When Mike’s Carwash first opened 70 years ago in Fort Wayne, it was the first carwash in Indiana and one of only 18 in the country.
Company founder Joe Dahm wasn’t planning to go into the carwash business. He says it just kind of happened.
“In 1947, I was a sophomore at IU and my dad called me up and said he had a friend who owned a piece of property in downtown Fort Wayne and he was looking to get into the carwash business, but needed a little help. So, I decided I’d do it. When we first started, it was called ‘Mike’s Minit Man’ and it was a full-service wash where we had guys in pits on either side of the car using SOS pads to clean the white walls on the tires.“
Joe named the business after his younger brother, Mike. Joe also has a son named Mike, who is now the company’s president. Soon after the business was started in 1948, Joe’s brother, Ed, joined the group.
“We’ve always been a family-owned company and we plan to stay that way,” says Mike Dahm, president of Mike’s Carwash. “Anybody can build a carwash, but I think what sets us apart is our people and delivery of service. We highly value our team members and deeply invest in their training. We think that’s money well-spent because our purpose is to provide the best value for our boss – the customer – by delivering a clean, quick carwash every time with a smile. And that smile is so important.”
There are 23 Mike’s Carwash locations in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, with the 24th one under construction and expected to open by the end of the year at Dupont and Diebold roads on Fort Wayne’s north side.
“It’s not that we want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best at what we do,” says Mike.
Delivering a high-quality product requires high-quality equipment to get the job done.
“Take our drying system for example,” says Mike. “It has 16 blowers and puts out 4 million BTU’s of heat. Of course, we provide complimentary towels to get the few drops of water around the mirrors. We guarantee a good carwash and if it’s not right, come back around and we’ll make it right. My dad is a big believer that customers remember that last visit. Even though we’ve been doing this for 70 years, we know it’s that last visit that really matters for the customer.”
“We also believe that in business, it’s the little things you do that matter the most,” says Joe. “We treat our people like family and think if you do that, then your team members treat the customers like family.”
When you’re in the car cleaning business, say Joe and Mike, you need to make sure everything about your business looks clean, too.
“We take a lot of pride in keeping each location nicely mowed and landscaped,” says Mike.
And Joe was the one who came up with the idea years ago to display the popular stuffed animals all around the outside and inside of the carwash.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘Joe, I love your carwash, but my kids are scared to death.’ So, I thought, we’ve got to do something about this. I went out and got some Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck stuffed animals and it was a big hit with the kids. Now, people tell me their kids get upset if they find out mom or dad went through the carwash without them.”
The Dahms say they’re proud of their business and happy they’ve been able to give back to the local community.
“Last year, we donated over $450,000 to different charities, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Youth Services Bureau and Toys for Tots,” says Mike. “Our community is important to us and we appreciate they’ve given us an opportunity to grow our business. We’ve been doing this 70 years and we’d love to do it for another 70 years.”
Address: 1310 E. State Blvd. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805
Phone: (844) 280-9274
Years in Business: 70
Number of Employees: 450+