a natural born mechanic,” said Roberts with a shrug, adding that, since the talent comes so easily to him, he once thought everyone else could fix things.

For the past several years, the Roberts have owned Caboose Bike & Skate. While that business keeps them busy in the summer, and parts of the spring and fall, they sought another business for their slow season, and they began shopping around for a place to sell used cars — Doug’s first love is fixing cars — as well as to locate a carwash.

The Roberts purchased their lot two years ago, and since that time have been doing planning and research. However, their research led to a change in plans, since the financial investment for the carwash turned out to be considerably more than they expected. So the couple opted to focus now on the carwash, and put the plans for a car lot on the back burner.

Their research led them to a trade show in Las Vegas, where they spotted the D&S 5000 automatic carwash machine, which Doug describes as “one of the better machines out there” due to its reliability and its ability to clean the front, rear and underside of a car as well as its top. The Kiss and Hug features the machine in its automatic bay.

Also at the trade show, Chris noticed a pet-washing apparatus, and the couple decided that Yellow Springs could use one. In the Kiss and Hug pet-wash room, which includes heated floors, pet owners can lead their dogs into the elevated wash tub, then choose from regular shampoo, flea and tick shampoo, rinse or conditioner. A dryer is also available, although Chris advises pet owners to bring a towel, since the dryer, to align with grooming standards, only provides air that is room-temperature.

The pet wash costs $1.50 for five minutes of use.

The Roberts haven’t yet convinced their own soap-phobic dog to leap into the tub, but, Chris said, they have received positive feedback from local pet owners.

Adding the pet wash involved a risk because the idea is so new no research demographics are available, said Doug. The state’s first pet wash and car wash combo opened only a few weeks ago, taking away the Kiss and Hug’s claim to first, Doug said. Still, the couple can safely say theirs is the first in the region.

If the pet wash goes well, the couple plans to add another wash tub in the room, and Chris is considering leasing the room to a pet groomer one day a week.

“We’re kicking around a lot of ideas,” she said. “Will people use it? That remains to be seen.”

Overall, Doug Roberts said, “we’re hoping there are as many dogs as there are cars in Yellow Springs.”

—Diane Chiddister