Fred O’Neill knows his way around a car wash.
Way back in 1974, O’Neill was a high school student in Waterbury, CT, when he went to work at a local drive thru car wash. Almost 50 years later, O’Neill still spends most of his days at a car wash, only now he owns them.
O’Neill was just a couple of years out of college in 1980 when he purchased a Mobil gas station and car wash on Westport Avenue in Norwalk and renamed it as his first Fred’s Car Wash. The Westport Avenue location is still open today.
O’Neill’s car wash business has steadily grown. Later in 1987, he would open a car wash in Southport that is still serving customers today. In 1991, he opened his Watertown location and in 1993 he opened a car wash in Hamden that he would eventually sell.
He acquired and opened his second location in Norwalk, this one on Connecticut Avenue, in the late 1990s and has also purchased and sold a car wash in Fairfield and a gas station in Norwalk.
In just the last year, O’Neill has teamed up with the private equity company BoldRose Capital to acquire four additional car wash locations that have opened in Danbury, Manchester, and Willimantic under the Fred’s Car Wash banner.
More drive thru car wash locations could be on the way soon, O’Neill said, alluding to other possible car wash acquisitions in Connecticut and other nearby northeastern states. It’s been a big step up for O’Neill who has served as president of the International Car Wash Association and is one of the founders and a past president of the Connecticut Car Wash Association.
“I’m very excited about the future,” O’Neill said recently as he was driving from one Fred’s location to another. “The car wash industry has never been so active. In my 42 years in the industry, I’ve had a good seat to watch the entire industry evolve.”
One aspect of the industry that continues to evolve is how water is used and recycled. O’Neill says the amount of water used for every wash is managed by computer and all water is collected and recycled. It makes every Fred’s location very water efficient, O’Neill says.
“Water is the key ingredient in our business, so it is important to be aware of how we use it and what we do with it after it is used,” O’Neill said.
In the last few months, O’Neill has spent a great deal of his time concentrating on the opening of his four new drive thru car wash locations. Specific improvements and changes are often required when opening a new location, O’Neill says, and each site must be rebranded before it can open as a Fred’s.
Each site has already had a soft opening and O’Neill said plans are in the works for a grand opening celebration at each new location on November 4-6. Plans are still being finalized but customers in Danbury, Manchester, and Willimantic should expect free car washes during the grand openings, as well as giveaways and other savings!
Here are addresses of the new Fred’s locations:
- Danbury: 85 Newtown Road, 06810
- Manchester: 672 Hartford Road, 06040
- Willimantic: 1603 Main Street, 06226