ABERDEEN, Ohio | Working at the car wash...
For Jay Barbour, working at his father's car wash, Blue Jay Car Wash, has been something he's done for 50 of his 57 years.
Now, on Friday, April 5, Blue Jay Car Wash celebrates its 50th year in business. The anniversary for Jay is more than just a milestone, it's about fulfilling his father's dream.
Wendall "Blue" Barbour was hailed as an entrepreneur in 1963 when he opened his $60,000 "enterprise," as the local newspaper called it at the time.
Blue had been in business for himself prior to opening the car wash, as the owner of the Standard Oil Gas Station on East Third Street. The gas station was located at the end of the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge: the site is now the location of the Maysville Welcome Center and RSVP offices.
Jay said his father washed cars in the rear of the gas station as a sideline business to selling gasoline and auto parts. Jay said his father made more money washing cars than selling supplies and parts, so he looked for a better way to operate a car wash than out of the rear of the gas station.
Blue's cousin, Kenny Hardymon came up with the idea of an automatic car wash and helped Blue out in establishing the business. Jay said Kenny bought the land and built the building; he rented the building to Blue. When it came to purchasing the equipment, it was Blue's mother-in-law, Corrine Ross who signed a note to buy the equipment, Jay said.
The cost of the first automatic car wash in the area: $60,000 in 1963. Jay said he has made some inquiries of car wash owners in other states and has figured out to build one today would cost $3.5 million.
After the opening of the car wash, Blue sold his gas station to Tom Moran and focused his efforts on the car wash, which also sold gasoline until the mid 1980s.
Interviewing Jay and Jennifer Staggs, the general manager of Blue Jay Car Wash, was more than getting the facts for a story. It was a throw back to the days of going to the car wash with your mom or dad, standing in the hallway, watching you car go through the brushes and wash and rinse cycles, listening to the loud swoosh of hot air as it dries the car, the smell of soap and the constant movement of employees.
The steady stream of customers coming and going on Thursday was a clear indicator the wet and gloomy weather had broken. But it was more than people just wanting their cars washed. The customers are part of the family environment created by Blue and Jay over the years. The friendly conversations, asking about family members, reminiscing about the good old days, and just catching up were part of the visit between Jay and his customers.
Part of that "family" are the people who have worked at the car wash over the years. Jay said he has been making a list of the people who have worked there since its opening in 1963. As he recalls a name, he puts it on the list. Although not complete by any means, here is a partial list he rattled off in just a few minutes: Larry Warrick, John Colllins, Stanley Moore, Scotty Prater, Matt Bradford, Mike Poe, Randy Lykins, Jeff Toncray, John, Jim and Terry Fryman, Warren Markwell, Tim Teegarden, Dr. Don Wilson, all the Lundergan boys, the Tully boys from Cabin Creek, Bill Schugars, Rick Mineer, John and Jim Schumacher, Sherrie Prince, Dora Ward and countless others.
And of course, Jay worked at the car wash as well, starting at the age of 7. He said his first job was washing towels and he still has the Sears overalls his mother, Betty bought for him. There's a picture of Jay in his overalls, with the words Blue Jay Car Wash on the back. The picture is just one of many that adorn the walls of the customer hallway, all of which outline the history of the business.
Jay said at one time, more than 700 cars per day could go through the car wash, now he said 300 can go through in one day.
"As long as the weather is good, we're busy. A good day for us now is 200 cars. It's a small town place and it's a living," he said.
But as he has learned since his dad's passing in 1999, operating the business is more than a living, it's a connection to the past and the people who come in and out of your life.
He shared the story of Stanley Moore, who wanted to go to college one day and not work his entire life in a factory. Stanley's mother asked him how he was going to pay for college and he went to Blue to get a part-time job on the weekends, in addition to working at Brownings.
Jay said when Stanley shared his story with him, he said "I still appreciate Blue Barbour."
"I never really thought how something (like going to college) meant something to you from a job," Jay said. "He really touched me."
"It's neat to know people care about you and I miss the people, I really do. We've had some great customers," Jay said. "This is not about me, this is my dad's dream, I'm just trying to keep it going. He loved this place. He would have been proud, he knew everybody and everybody knew him."
Now splitting his time between Maysville and Florida, Jay has left the business under the management of Jennifer and together they have planned several promotions to celebrate the 50th year of the Blue Jay Car Wash.
With family being such a part of the business, all past employees are invited to stop in between the hours of 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 6.
On Friday, April 5, $5 exterior washes will be available all day and promotions on Saturday, April 6 include $5 off the super saver wash, with drawing of prizes donated by local businesses each hour. There will be a drawing for a $500 Blue Jay Car Wash gift card.