The Bexley Car Wash, 3420 E. Broad St., has reopened after a $2 million renovation resulting from a fire that destroyed the previous facility in December 2018.
Originally opened in 1955, the Bexley Car Wash has been a staple of Bexley and the east Columbus community, owner Allen Mathena said.
"It is definitely one of the oldest, continuously running, real car washes in the country," he said.
The newly reopened business includes upgraded technology that results in a spot-free wash, as well as vacuuming, mat laundering and other services, Mathena said.
"It is total state-of-the-art," he said.
A Massillon, Ohio, native, Mathena attended Ohio State University and the University of Rio Grande and holds a bachelor's degree in comprehensive social studies.
After completing service with the U.S. Army and working as a house painter in the 1960s, Mathena said, he decided to get into the car-wash business because it seemed like a lucrative industry that would enable him to realize his entrepreneurial spirit.
"I just knew I wanted to do something on my own and not work for anybody else, and the car-wash industry was kind of growing fast," he said.
Mathena opened his first car wash in Dayton in the early 1970s. He eventually settled in Columbus and, in 1982, bought the Bexley Car Wash, which operated under a different name at the time, after noticing that business was booming.
"We were driving down Broad Street, and here this guy was lined out to the street, and I said, 'What in the world is that?' " he said.
"There was a big sign on it called 'Jiffy Wash.' "
Mathena renamed the business the Bexley Car Wash and gradually expanded to a chain of car washes called Soft Touch Car Wash in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, as well as Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. He attributes the longevity of the business to attention to detail, both in car-wash technology and in customer service.
"What most guys won't do in most service businesses is they won't invest the money and time in training. You think everybody's going to learn, and you always have the employee who doesn't even care to learn," he said. "There's no big secret to it. Why do some guys win and other people don't? It's investing."