By monticellllo @

There’s a business boom happening in car washes, but some towns have had enough. Is there such a thing as too many? Bloomberg’s Patrick Sisson reports:

The town of Streetsboro, Ohio, just off the state’s famous turnpike, owes a not insignificant part of its identity to automobiles and the industries that support them. About 6.5 million cars drive by every year, and the local retail mix is dominated by motels, gas stations and various drive-through businesses.

But in recent years, Mayor Glenn Broska has heard from a lot of constituents angry about one particular element of the autocentric landscape: car washes.

There are four full-service car washes in town, with a fifth on the way; three are bunched up on a mile-and-a-half stretch of Route 14. Social media complaints about car wash overkill spurred town leaders to take action. Early last year, Streetsboro ended up enacting a moratorium on new car wash businesses.

“A car wash does not provide a lot of jobs for the community, and they take up a lot of space,” Broska said. “If you want to invest your dollars into a car wash, then God bless you. But at the same time, I’m responsible for 17,500 people and have to be cognizant of their wishes.”

Other such “saturation bans” have emerged in nearby northeast Ohio cities such as Stow and Parma, Cleveland Scene reports. In Buffalo, New York, a surge of suburban car wash openings in 2023 triggered opposition from nearby residents and community members — including the owners of an existing car wash nearby. New Jersey, Louisiana and Alaska are also seeing their own car wash booms as national chains like Mister Car Wash and Zips Car Wash expand.

Last fall, the planning commission in Lebanon, Tennessee, rejected a permit to build a new Mister Car Wash location, arguing that the largely automated facility wasn’t the best use for a prominent Main Street site. In response, the company is suing.

In a country with roughly 280 million private cars and trucks, can there be such a thing as too many car washes? A growing number of city leaders seem to think so. Unlike stores, restaurants or other businesses, most self-service car washes don’t pay sales taxes to their host communities. And they don’t bring much else to the table in terms of local benefits, critics argue; like drive-through-only fast-food outlets (which have also been the target of local bans), the latest generation of automated facilities provide few jobs even as they pump out noise, traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.

But where neighbors might see a too-crowded market, investors see the beginning of a boom. From the Snow Belt to the Sunbelt, companies are scrambling to add locations and grab a piece of a $14 billion-plus industry. With 60,000 locations across the US, the sector has been expanding at roughly 5% annually, with some forecasts predicting the market to double by 2030. More car washes were built in the last decade than all the preceding years combined.

“I don’t want to be too bullish and say there’s no way this could fail,” said Jeffrey Cicurel, director of capital markets at real estate brokerage JLL. “But Americans are moving to the suburbs, and Americans want quality retail, and car washes come with that.”

Read more here.