The Aqua Hand Car Wash & Detail on the corner of W. Dallas could get even wetter pending the TABC’s permission for the business to serve mixed drinks on-site. The photo above, sent in by a Swamplot reader, shows the 680-sq.-ft., butterfly-roofed building where a notice naming Aqua Heights LLC as the applicant for a mixed beverage permit now hangs in the window.
The building went up on the long-vacant field at 1013 Montrose in 2011. Washing, waxing, and detailing take place in a parking lot to the east and south of the structure.
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The latest new identity for the 1930s-ish auto service station across W. Dallas St. from the Gregory Lincoln Education Center: The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge. The property at W. Dallas and Taft St., which was occupied by dry cleaning chain Pilgrim Cleaner’s prior to the turn of the decade, has hosted a succession of car cleaning services since then, including the latest group to set up in the space. The property sold last summer to an entity called Rockfort Builders, and is now offering on-site hookah for waiting customers in the artistically tire-spangled alleyway shown above.
Here’s a look inside at the hookah collection and some other car-parts-turned-decor:
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Where There’s Smoke on Dallas St.
The Dream’s & Bros. Hand Car Wash at the corner of San Felipe and Bancroft just east of the Target parking lot has shut down, a bunch of readers have reported to Swamplot. The car wash was founded by Afis Olajwon, brother of former Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon (and himself a former guard for the UTSA Roadrunners), in 1998. On Friday, a large piece of demo equipment was hanging around in the parking lot behind a new chain-link fence surrounding the property at 4303 San Felipe St. Earlier in the week, the basketball-themed signage was removed.
Photo: Ray Hankamer
To That Great Car Wash in the Sky
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW DOES THE COIN-OP STRATEGY WORK? “Speaking of quarter car washes . . . how much money do those things make? There must be 6 of them on Studemont sitting on some pretty valuable real estate. Do they even make enough money to cover the property taxes?” [Walt, commenting on Meanwhile, at the Corner of 11th and Studewood]
Got a question about something going on in your neighborhood you’d like Swamplot to answer? Sorry, we can’t help you. But if you ask real nice and include a photo or 2 with your request, maybe the Swamplot Street Sleuths can! Who are they? Other readers, just like you, ready to demonstrate their mad skillz in hunting down stuff like this:
More of your answers . . . to your questions:
- Inner Loop: Swamplot readers try to explain the epidemic of hand car washes infecting inner-loop parking lots. “They are extremely cheap to set up and operate,” declares Jared. “So they are a great short-term use for an empty lot as a bridge between development. A lot of builders / developers / speculators paid way too much for land during the end of the boom and they are either carrying that land with little or no revenue coming in from it–or they’ve given back to banks who were silly enough to lend money on it when it didn’t generate enough cashflow to support the loan.” Plus: “They MAKE MONEY. Splash on Richmond used to have a line down the street every sunny day when they were $15 for a basic hand wash. Even 50 cars a day was $750/day–cash–with almost no overhead.” But have we created a bubble? Ross cites “Low barriers to entry and some perceived unsatisfied demand. Classic start to oversaturation of a market.” Finally, Lux suggests y’all are thinking it too hard: “My guess is it has something to do with all the BMW’s, Mercedes, Lexuses, and Hummers that need washing. How is one to stand out if you are driving a dirty Lexus?”
We’ll post more reader questions when we get them. Send ’em here!
Photo: South Beach Auto Spa
Got an answer to this reader question? Or just want to be a sleuth for Swamplot? Here’s your chance! Add your report in a comment, or send a note to our tipline.
- Inner Loop: Just one question for y’all to answer this week. Take it away, reader: “What’s up with all of the recent hand car washes that have cropped up in the inner loop ? Aqua Car Wash has the lot on the 2300 block of West Dallas, there is another at Shepherd and Farnham (right near Tru Meals), as well as South Beach Car Wash at 126 West Gray [pictured above], and Soap on the 3700 block of Richmond. Can you explain this recent trend?” Yeah, what is it, an epidemic of machine-impervious auto grime, or what?
Photo: South Beach Auto Spa
MAKING THE TITLE INSURANCE PAY A Harris County district court has ordered Stewart Title Guaranty to pay $2.8 million to a Sugar Land developer after the title company failed to pay out on a title policy. Back in 2007, Ponderosa Land Development was hoping to build a Chase Bank branch at the corner of Settlers Way and Highway 6. AmeriPoint Title, the title company for the transaction, had obtained title insurance from Stewart Title to cover its work. But AmeriPoint’s title search failed to uncover a deed restriction on the property that specifically prohibited banks from being built on that site: “Stewart Title only offered to pay $200,000 of the $1.83 million title policy, arguing that the land was not worth that much.
[Ponderosa’s James] Chang says the purchase price was dictated by the value of the property with the ground lease to JP Morgan and planned sale of the bank to an investor upon completion.
Ponderosa is now free to sell the vacant property. Houston Suds has had a contract to buy the site for $953,000 since November 2008, but could not close the transaction and build a car wash until the legal matter was resolved.” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]