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Car wash makes a splash

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Posted: Friday, April 27, 2001 10:00 pm

Generally speaking, most car washes bear little resemblance to a Japanese garden.

But like the artisans who designed the famed koi ponds of Kyoto, the braintrust behind Prime Shine Express has discovered beauty in simplicity by eliminating that which is unnecessary.

"You'll find a very short menu of services available here," said Norm Porges, 58, the former Fortune 100 business executive-turned-entrepreneur who founded the chain in Modesto a decade ago. "But what we do, we do exceptionally well."

Located at 301 W. Kettleman Lane, the business was built on the site of a longtime Lodi Chevron station. It took nearly six months to complete work on the $1.5 million structure due to cleanup of toxic contamination at the site.

Prime Shine's construction was finally finished in November 2000, and an adjacent automotive lubrication service, a companion business to the car wash, opened next to it on the firm's one-acre property in January.

The chain's owners say they're out to change the way people think about car washing - and to do it, they're combining old-fashioned service with the latest in technology.

It is a formula which has proven more than a modest success for Porges and son Evan, 31, who became a partner in the business after graduating from Arizona State University in 1992.

The senior Porges spent a long and rewarding career in the corporate world, where he lived in 10 different cities over a 20-year period.

"It's the American dream to own your own business," Norm Porges said Friday. "It just took me 30 years to figure out that at heart, I'm really an entrepreneur."

A series of franchises followed Prime Shine's inaugural success in Modesto - with subsequent locations cropping up in Ceres, Turlock, again in Modesto, Merced, and now in Lodi.

The way the company has evolved, Porges said, is by systematically acquiring business sites that fit a specific profile. Factors to be considered, he said, include size, cost, the amount of traffic which passes by, proximity to a stoplight and ease of getting in and out.

The last may be the most critical, since one of the goals of Prime Shine is to get customers' vehicles washed and on the road in under 10 minutes.

"Usually, it takes a lot less than that," said Evan Porges, who is responsible for the chain's operations. "That's what we think sets us apart. Our service and the quality of the work we do."

Something else which sets the firm apart from competitors is the way it treats employees.

"We feel we have an important responsibility to help young men and women in the community develop a strong set of work habits," said Evan Porges, who added that Prime Shine has a very high set of hiring standards.

Norm Porges said all employees attending high school or college get a $100 bonus each semester for achieving a "B" average or better. Prime Shine is also flexible in accommodating the school schedules of employees, he said.

"We're always hiring," said Norm Porges. "If we find the right person, we'll make room."

Prime Shine uses the most up-to-date car washing technology available, employing computers and electronic sensors to get cars as clean as possible while cutting both energy consumption and pollution by reclaiming and purifying used wash water.

"All phases of the business are designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible," said Evan Porges. "We feel that's part of our responsibility to the community."

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