Foam & Froth Car Wash100% Local
3120 Highway 95 Bullhead City,
Bullhead City , AZ 86442-7803 (view map)
Sometimes a city just grabs you. For Steve and Vicky Sunde, Bullhead City, Ariz., was a convenient stop that quickly morphed into the site of a new career and way of life. Having stopped in town on their way from Moorhead, Minn., to visit their daughter in Los Angeles, the Sundes took to staying in the northwest Arizona city during their annual fall drive out to L.A.
“To this day, I can’t explain it, but we came back again, and we came back again,” Steve Sunde says. “We saw that the community was growing.”
With two knee-replacement surgeries behind him, Sunde knew his career in construction and life in Minnesota would become increasingly difficult. Bullhead City started to feel more and more like home, and before long, the couple decided to make it a permanent stop and jump into the carwash business.
So what were the carwash prospects for a city of 40,000 people which once hit 132 F in the shade and can lay claim to capturing the largest rattlesnake (8 feet 5 inches and 32.67 pounds) on record?
Excellent, considering Bullhead City sits directly across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nev., a popular casino and river recreation destination. Situated less than 100 miles from Las Vegas and a short four-hour drive from Southern California, the Bullhead City/Laughlin area attracts 6 million visitors each year. Bullhead City alone boasts 21 RV parks.
Vicky’s experience as a realtor helped the Sundes find two acres right off Highway 95 for about one-third the going rate of comparable properties. “Our location is absolutely fabulous,” beams Sunde, who notes that about 30,000 cars drive by the wash each day. With excellent sight lines from the highway, Foam & Froth Auto & RV Spa uses the biggest sign allowable and plenty of lighting to lure passersby.
Before Foam & Froth was built, however, things got off to a troubling start. After the location was chosen and the loan obtained, Sunde was diagnosed with colon cancer. Plans for the new wash couldn’t be put on hold, as the construction loan was approved and needed to be acted upon soon.
Pressing on, Sunde says the wash was a good thing for him to focus on during that time. He finished his last round of chemotherapy March 1, 2006, and received his building permit six days later — just in time to move to the Arizona desert and start building in the summer heat.
“It was just one of those things that you do,” Sunde says. “I mean, what’s the point of worrying about the heat if you want to get the thing built?” So they worked all through the summer and got everything finished. Sunde has remained free of cancer and believes operating the carwash is good for his spirit, not just his health.
“It’s not work,” notes Sunde, insisting that he has too much fun. “I get up in the morning and I just do my things: cleaning, visiting with people — it’s just natural. For me, it’s a good fit.”
Sunde calls himself a “people person,” and says the interaction with customers is a big part of why he loves the carwash industry. “When I came here, I didn’t know a soul,” he says. “I’ve met some good people; I’m comfortable. I think the town has accepted me.”
One of the interesting aspects to Foam & Froth’s design is that Sunde built a 1,000-square-foot apartment on top of the carwash that offers views of the Colorado River and the distant mountains. The apartment serves as Sunde’s residence, as well as an office, equipped with computers that monitor every phase of the facility and enable him to keep tabs on the carwash when he is out of town.
The apartment is both a luxury and a necessity because while the Sundes someday would like to build a retirement home in Bullhead City, the couple splits time between Arizona and Minnesota. Vicky’s career as a realtor is going so well that she actually still lives in Minnesota, and she and Steve fly back and forth. “She
probably sells $10 million or $11 million dollars in real estate back in Minnesota and North Dakota,” Sunde shares. “She just can’t leave right now; she’s doing too well. So either she comes down once a month or I go home once a month.
“Having the apartment upstairs, with me living right here, is a big, big advantage,” confides Sunde. “I’m here, I’m talking to my customers and I’m making sure everything is working.”
When he’s not down at the wash, he can still keep a visual eye on the bays thanks to 12 security cameras set up strategically around the facility. Locals and tourists alike have commended him on the fact that someone is always present on the property, and customers have expressed their appreciation for the cameras and the fact that the site is well lit at night.
“We’re kind of a 24-hour town because of the casinos,” notes Sunde.
Foam & Froth is built around two in-bay automatics and three self-serve bays, including a bay designated for RVs and boats that has more space and longer hoses. Sunde opted for touchless systems from A-OK Equipment and selected Hamilton Manufacturing as his change and currency equipment supplier. The wash also features vacuum islands and vending machines next to an automatic floor-mat cleaning machine.
In addition to accommodating cars, RVs and boats, Foam & Froth also caters to pet lovers and thirsty patrons. An air-conditioned pet wash with two self-serve stations has been a big hit with customers, Sunde says, and water vending stations and a drive-through coffee house offer a welcomed convenience.
The amenities Foam & Froth offers are indicative of Sunde’s philosophy toward customer service. If anything, he says, he might be too giving. “We try to please too much,” admits Sunde. “But I feel that, in the long run, it’ll all pay off.
“I’ve had some customers say, ‘Steve, I drive by three other carwashes just to get here to yours,’” he says. “They come here because they know that my equipment works. My main concern is my customers. If I please them, I’m going to get business.”
Thus far, Foam & Froth has been a labor of love and a true family affair. In addition to Vicky’s real estate prowess, the Sundes’ daughter suggested the pet wash, and their son-in-law, an architect, helped design the facility. Even the carwash’s December 2006 grand opening became a truly meaningful family celebration, when their daughter Rachel went into labor during the festivities and gave birth just before midnight.
“What was so special about it was that we weren’t going to be able to see the baby until January,” recalls Sunde. “It was wonderful. The grand opening was a success, and we’ve been going good ever since.”
Although Sunde attributes a small drop in business during the last few months and fewer RVs, trailers and boats out on Highway 95 to the sagging economy and rising gas prices, he knows he has created a solid niche with his services and location. Someday, when he and Vicky are ready to retire and enjoy Bullhead City together full time, Sunde is confident that Foam & Froth will have built a solid foundation for the future and be in position to pass along to their children.
“It’s as much for them as it is for us, if something should happen to me down the road,” Sunde says. “If my cancer comes back, well, at least my wife’s got something. At least it’s here. We don’t dwell on the past; we keep going forward. We’re proud of what we built here.”