When Jon Kuhns enters his tiny office every morning at the Kuhnsville Car Wash, his TV is tuned to the Weather Channel and his computer is set on weather maps from Weather Trends 360.
Owner of the car wash since 2006, he said in a recent interview that it’s good he wanted to be a meteorologist as a kid because the weather -- and knowing how to work with it -- makes for a successful car wash business.
“I’ve become a pseudo meteorologist,“ he laughed. “I’ve at least become a self-taught one. I look at all the weather services out there--the Weather Channel, WFMZ, 360 Weather. I look at the maps trying to make my own assessment. I do it at night, in the morning and all day long.’’
The reasons for this are obvious -- people don’t get their cars washed in the rain and snow. They also come in hordes on sunny days or after a snowstorm covers vehicles in salt. And there are many other variations.
“I’m almost addicted to what his happening weather-wise,“ he said. “If the forecast is for rain, I call for a smaller crew. Sometimes the weather services are wrong and we get hung out.”
Kuhns’ other form of communication is his cell phone.
It’s from there that he sends text messages to his part-time staff of 125 workers--usually local high school or college students--about times that they are needed.
“I can instantaneously pull a crew together with texting,” he said. “We start with 15 workers, and on a good day we get up to 30 working.”
Kuhnsville Car Wash was started in 1988 by Jon’s parents, John and Carol Kuhns. It’s located on family-owned property on West Tilghman Street in Kuhnsville, which is named after the Kuhns. Jon took over after 18 years.
“This strip of land belonged to my grandparents,” he said. “My parents purchased it from my grandparents to start the business. The Peter Pan Diner used to be next door was my grandparents. The original farmhouse is still down there where Lighthouse Abstract is. That’s where my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father were all born.
They were Pennsylvania German farmers. My grandfather was a hog farmer back in the days when they did open range.’’
When his parents decided to retire, Jon didn‘t appear to be the one to take over.
He was a 1980 Parkland High School grad and star football player, but his studies led him to Kutztown University and University of South Carolina and a degree in chemistry. He had been in South Carolina for 15 years working at a nuclear weapons site as a scientist for DuPont, Westinghouse and the Washington Group. in Aiken, S.C.
“My mother, Carol, was a Realtor and my father, John, was a self-employed contractor,” he said. “My mother thought it would be a stable opportunity to get into the car wash business. They think it’s a cash cow, but it’s weather dependent. The weather controls your revenue and can be a negative impact at times. But the location they picked is critical in the car wash business. Basically, the customers came to them.”
But Kuhns sees a special reason for the car wash’s success -- the work force. They carefully select the work force from Parkland, Northwestern, Emmaus, Central Catholic and Allen High, Schools, as well as Lehigh Carbon Community College, Penn State Lehigh Valley, Kutztown and Lincoln Tech. Many are student athletes, and Kuhns’ scheduling allows them time for all activities.
As many as 300 to 500 cars are washed in a sunny summer day, and 500 to 800 cars are washed on a winter day, mainly to remove salt, he said.
“We have an interview process,’’ Kuhns said.. “It’s a big compliment that customers really enjoy the employees that I have selected. They kill the customer with kindness. I’m happy to give kids their first job, so the community is real supportive. A lot of our female customers feel safe here and a lot of customers say how honest the kids are. They find things and they give them to their customers.
“A lot of people know the kids and they enjoy supporting the kids. I always had he philosophy that if you support the community, the community will support you."