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Employees impress customers at Milford car wash chain

Employees impress customers at Milford car wash chain

As CEO of Splash Car Wash, Mark Curtis regularly spends millions of dollars building new locations in Connecticut, New York and Vermont.

But while state-of-the-art equipment at its sites is important, it’s the human component, the people who work at Splash, that keep customers coming back, Curtis said.

He and his team at Splash must be doing something right. The Milford-based company is one of the perennial winners among medium-sized employers with 150 to 499 people in southern and western Connecticut. This year, 17 mid-sized companies received the Hearst Connecticut Media Top Workplaces award — and Splash came out on top as the No. 1 winner for the second year in a row.

The No. 2 finisher is Connecticut In Home Assistance, based in Stratford and No. 3 is Barnum Financial Group headquartered in Shelton.

No. 1: Splash Car Wash

Employees in region: 400

Headquarters: Milford

No. 2: Connecticut In Home Help

Employees in region: 150

Headquarters: Stratford

No. 3: Barnum Financial Group

Employees in region: 218

Headquarters: Shelton


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At Splash, Curtis said it’s important to have good employees “to give people the right experience when they come in.”

“People will always have questions, even with a fully automated wash,” Curtis said.

Nelson Perez of Watertown worked for Splash for four years. Perez was busy on a recent weekday afternoon at the company’s brand new East Haven location, helping motorists choose which wash package they wanted.

After the drivers paid for the laundry, he helped them navigate the automated system that opens a gate allowing them to drive forward to begin the washing process.

“I think people really appreciate the attention, the help I give them,” Perez said. “And I really like what I do.”

Frank Rossi started working for Splash in 2007 as an oil change technician at the company’s West Haven location. Within a year, Curtis had promoted him to assistant manager and for three years after that, Rossi was running the venue.

By 2014, Rossi had progressed to regional manager in charge of oil changes. Now he is a regional manager responsible for new start-up operations.

Rossi teamed up with Perez in early September, helping customers navigate the payment system. Rossi recalled that when he first started working at Splash more than a decade ago, he got “a real family vibe” from his new workplace.

“I met Mark within two weeks of starting and I was like, ‘Wow, you don’t often meet the CEO of a company that quickly,’” he said. “I was impressed by that. And a lot of how I feel about where I work comes down to daily interaction. Many of the people I work with are my friends as well as colleagues.”

Curtis prides himself on knowing his employees by name. Splash employs more than 1,000 people at 55 locations across the company and just over 400 in Connecticut.

“You hire for attitude and train for skill,” Curtis said. “You don’t want to hire a miser, someone who doesn’t smile. Ninety-five percent of people want to do a good job; it all comes down to training to do a good job.”

Curtis said the popular public perception of working in a car wash is “usually labeled as a last resort, dead-end job.”

“But we have a lot of guys who started vacuuming cars and now they run some of our sites,” he said. “We are blessed with extremely low turnover.”

Nashua Senior, a New Haven teen, hopes to be Splash’s next success story. Recently hired to work at the East Haven location, Senior’s job is to help customers use the car wash’s free vacuuming stations and ensure that clogged hoses don’t diminish suction.

“Someone in my family used to work for Splash and he said it was a good place to work,” Senior said.

Kyle Whelan from East Haven started at Splash three weeks ago. Before taking the job, he had worked a regular night shift at the Harbor Freight Tools hardware store in Orange.

“I don’t have a car at the moment and it made it very difficult to get to and from work at that time of day,” Whelan said. “In addition, I have to admit that I like to work when the sun is shining.”

Whelan said another benefit of his new job is that he gets to see all the different types of cars.

“I really like anything to do with cars, so I thought, why not work on something that encompasses one of my passions,” he said.

Curtis is expanding the Splash empire, which now has 19 of its Connecticut locations, by building new car washes and acquiring existing car washes. He said he is trying wherever possible to retain employees of car washes that the company takes over.

“We love to hire trained employees, even if they haven’t been properly trained before,” said Curtis. “It’s easier to retrain them than to replace them.”

Days when it rains or when customer activity goes down are used to train employees, he said.

“Rain days are train days,” Curtis joked.

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