It seems just like yesterday that I remember our father stating, “One day, boys, I’m gonna own one of these.” Michael, my older brother, and I heard this retort every time we visited a car wash. True to his dreams, our father did accomplish his goal and enter into the car wash business.
In 1981, the “old man”, as we affectionately referred to him, contracted the construction of Lakeside Auto Spa. He would be on the first wave of businesses moving into the area as well as new homes being built. The new Lakeside shopping mall had just opened a few years earlier and was expanding and putting Sterling Heights and Clinton Twp on the map. Hayes was a two-lane road.
Our father, Frank Garzoni, initially partnered with his older brother Jim. They began washing cars in the winter of 1982. At that time, Lakeside Auto Spa was the only car wash on Hayes Rd. north of Metro Parkway to Hall Rd. (M-59). The brothers shared the responsibilities of running the business for the first year.
As time progressed the brothers parted paths and Frank took the over reigns. Over the years that followed, the business weathered leans times as the economy ran parallel to the ebbs and tides of the automotive industry. The old man held fast to his decree to provide a “good service for a fair price”.
Shortly after the grand opening, I moved away to go to school in pursuit of finishing an engineering degree. My older brother Michael attended law school locally. It wasn’t anything uncommon to come home for a weekend visit to find my name on the weekend schedule to wash cars. I didn’t mind. It was a perfect opportunity to spend some time with the “old man” and make a buck or two.
Over years that followed the old man got older and so did his sons. We both helped the business in any way we could, whether that be some engineering enhancements to the equipment from my end or my brother doing his part on the legal side of the business. When our children were old enough, they also would find themselves with a brush or a spray gun in their hands saying, “Welcome, pull on up”.
The “old man” loved his roses. Every year he’d plant more all around the building. Every year in the fall he would harvest some roses for his customers as they would pull up for a wash. This turned into a local tradition spanning more than 25 years. He knew his customers by name and vehicle type. He really liked people. He would be in his glory collecting and chatting with folks all day long. They say that if you can find something you like doing and can make a living doing it, you are a very fortunate person. The “old man” was a blessed in this area. He found his niche and prospered.
After almost 30 years of running the car wash, the “old man” was unfortunately diagnosed with some serious health issues in 2010. He fought the battle as best he could but passed away in December of 2011.
My brother and I decided to keep the business open and invest in its future with new equipment and services. Our goal was to carry on the old man’s legacy with a few enhancements. We are sure that he would approve. We realize now that the “old man” had strength and perseverance far above the ordinary. It takes guts and hard work to run a successful business and he had all that and more. We joke that the “old man” had car wash soap in his veins and a green “arm”. We can never replace him but we will hope to continue to wash cars on Hayes road in his memory for as long as there are cars to wash.