December 18 marks the one-year anniversary of Shell and Sheldon Grossman’s return to Bixby Knolls Car Wash. The Grossmans began operating the Bixby Knolls Car Wash in 1977 and sold it in 2004 so they could retire. Over the years they became a fixture in Long Beach, known for their strong work ethic, excellent customer service and dedication to the community.
“We sold the car wash to a man who sold it to somebody else. The most recent owner was not making the payments,” Sheldon said. “We decided to come out of retirement. It took quite a while for the whole thing to go through the courts, but eventually we got it back.”
Sheldon began in auto repair and made the switch to the car wash business when he moved from Seattle to Southern California. By the time he purchased Bixby Knolls Car Wash in 1977, he owned four other car washes. Eventually, he decided to focus solely on his car wash in Bixby Knolls, and for the next 27 years the Grossmans fully committed themselves to their business and community. Sheldon was a board member of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association for years. Shell is currently on the board of the Long Beach Arts Council and is a trustee at Musical Theater West. They’re both members of the chamber of commerce and support the city and local charities whenever they can.
So it’s no surprise that people were happy to see them return.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of returning is the responses we’ve gotten. People are happy we’re back. When one customer saw the sign saying we were returning, they made a u-turn and came right in,” said Sheldon. “People are also excited to see Ramon Paz, our manager. He is always so nice to customers. He’s got his own following. He works hard to make customers happy.”
Although the last year has been just as rewarding as it’s been challenging, they’ve enjoyed returning to their home base. “It’s exciting to be back. I love being around people, and the community here is very warm and welcoming. We are a community car wash,” said Shell. “It’s been hard at times, the economy being what it is, but I’m enjoying the challenge. Sheldon and I like solving problems together. We make a good team. I’m good at the human relationship aspect and he provides the mechanical point of view.”
The Grossmans have accomplished a lot in the year since they’ve been back. They upgraded the car wash tunnel and added hand washing back into the repertoire. They just put in a new computerized cash register, allowing them to make changes with greater ease. In addition, they are working hard to go green. Sheldon is an assistant board member of the International Car Wash Association, an organization whose new program WaterSavers is designed to help car wash owners and operators promote their environmentally friendly business practices and educate consumers about the environmental benefits of professional car washing.
“The former owners had installed an extremely noisy air blower/dryer. We took it out and put in a new, quiet system that is just as effective and uses less power. We have a water recycling and reclaiming system. The only fresh water that is used is in the final wash of the car, and it’s a very light final rinse. That saves water and electricity,” said Sheldon.
The Grossmans continue to stress the importance of having good relationships with both their customers and employees. “Good customer relationships begin with good employee relationships. All of our employees receive ongoing training. They have nice uniforms and hats. We’re having a Christmas party for the employees on the 18th. We treat all employees with respect. We have very low employee turnover,” said Sheldon.
The Grossmans encourage their employees to get to know their customers and always make sure they feel welcome. Ongoing updates to improve the car wash are based on the customers’ needs as well. Customers should expect to see new signs within the next month. They also just added an express (exterior only) car wash option to their full-service menu. Gift cards are now available and make great stocking stuffers.
“We try to base updates on what people want. We do everything we can do to make the place modern and look first-class. We want to make sure that we look the best and are the best. We want to exceed the customer’s expectations,” said Sheldon.
Bixby Knolls Car Wash is located at the northwest corner of Atlantic Avenue and Wardlow Road in Long Beach. Call (562) 595-6666.