EAST MANATEE -- After Scott Pinkus sold his Sarasota sweepstakes casino, The Winner's Circle, in 2012, the businessman decided to return to what he knew best: How to run a quality car wash.
Right now, The River Club Car Wash is just a pile of dirt on a parcel inside the River Club Plaza at 5740 Ranch Lake Blvd. But come November, it is set to be a state-of-the-art car wash system that relies on a conveyor belt instead of a track to propel cars through the wash cycle. No more scratched wheels or pierced tires. Simply park your car on the conveyor belt and take a ride through the 110-foot wash.
"Knowing the business, I went overboard," said Pinkus, 56, who once owned two car washes in New Jersey. "I picked out the latest and greatest equipment from beginning to end. I got so much equipment that every square inch of the car is being smothered."
The system, designed by Michigan-based Tommy Car Wash Systems, is the second of its kind in Florida. The wash bay will feature a longer tunnel (most gas station tunnels average 30 feet long), quality chemicals and 10 dryers instead of the usual four or five. Customers are finished in about five minutes and are greeted with free self-service vacuums at the end of the wash.
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"You can never compare a gas station car wash to an actual car wash," Pinkus said.
Prior to owning his two car washes in New Jersey, Pinkus created Dollarland, a chain of nearly 50 dollar stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court in 2002, records show.
Palms 64, Pinkus' limited liability company, bought the nearly 1.5-acre site last month for River Club Car Wash. He chose to build inside Ranch Lake Plaza to grab customers from the Wal-Mart and other retail across the way, and to be in the midst of the Lakewood Ranch housing boom. Pinkus said he is looking forward to the 1,300-home Del Webb community that is planned for the area.
"With Wal-Mart being there, this is a perfect fit," said Tim Smith of Bradenton-based West Coast Solutions, a distributor for Tommy Car Wash Systems. "We also don't want a lot of competition within three miles."
Car washes will range from $6 to $14. Unlimited memberships will start at $15 and go up to $30 per month. When it's finished, River Club Car Wash will be opened from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.