Editor's note: Due to an editing error, the name of the car wash was incorrect in our May print issue. The story below contains the correct information.
In their early 20s, John Cefalone, Tom DeBacco, and Chris Rivera moved to downtown Baltimore in search of age-old urban conveniences: bars, restaurants, and everyday necessities right in their neighborhood.
It didn't take long for them to realize that those daily amenities started and ended with food and drink. There wasn't a Target for miles, no mainstream movie theatres, and what, the guys wondered, were they supposed to do when they wanted a professional car wash close to their homes in Canton and Butchers Hill?
The answer was simple: They would build a car wash themselves. Not only that, they would make it environmentally friendly and add what everyone wants these days: Wifi, coffee, and comfortable couches.
"Obviously, we couldn't afford to do a Target or a movie theatre, but a car wash, we thought maybe we could build something like that," says Rivera, now 31.
The road to Canton Car Wash, which opened last month on the corner of Ponca and O'Donnell streets, has been a long and winding one for the trio, all of whom were just shy of 30 when they started applying for loans to build and operate the $2.1 million facility.
Banks laughed at them. Longtime car wash proprietors insisted on the need for harsh chemicals for a sparkling finish. But they stuck to their guns and the result is the City's first and only all "green" car wash.
A $75,000 water filtration system recycles 80 to 90 percent of the 8,175-square-foot facility's water, all cleaning products are biodegradable, and disposable utensils at the car wash's chic espresso bar are bamboo. In addition, the facility was built with recycled materials and its property is planted with foliage indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay region. If that's not enough, the business features low-water consuming toilets and waterless urinals.
"The fact that you're not cleaning your car yourself is way better for the environment," says Cefalone, 30, who points out that the streams of dirty, chemical-filled water from curbside car washing in Baltimore City wind up flowing directly into Chesapeake Bay storm water drains.
"Being green is not cheap," Rivera admits, adding that the business owners plan on adding solar panels when funding allows. "A lot of businesses love to say they're green and it's almost comical how they're not necessarily putting their dollars where they're saying they're going to. We need to be green all the way through."