Is Inverness big enough for another car wash?
It will soon find out.
The national Caliber Car Wash chain is building a new location at State Road 44 and Richards Road just west of Pleasant Grove Road — and that worries Clark Ennis, co-owner of Inverness Full Service Car Wash, which is right across from the new chain. The two are separated only by Richards Road.
Clark’s family-run business (himself, mom and dad) has been there for 30 years and for the first time, he is scared he will lose customers to the new guy in town.
“At this point, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Last December, Clark said he went to an Inverness city council meeting and tried to get members to stop Caliber. A national chain doesn’t keep money in the community, he said. City Council President Ken Hinkle said he vaguely remembers Ennis’ visit, but that council members never officially acted on Clark's concern.
“I’m sad they're going in there,” Hinkle said. “Why would they want to put it right next to him and put him out of business? Because that’s what I feel will happen.”
Inverness Mayor Bob Plaisted said he’s known Clark and his family for a long time and he feels sorry for him because once the state-of-the-art car wash opens, his business will likely suffer.
“It’s going to be stiff competition,” Plaisted said. “I’m not sure he can survive that.”
But Plaisted said there is nothing he or council can do if a business wants to build on private property.
“It’s free enterprise,” he said. “There’s no way we can stop that.”
Plaisted said the addition of Caliber will put four car washes in close proximity. The new 7-Eleven going in at the corner of U.S. 41 and S.R. 44 will have one. There is also New York Style Car Washing on U.S. 41.
Plaisted said the city prides itself in helping local business thrive, and he is concerned about the influx of chains.
“You can’t stop it, he said. “That’s just the way it is.”
Caliber Car Wash is going in at the site formerly occupied by SunTrust, which was demolished this week.
Caliber spokesman Mac McCall said construction on the new car wash should finish by March 1, 2020. It will employ 12-18 employees, he said.
"Our first location is open in Ocala and we have over 10 other locations under construction across the Southeast," McCall said.
Caliber boasts that its car washes are eco-friendly and the water at all its locations is filtered, cleaned and reused.
Meanwhile, Clark is hoping that his loyal customers will stick with him once the new place opens. They said they would, he said.
“I’ll hang in there as long as I can,” he said.