Christopher Vernon has always had a mind for entrepreneurship.
At the age of five, he pulled his little red wagon around his hometown, selling potatoes from a local farm for 5 cents each to his neighbors.
Vernon was born in Robbinsville and grew up in Trenton and Ewing. His parents Ron, who worked in the steel business, and Judy always supported their son knowing he had a knack for business. “I always knew that I wanted to have my own business, especially after I finished high school, and my parents gave me the option of going to college or working,” Vernon said. “So after graduating from Notre Dame High School, I decided to go to work, and the rest is history.”
Thirty-plus years later, Vernon is the owner of four car washes in New Jersey. The latest and largest is a 70,000-sq.-ft. facility in Lawrence, Valet Auto Wash, located at 4 Litho Rd. His other businesses are located in Princeton, Trenton and Hamilton.
“If you want us to do it, we will,” Vernon said about the customer service he and his staff provide. “When we started out 30 years ago with our Lalor Car Wash, we knew back then that one day, we wanted to build the world’s largest, and most high-tech car wash.”
The newest car wash is the only second one in the country that uses a wax tunnel with spray-on wax and no water. “All of the high-tech features that we use save water and are great for the environment,” Vernon said. “We recycle a good portion of the water so that it is not wasted. We have actually reinvented the car wash business with our newest location in Lawrence, using advanced equipment that can actually measure soap levels for the best results.”
After cars are washed and waxed with contouring machines that deep clean by penetrating even the toughest parts of a vehicle, Auto Valet Car Wash has a buffing cloth that gives the automobile a high gloss, finished look. “It makes people smile,” Vernon said. “Getting your car cleaned and waxed can brighten up an otherwise gloomy day. People will come in with a dirty car, and they leave with a clean car. This could be something that just makes people happy.”
Vernon feels that Lawrence is a community of great, caring individuals. He wants to help the community and believes that excellent service is important. Because of this, he and his team of “wonderful” employees always aim to better themselves and the business with new specials and services. “One of the things that we have that people really love is the fact that they can go down the conveyer belt with the employees, watching the really specialized detailed service they are getting for their vehicle,” Vernon said. “While customers are waiting, they have the option of relaxing while enjoying our espresso and cappuccino bar.”
Services range in price from a base price wash of $9, which includes tax, to the highest premium package of waxing and detailed inside cleaning for $38. Customers who choose the premium package receive the added bonus of the interior of the cars being deep cleaned by air guns that get the dirt and even the dust out of the inside of a vehicle. “All of our awesome employees vacuum the vehicles the way they should be vacuumed,” Vernon said. “With the premium package, we do it all. But for people who just want a quick base wash, we offer free towels for them to thoroughly dry their autos after the wash. We even offer a wash club program where you pay one price, $29 a month, and you can come in as much as you want. It ends up paying for itself.”
The car wash business keeps Vernon busy, and so does his family. His six kids, Elizabeth, Sean, Abigail, Kathleen (Kitty), Maeve, and Josephine, range in ages from 8 to 16. Vernon’s wife, Eileen (O’Gorman), is a stay-at-home mom who drives the kids to St. Raphael’s school and Notre Dame High School and to all of their activities during the week. “My wife helps me so much, and she is a great mom,” Vernon said. “We all work together to keep our family and the businesses going strong. Our goal is to keep putting smiles on our kids and our customers’ faces.”
For more information, visit valetwash.com.