By Kellie Gentry Hussmann
Chances are, you’ve seen signs for TLC Carwash & Fast Lube around town—you know the one with the bubblegum pink Volkswagen bug perched high above the carwash accented in royal blue.
And I bet you’ve also wondered, what exactly does TLC stand for?
What started out as a “Terrific Looking Carwash” has grown into more than its looks. With over six locations, this family-run business is making strides in customer service, environmental awareness and social responsibility in the Fayetteville community.
The Deering family has been working together since they took over the business in 1993.
“We kind of all just meld together,” said Vanessa Deering, the marketing director for TLC. “We all have our areas that we are strong in and it works really well.”
Her husband, Thomas, runs the business side of the company while her mother-in-law, Diane, serves as the accountant.
The Deering’s take pride in their family business and treat their employees like family.
“We are a local family-run business not just of blood relatives, but also those who have become our family through this journey,” said Vanessa.
“It’s a great company to work for,” said William Provost, an operational manager, who started as a lube technician at TLC in 1995. A few of TLC’s employees have been there over 15 years.
Promoting employees within the company is something they are proud of, according to owner, Diane Deering. She affirmed that they don’t believe in hiring employees who want to work hard to make money to be happy. The best employees are already happy and work hard for the company and its customers.
Customer satisfaction is always a priority at TLC. And while some aspects of the base model have been around since the beginning, such as the oil change with a free car wash, advancements in technology and customer demand continue to provide opportunities for improvement. All of the improvements at TLC have ease and efficiency for the customer in mind while maintaining the novelty of the experience.
TLC’s newest location in Raeford was one of the first of its kind with an all-electric tunnel that has caught the attention of many owners in the industry and serves as the prototype for renovations at its other locations.
For example, the company is currently switching to arch vacuums that eliminate the hassles of a hose. Other upgrades include electronic pay stations and streamlined computer systems that allow for a quick run through the carwash for even the busiest of travelers.
With the Unlimited Fast Pass program, customers purchase a window sticker programmed for a certain wash that automatically activates when the car pulls up to the gate. Fast pass users can go through the car wash as many times as they wish for as little as $15 a month.
And while unlimited car washes may seem excessive to some, the benefits are two-fold: you can retain the resale value of your car in an environmentally-friendly way.
“We get some cars that haven’t been washed in years,” she said. “Of course, that’s not going to get cleaned in a three-minute wash, but those are the people that we can educate and let them know how we can make their car look brand new again. So we take that opportunity to do that.” Car wash tunnels prime vehicles for a clean wash, as opposed to hand washing, which can rub roadside grit into the paint and cause damage.
“If you come frequently enough, you can actually see the difference in your paint job,” said Vanessa.
In addition to protecting your investment, sending your car through the car wash saves water and prevents ground pollution to the environment by using a reclaim system that cleans, treats and reuses water.
Owning a car wash business and being an environmental advocate go hand in hand. Vanessa currently serves as the president of the North Carolina Carwash Association, which promotes water conservation and environmentally-friendly products among its businesses.
“Water is a precious commodity,” said Vanessa. “Our industry needs to protect our water resources as much as we can, because if we don’t have water, we can’t wash cars.”
Environmental and social responsibilities are the main focuses of TLC’s Together Lets Care Charity Carwash Program, which provides a safe, eco-friendly alternative to local fundraising car washes. “We started this program in our area in hopes of keeping children off the side of the road and contaminants out of our storm drains,” affirmed Vanessa.
Nonprofit organizations sell $10 gift cards, which can be redeemed at any TLC location, and can keep 50 percent of the proceeds. The program has supported church youth groups, family readiness groups and the Special Olympics.
The biggest charity program for TLC is its GRACE FOR VETS wash program. The staff at TLC has all hands on deck to wash the cars of all veterans on Veteran’s Day… for free. In its top year, TLC staff members washed over 6,500 cars.
“Our company has been truly blessed by our community and customers,” she said, “It’s only right that we support them.”
TLC Carwash & Fast Lube stands for many things, but most of all, the Deerings say it stands for ‘The Lord’s Company.’
“Everything is the Lord’s,” said Diane. “He has blessed us tremendously.”