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The Road to Success

Updated: Nov 28, 2023


City Taxi and City Wash Car Wash

By Mary Carpenter • Photos by Jessica McCafferty


Jim and Gail Buck purchased City Taxi and City Wash Car Wash — now NuWay Car Wash — in 1975. The two businesses complemented one another. The taxis offered a service badly needed in the area and the car wash was an additional source of income that allowed them to keep their fleet of vehicles clean and offer detailing.


Jim was a man with creative ideas who set out to convert the existing car wash tunnel to the touchless car wash method the industry favored at the time. Cleaning a vehicle without physical contact required increased water pressure and chemicals specifically designed to work without friction. In addition to its high-speed washing process, attendants – usually Gail and a helper — hopped into each vehicle and cleaned the windows and the dashboard as it was drawn through by a conveyor belt. At the end of the line there were more attendants waiting to dry it off with soft cloths. It was a labor-intensive operation. The charge was $2 for a car wash; $2.75 if you wanted your vehicle waxed.


With the increased number of cars on the road, the growing demand for convenience services and the North Country’s harsh winters, the car wash was a success. The couple’s son, Perry, who worked in both operations as he was growing up, joined the business full time in 1985. Things were going well, but then in 1991, a fire destroyed the car wash. Give up? Not if your name is Buck! The family pulled together and, in less than two months, the fire debris was cleared away and a new car wash was up and running.


In the 1990s father and son took their expertise to Vermont and New Hampshire, where they built self-service and automatic car washes on contract. In 2002 Perry built NuWay Car Wash, a touchless automatic car wash in Skyway Plaza in Plattsburgh’s south end.



City Taxi and City Wash Car Wash

The Next Big Thing

A greater awareness of environmental issues caused a shift in attitudes in the car wash industry in the early 2000s. “We stayed with the touchless system for a while,” Perry explained, “but I began to do my research about what the next big thing would be. The chemicals we were using were potent and we had to tweak the mixture of them frequently based on changes in the weather. Also, a consideration was how to best deal with the new lead-free automobile paints.” By 2010 Perry knew what he needed to do and was ready to make his move. “The industry had moved to a new world of eco-friendly products,” he offered. “They were the right products for the right time.”


When equipment for a new process required building changes Perry installed new plumbing and electrical systems and improved the esthetic of the Margaret Street structure. All the work was done by NuWay Car Wash staff.


A Family Affair

Now that I knew the basics of the car wash business, Perry and I moved on to talk about the Buck family. He was quick to credit many of his family members for their role in his success – his wife, Laura, a reading specialist at Momot Elementary School in Plattsburgh; an assortment of nieces and nephews, and his three children.


Daughter Nikki, who works with Perry, earned a degree in Business Management and Marketing from St. Michael’s College. After graduation she spent several years working in the Boston area. In an interesting twist of fate, she returned to Plattsburgh when her husband accepted a position as an assistant district attorney in the Clinton County DA’s office. Nikki’s experience in fundraising allows her to put her skills to work part time for the United Way of the Adirondack Region while she channels most of her efforts to the family business. “I love the family dynamic. There is no better feeling for me than to help my family,” she emphasized. “I’ve learned a lot from my dad. We work well together. I am a more direct personality and he brings out the softer side of me. He understands everything about the business and I can bring a fresh perspective to things like grants, tax credits, the Linked Program, social media, and marketing.”

Perry is equally enthusiastic about his working relationship with Nikki. “More women are becoming part of the car wash industry. It has been great for the industry and brings a different perspective to car washing.”


The Next Venture

Currently the focus at NuWay Car Wash is on its new construction project – a state-of-the-art car wash on Upper Cornelia Street in the city’s west end. “It had been my goal for 20 years to have a location in that area,” Perry explained, “but property has always been hard to come by. I was pleased when we were able to find a property that could work for us.”


“We believe in the cluster effect,” Nikki commented. “The more businesses there are close by, the more business takes place.”


Father and daughter have been deeply involved in all aspects of the planning of the new facility, aided by design advice from a niece/cousin in Missouri – one more time a family member stepped up to help. The building will be streamlined, with large windows to give it an open feeling and help heat it in the winter months. It will be two feet wider than most car washes in order to dispel any sense of claustrophobia.

As he has been with all his projects, Perry is the general contractor for the new car wash. “We are a year behind due to architectural and engineering delays caused by COVID, as well as water and sewer line delays,” he observed, “but it is my hope to have it operational by Thanksgiving.”


Equipment for the new soft touch system came from Sonny’s, The Car Wash Factory, headquartered in Tamarac, Florida, and considered to be the gold standard in the industry.

As the opening of NuWay Car Wash’s new location approaches, the excitement is growing. The Buck family is, once again, demonstrating that an understanding of their industry, hard work and the willingness to take a risk is the road to success.


SIDEBAR: SOFT TOUCH

Soft touch is an automated car wash system that uses soft, cloth-like materials, such as foam or fabric strips, to clean the exterior of a vehicle. It begins with a pre-wash cycle. High-pressure nozzles or sprayers apply several cleaning chemicals to loosen dirt, grime and contaminants on the vehicle’s surface. High end car wash packages include carnauba wax, ceramic wax or the new graphene wax. Those waxes provide protection and shine. Next, soft, rotating cloth or fabric strips, often made of a gentle material like lambswool, are used to physically clean the vehicle’s exterior. The materials are designed to be non-abrasive and are more gentle on the car’s paint. After the washing phase, the car is rinsed with high-pressure water jets to remove the loosened dirt and soap residue. Finally, powerful air dryers or blowers are used to remove excess water from its surface, leaving it dry and shiny.


NuWay Car Wash

269 Margaret Street

Plattsburgh, NY 12901

518 563-1850


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