Carnett's teams up with Procter & Gamble to open Mr. Clean Car Wash national chain

LAWRENCEVILLE - Carnett's Car Washes started in 1987 as a family-owned business with one store at Club Drive and Pleasant Hill Road. It eventually grew to 13 locations across metro Atlanta. Three more are on the way.

On Wednesday the company joined forces with marketing giant Procter & Gamble and its 51-year-old Mr. Clean brand in an effort it hopes will take the franchise nationwide, under a new name of course.

Goodbye Carnett's Car Washes, hello Mr. Clean Car Wash.

Bruce Arnett Sr., one of Carnett's founders, said the move to take on the Mr. Clean name was a natural progression from that of a family-owned business to one that eventually began franchising locations in the metro area.

"We ran out of family to run them but we wanted to continue to expand," Arnett said. "But we felt like we couldn't because we didn't have enough brand power outside metro Atlanta."

That's when Bruce Arnett Jr., on the advice of some of his golfing buddies in the industry, decided to make a call to Procter & Gamble, based in Cincinnati.

"It just snowballed from there," Arnett Jr. said of those discussions, which lasted a little more than a year. "It has aligned perfectly with our vision."

Now the company that started in Gwinnett has plans to open locations in Illinois, Texas, Florida and wherever demand beckons.

"We've got five different franchise opportunities moving forward right now," Arnett Jr. said.

Arnett Sr. said the trick to the company's success has been as simple as the old cliche he mentioned.

"Loving something, really loving it, and then being willing to work at it continuously and continuously to improve it," he said. "Have a passion for it. We always wanted to be the best car wash, and once we stumbled, and we stumbled a lot along the way, well we always got back up and did it again, again and again. That's our mantra. We eat, sleep and live car wash."

Pete McIndoe, a brand manager with Procter & Gamble, said the fit between the two companies was so perfect it's a natural alliance.

"We know branding, marketing, also innovation and how to study the consumer," McIndoe said. "What we saw in them (Carnett's) was a great partner to supplement what P&G does well and to complement it."

Arnett Sr. said Carnett customers can expect more from the two companies joining forces.

"We've gone to great lengths with educating our customers that we're still going to be the same people from Carnett's, but that you'll be getting a lot more," he said. "Procter is adding a great deal to what is already a great thing. ... They understood that the equity of the Carnett franchise shouldn't be lost here in Atlanta."

That's what local customers like Don Rogers of Dacula wanted to hear. He's been bringing his vehicle to Carnett's for more than five years to get it washed.

"Carnett's has always been good," he said. "It (the name change) doesn't make any difference to me as long as I get the same service."

McIndoe said that shouldn't be a problem with Mr. Clean on the job.

"Mr. Clean's celebrating 51 years of cleaning people's homes and now we're celebrating cleaning people's cars," he said.