QT sells car washes to Arkansas operator

QuikTrip's three-year venture into the car wash business ended last week with the sale of its two Wichita facilities to an Arkansas company.

Zip's Car Wash, based in Jonesboro, Ark., took over QuikTrip's two Wichita car washes last week, at 1500 S. Maize Road and at 324 S. West St.

The deal also includes the original QuikTrip car wash built in 2004 in Glenpool, Okla., near the company headquarters in Tulsa.

Terms were not disclosed.

"We're sitting next door to an outstanding company," said Zip's spokesman John Gray. "Any time you can sit next to an outstanding convenience store like QuikTrip that does that much business, you're in a good location."

QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said Monday that the venture, while profitable, wasn't the best use of company resources.

"They did very well, but we looked at it like this," Thornbrugh said. "For the same capital expenditure, what is our better return? Obviously for us, the better return is to build a convenience store.

"We learned a lot about the car wash business, and we know how to operate it very well, but it came down to the bottom line. We came to the conclusion rather quickly that it's better to invest in our stores, for the short and long term."

Zip's immediately changed the wash menu, cutting the low-end wash price by $2 to $5. Other washes will range from $8 to $12, depending on the service.

QuikTrip's venture into car washes came after about 18 months of research into the project, Thornbrugh said.

"It's something we'd always wanted to do, so we went about it the way we do everything," Thornbrugh said. "We took the time and effort to research them, find the right equipment."

The Oklahoma car wash was popular, so QuikTrip officials took the project to the next level in Wichita by opening two upscale car washes in 2006, at roughly the same time that gas prices neared $4 per gallon.

It was bad timing, but not a driver in the decision to sell, Thornbrugh said.

"We've been monitoring people's spending for 50 years, and one thing we know really well is that there are only so many disposable dollars out there," he said.