Spring cleaning doesn’t exactly top the list of beloved activities, but Paul Chamberlin, owner of Royal Palm Beach’s Somerset Suds Self Car Wash, believes that soaping and spraying your vehicle is its own foamy form of self-care.
The 24/7 car wash has been in business for approximately five years, and it offers not only a high-powered, touchless, automatic rinse system for your vehicle, but also a self-serve option.
The car wash, located on Royal Palm Beach Blvd. just north of Okeechobee Blvd., accommodates everything from Mini Coopers to horse trailers, boats and dual-cab trucks.
Patrons can spend a few bucks to lather their cars and then watch in satisfaction as the day’s — or week’s… or month’s — grime and slime slide from their vehicles under a clean, steady hose, leaving a sparkling finish.
If you listen closely, you might even hear a contented sigh escaping your car.
“People get relief when they wash their own vehicle,” Chamberlin said. “It’s like a therapy for them.”
Chamberlin believes vehicular hygiene has a positive influence on a person’s attitude and mental health.
“I think it has to do with pride of ownership,” he said. “People have the pride of owning a vehicle, and they like to take care of it, and it makes them feel good when they do. When you get a car wash, you feel like you almost took a shower. You feel clean. You feel happy.”
In fact, since the pandemic, Chamberlin has actually seen a boost in customers coming to wash their cars, and he speculates the reason is that it’s an uplifting experience.
“Pandemics are depressing, and this makes people feel good,” he said. “There are a lot of people out of work, and it doesn’t cost a lot — it costs $2.50 to start the machine, and if you want to do a good job, then maybe it will cost you five bucks to wash your car.”
To Chamberlin, getting outside and washing your car is an affordable outlet and release for people dealing with everyday stress.
Along with offering 24-hour service, the business also has 24-hour surveillance for the safety of its night owl customers. And since it partners with the neighboring Meineke Car Care Center — also owned and operated by Chamberlin and his wife, Kathleen — patrons are guaranteed a free car wash with every oil change.
Customer satisfaction is vital, according to Chamberlin. Employees are, therefore, expected to be fair and honest if they want to keep working for the Chamberlins.
“I have three rules for all my employees: don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t steal,” Chamberlin said. “If you do any of those things, then I didn’t fire you, you fired yourself.”
He’s very picky when choosing his employees, as poor attitudes and dishonest behavior can lead to loss of business. On top of that, Chamberlin insists that every customer is provided with a visual inspection performed on the vehicle, so that there can be no doubt that he or she is being treated with integrity and respect.
“Sometimes people don’t want the inspection with the pictures, but I still say that we have to do it,” Chamberlin said.
So far, so good, as the business continues to see steady customers. There also seems to be no demographic pattern of people using the car wash, according to Chamberlin, who said individuals of varying backgrounds, with all makes, models and colors of cars will roll up to the wash.
“I have two cars that I take there all the time,” said Somerset Suds regular Vinnie Perrin. “It’s beautiful… the place is always nice and clean, and whenever I’m finished here, I’m always happy.”
Perrin, a longtime resident of Royal Palm Beach, had nothing but compliments for the Chamberlins and their businesses.
“Kathleen and Paul — it’s a blessing to have them in this community,” Perrin said. “They’re great people. I recommend a lot of customers to them.”
Kathleen Chamberlin likewise emphasized that the business has been a blessing to her, as it has helped her acclimate to her neighborhood and make friends in the process. The family moved to South Florida from Toronto, Canada, and knew virtually nobody in their new hometown. Customers have become, in a sense, confidantes.
“I feel like being a family-owned business, you’re more part of the community,” she said, “because more people like to support small businesses and the people who own them, who live in the community and know what’s going on.”
And their customers have adopted them into the community as well.
“Having Meineke and the car wash in the community is a plus for everybody,” Perrin said. “It’s a great job, a clean place, and if anything is wrong, Paul will drop what he’s doing to come over and assist you.”
Somerset Suds is located at 1201 Royal Palm Beach Blvd., adjacent to Dunkin’ Donuts.