Car wash loses lease, leaving longtime co-owner with little to show except key chains

When Commack Hand Car Wash lost its lease this spring, former part-owner Bruce Klein lost the business he had helped build since the early 1980s.

Bolla, the Garden City-based gas station and gas station chain, took over the lease for the Jericho Turnpike site where the car wash was located in January and sent a lease termination letter to Klein and her partner, Klein said. Klein said he walked away with little more than “key chains, hats and scrap paper,” after declining Bolla’s offer to stay for a while as an employee.

“I’m a little bitter … it’s shocking, when you’ve been used to working six days a week for 35 years.”

Klein’s team washed up to 200 cars a day, serving a clientele of vintage car enthusiasts, sellers and new car owners who paid $ 32 for a basic cleaning or $ 49 for luxury cleaning. Deluxe included all waxes and sprays along with a shine and wipe down, all handmade with a level of care he said the machines couldn’t match.

Klein said his father, Harvey Klein, bought the car wash in 1982, but not the land it is on. A third party, Alfred Properties, purchased this 0.95 acre site in 1985, according to property records. Klein said his company negotiated leases with Alfred until 2014, when Bolla took over part of the property. After that, Klein said he was never able to get another lease or even a lease commitment from Alfred, although at one point he offered to double the four-figure monthly rent he was paying. . It remained open from month to month until the end of May. A representative for Alfred could not be reached.

In 2019, Bolla got approval from the City of Smithtown to demolish a gas station next to the car wash and build a new one with a 1,200 square foot convenience store. This site opened to the public at the end of spring. Klein said Bolla CEO Harvinder Singh told him he intended to convert the car wash into a mostly automated express facility.

Newsday shared Klein’s account with Bolla’s legal director, Michael Lewis, who did not dispute it, in addition to offering a rosier version of the separation: “The former car wash sub-tenant, whose lease expired in 2014, vacated the property amicably so that Bolla could make necessary renovations to the facility, ”Lewis said in an email. “Bolla continues to employ Mr. Klein’s partner and former staff to operate the car wash and assess the continued modernization of the facility. “

Bolla employs over 1,400 people and operates over 200 sites.

A journalist’s visit this week showed the gas station to be crowded, neatly landscaped, and practically sparkling; the car wash was also busy.

One of Klein’s regulars, Michael Catania, an IT professional from Melville who used to bring his Ford F-150, said he would not sponsor the new company. “I get it, that’s how capitalism is,” he said, but “they just seem to come in and take the competition out”.

Klein, 59, with two children approaching college age, said he was looking for a new job. “Wherever I can fit in,” he said.

Car washes in America

  • 62,668 locations in the United States
  • 220,000 employees
  • $ 15 billion in retail sales

Source: International Association of Car Washes

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