Mexican brothers establish carwash business in the midstate

Roberto Mendoza, center, stands with two of his employees at The Box's Lower Allen Township location. - (Photo / JEN VOGELSONG)

Five years ago, Roberto Mendoza came to the Allentown suburbs from Valle de Bravo, Mexico, to be near family and to seek new opportunities.

He and his brother, Pedro, worked at a carwash in Easton but dreamed of opening one of their own. They began looking for places.

The only one they found that fit their needs was in Camp Hill, an hour and a half from their home. It was a shell of a place, deteriorating inside and with poor plumbing.

No matter. They would fix it up themselves. And they could carpool to work each day. In the end, it would be worth it to be able to build a business of their own. So in 2015, the Mendoza brothers opened The Box, a service in Cumberland County’s Lower Allen Township where cars are washed by hand instead of by machines.

At first, they only washed about six cars a week. It went on like that for months. Eventually, they got eight customers a week, then 15. Slowly, it grew.

“I think people didn’t have a lot of confidence at first,” Mendoza said. “But once they tried us, they started recommending us to their friends and family.”

Customers continued to come for the hand-wash and dry service, and The Box hired its first employee. This past May, Roberto opened a second location next to the West Shore Farmer’s Market in Lemoyne, in another former car wash.

The brothers currently employ five full-time employees and one part-time employee at each of their locations.

“Now we have a system of how we work and people like it,” Mendoza said. “We have a fast, rapid service so our clients leave happy.”

At the Lemoyne location, the old car-washing machines were still inside, but damaged beyond repair. Quality hand wash and dry service at an affordable price was becoming their calling card, so they ripped out the machines and stayed true to what was working for them.

“The machine washes can damage the cars,” Mendoza explained. “With the sponges, we can get to spots that the machines can’t.”

They replaced copper pipes with PVC and installed drainage so water wouldn’t collect and freeze during the colder months. They installed heaters and created a comfortable waiting room with a fireplace and coffee maker where customers could relax and watch while their cars got cleaned.

The new Lemoyne location can handle up to seven cars at a time and has power washers for thorough cleaning of undercarriages. Employees, whom the Mendoza brothers treat as if they were family, work in teams of two or four to get the work done, with the owners pitching in as needed.

“That way, no one feels so much work,” Mendoza said. “We are all equal, and we treat everyone with respect.”

The location in the farmer’s market parking lot has proved to be great for business. “People can drop off their car for washing and then go shopping at the market or to eat at The Pizza Grille,” he said.

In addition to wash and dry service, the business offers vacuuming, waxing, buffing, carpet shampooing and headlight cleaning, as well as a full detailing service.

Many days, when the operation closes at 6 p.m. and employees go home, the Mendoza brothers spend the evening working on more involved jobs before heading back to Allentown. “Hopefully, as business gets better, we can move here soon,” Mendoza said.

He said business increased steadily after Matt Flinchbaugh, owner of Flinchy’s restaurant, became a regular customer and began recommending the place to his clientele. Although the business has a Facebook page and advertises through Google, many of its new customers come by word of mouth.

“People have really tried to help us by promoting us,” Mendoza said. “They tell us it’s hard to find a good car wash at a fair price and they want us to stay here. That means a lot to us and that’s why we give them our best service.”

The original version of this story appeared in a special supplement in the Sept. 28 edition of the Central Penn Business Journal in partnership with La Voz Latina Central. See the full digital publication here.

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