If a peacock blue, 1957 Ford T-Bird shows up at John’s Qwik Stop (JQS) this week, it’s a good bet the new JQS Deluxe Car Wash is open for business.
“My original intent was to have that roll through [the car wash] first. We’ll see,” John Ketchen of JQS said this past Saturday while surveying progress on the new addition to his C Avenue convenience store.
“We are very, very close to opening,” Ketchen said. “Still working on getting all the pumps communicating with the equipment.”
The new car wash will feature four bays--two self-service, a brush automatic, and a brushless automatic--with each offering the option to pay with cash, credit, or by app.
“All machines will be able to scan your phone for payment. We’ll have a mobile app with push notifications, discounts, and club promotions,” Ketchen said.
The cement in and around the car wash is heated, including the exits, which Ketchen said should enable the facility to operate no matter how bad the weather is outside.
“Snow and ice should never get in the exits and freeze the bay doors...The boiler continually pumps all the water under the heated cement and in storage.”
Ketchen contracted with Washworld for the car wash system itself but used local contractors for everything else including Edwards Plumbing and Heating, Elwick Electric, McDowells Building Materials, and C&S Concrete.
“We used local everything,” Ketchen emphasized. “There’s over $700,000 worth of cement between the two buildings...Andy [Elwick] had never wired a car wash before. There’s more than 30 miles of wiring here.”
Ketchen has owned and operated John’s Qwik Stop since purchasing the business from John and Bev Anderson in the fall of 1995.
A lot has changed in the ensuing 25 years—the business now occupies the entire block—but not his commitment to the community, Ketchen said.
He estimates between the convenience store construction in 2016 and the car wash this year, JQS has spent more than $2.5 million locally.
His Vinton store employs 35 full- and part-time employees, one of whom will be present at the car wash to answer questions and keep the bays clean a majority of the time, Ketchen said.
Previously, Ketchen’s payroll numbered 135 employees across four convenience stores, but he sold off three of those stores in early 2020.
“I’ve never had a plan,” Ketchen admitted, “I’m nearing retirement and I still don’t have one.”
He feels good though about the changes he’s made this year by downsizing.
Vinton, he said, is where he wants to be and who he wants to serve.
Ketchen hopes plenty of local people will soon be soaping up their vehicles in his bays, whether it’s a Ford T-Bird or a family van or a work truck.
“I think there is a fairly strong need for a car wash in Vinton. We’re pushing really hard to open by the end of the week.”