If that Valero gas station on Palmetto Park Road just east of 95 has been looking especially sleek, spit-shined and squeaky-clean lately, it’s because it just reopened in late July, after a three-year permitting process and eight-month build.
“This site was scraped and rebuilt, everything from the underground storage tanks to the sewers,” says Scott Fitzgerald, vice president and CFO of the parent company, Petroleum Realty. “Everything here is new—aboveground and underground.”
While a refurbished gas station may not sound blog-worthy—even one with a 21st century design of glass, steel and concrete—it’s the attendant car wash infrastructure that elevates the experience. The first branded Cool Clean Car Wash in Boca Raton offers the automotive equivalent of white-glove service. Employees presoak the car with “bug-prep” detergents and mop it down with high-pressure water before ushering the vehicle through a speedy conveyer system outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, like brushes that change directions to fit the size of the car.
Customers also can choose the express service, which includes a tech-savvy license plate reader. Those who sign up for an unlimited monthly or annual package are identified by their plate number, which allows touchless access: a perk in the age of COVID.
My visit included a full-service car wash and interior detailing. For the former, I drove into position and was quickly impressed by the amount of mad-scientist gadgetry on the left side of the wash tunnel: multicolored tubes snaking toward brewery-style taps leading to vats of chemicals. Normally, Fitzgerald says, “you see those buckets in a back room, but because of the size restraints here, we decided to line up those barrels and have the soaps in the wall for effect.” Like the exposed ductwork near the ceiling of every hipster gastropub, it’s a way to show us what used to be hidden. Future car washes take note: Petroleum Realty is onto something here.
It is certainly an efficient and robust wash; after five minutes, my cherry-red Versa looked like it was being driven fresh off the lot. The same can be said for the speedy interior detailing: The employees found grime in the car that I didn’t know existed, and after working their 30-minute magic with towels and vacuums, they freshened the inside with that pleasing, quintessentially American new-car odor.
It won’t last long, of course, since I’ll be road-tripping to Gainesville over the Labor Day weekend, and will return to Deerfield with a windshield plastered with martyred mosquitoes. But at least I’ll know where to go when I come back.