- As told to Pilot writer Carolyn Shapiro by Jeffrey T. Davis Jr.(Owner)
I started working with Community Solutions, a foster-care agency, in that building across the street. I was hired to be the assistant to their general contractor. The idea of vocational training for at-risk kids and foster-care youth was just coming about. The kids came in and they were gravitating toward me. I spoke the same language as they did. We had a good rapport. We were able to understand each other.
We were teaching them construction. That was my primary job. We were remodeling houses, building fences, decks and things like that.
But the backbone of the program was to introduce them to a working environment and help them establish strong work ethics. They could carry on and apply to any job after going through the program. So, it's a basic job-readiness program.
Detailing came about because this building was an auto mechanic's shop, and it went out of business. My boss came to me at that point. "Jeff, we got an empty building across the street. Come up with something." So, I looked up some detailing schools, went out to Pittsburgh to Detail King and got trained and certified.
Little did I know I had a love for it. It just evolved.
Once we started the detailing shop, I took ownership. I said, I'm helping youth develop a realistic career plan that's leading to financial independence, but where's mine? I am the product of what we're preaching. I was a guy who was from the urban background, who was from the streets. I tried to make a change in my life, which I did.
We first started renovating the building and had it done around November 2008. For November and December, I didn't know what we were doing. We had no type of structure or routine. We were just in here learning.
About Jan. 1, 2009, is when I first opened the doors for public business. At that point, we just took off. It's been a learning curve. We started out with $10 car washes and that sort of thing, just to get our name out there and get established, let people know who we are.
We handle some very expensive vehicles - $120,000, $200,000 vehicles, all the way down to $2,000 vehicles.
The majority of our customers actually are mothers, mothers and their kids, who we call "terrorists." Kids are just terrorists to a vehicle, throwing stuff everywhere. Mothers who have a 9-to-5 job, maybe their husbands are in the military, they're very busy and they don't have time to maintain their vehicles. Their kids basically destroy the interiors, and then we bring it back to life.
You've got to have a tough stomach, because we do deal with vomitand things of that manner. We get the bar-time cars, where everybody's friends were riding home and somebody was getting a little dizzy while coming off the highway. We just suit up. We put on the rubber gloves. Sometimes we have to put on the masks. And we dive in.
(We've seen) rat droppings and mold growing in the vehicle. People leave their cars sitting outside. Rodents climb in. They find shelter in your vehicles. We've seen rat bones in the engine compartments. We deal with flood cars, too. They're bad. We have to dismantle the whole car, take out all the seats, take out the carpets, take out the padding. You have to get it all out of there.
What we do is not what you can do yourself. For one, you need the equipment. You need professional, high-quality equipment. There are certain things we use that a normal household does not have, like high-speed buffers, carpet extractors. People think auto detailing is a car wash, but a car wash is completely different. A professional auto detail takes four to eight hours. A car wash you can do in 30 minutes.
That is the backbone: Educate your customer. Teach them what is going on with their car. Teach them how the environment is damaging their paint and damaging their vehicle. If you take your car and set it outside, Mother Nature will engulf that car. Algae will grow. Things will grow.
So we have to preserve things that we buy, things that are valuable to us.