When Martin Kuhns lost his job to layoffs in 1991, he began to work for his longtime friends –John and Carol Kuhns – at Kuhnsville Car Wash LLC in Upper Macungie Township.
Nearly a quarter-century later and because of the time, energy and caring the couple invested in the company and its employees, he said, 71-year-old Martin Kuhns remains at the car wash.
It is all thanks to what John and Carol Kuhns started in 1988 on West Tilghman Street in Kuhnsville – and a testament to how their son Jon has modernized the business.
It began with three employees and a garden hose – cleaning the exterior of cars – and grew it into a full-service, interior and exterior, year-round technologically advanced car wash, employing and mentoring up to 150 people at a time.
“I thought this business would grow, so I stayed here,” said Martin Kuhns, now a part-time facility manager and who is not related to the owners. “They’ve taken good care of me.”
Through the years, John and Carol Kuhns, both 73, and their four children continued to work at the car wash. The couple retired in 2006 when their son, Jon Kuhns, took over the business.
“We work with our employees a lot,” Carol Kuhns said. “We would always have employee meetings, and I would tell the employees, ‘The most important thing is the customer. Without the customer, you don’t have a job.’ ”
Twenty-seven years ago, John Kuhns was living in Kuhnsville – which is named after his ancestors – as the owner of a small contracting business. Carol was a real estate agent.
In need of a career change, the two bought a one-acre West Tilghman Street plot from John Kuhns’ parents, across the street from the younger couple’s home.
Recognizing that the community needed a car wash, the pair designed, built and opened Kuhnsville Car Wash LLC – operating it strictly as an exterior wash business. In addition to the full-service wash area, they built a five-bay self-service car wash.
To increase revenue, in 2001 the couple built an extension to the washing facility to house five lanes for interior car cleaning and an area for drying.
Prior to the addition, Carol Kuhns said, she would pick up customers’ cars while they were at work and bring them to the car wash for interior cleaning – and hand-deliver them to customers when finished.
When Jon Kuhns took over in 2006 he used his background as a principal scientist for DuPont and Westinghouse to integrate the latest equipment, cleaning processes and technology at the car wash.
Today, the business maintains its original goal of quality and friendly service while staying current in the car wash industry.
Since taking over the business, Jon Kuhns installed a new computer system, which includes 15 cameras that surround the car wash, which allows for 24-hour monitoring. This helps to keep the line of cars in a continuous motion, limiting glitches in the machinery operation and customer service.
“Jon has made a lot of improvements,” Carol Kuhns said of her 54-year-old son. “With technology, he is way above me.”
Most of the staff at Kuhnsville Car Wash are high school or college students who gravitate to the accommodating schedule it offers employees.
Andrew Kapes, 21, has worked for the company for four years. He attends a community college and is able to work through the school year.
“It’s a good job,” Kapes said. “The people are nice and it has really flexible hours.”
Carol Kuhns said she still keeps in contact with many of the students who worked their way through college while at the car wash, and she said she has held at least three bridal showers in her home for past employees.
“I had some really intelligent people working here,” she said. “They still call us and write us.”
Through the years, the car wash has held dozens of fundraisers for community members and organizations, including local volunteer fire departments.
“I feel very proud,” Carol Kuhns said. “It was hard work. But, if you work hard, you make it.”