A nursing student turned business owner has opened a storefront in Superior’s South End neighborhood. Detail & Dash, a mobile auto detailing business, moved into the former Green Light Fitness building at 5913 Tower Ave. on Oct. 25.
Owner Zach Tharge began the business in 2018 with a trunk full of cleaning products and a can-do attitude. By the summer of 2020, he had nine full-time employees serving customers with mobile units.
The storefront, which came with convenient garage access in the rear, allows the business to operate during the winter months with a pared-down staff of two.
“This is where all the magic happens,” Tharge said, walking through the new Tower Avenue business.
Employees Noah Lear and Jaxon D’Auria were in the process of steam cleaning the interior of a Dodge Ram truck. The water comes out at 216 degrees Fahrenheit, which disinfects, cleans and kills bacteria. They had an array of brushes on hand to adjust to different materials and areas of the vehicle, as well as cleaning solutions and soft rags. Dozens of machines — air compressors, vacuums and pressure washers — were lined up in the front of the building, ready to go.
Roughly 95% of the products used at the business are organic, Tharge said, from the buffing compound to the soaps and citrus degreaser. Every vehicle is sanitized with an ozone generator, which also eliminates odors. The exterior is treated with care, and can be finished off with either a wax or longer-lasting ceramic coating.
Tharge, a 2017 Superior High School graduate, started detailing cars between his first two years of nursing school as a way to generate revenue. He’d drive his Chevy Impala around and offer to clean people’s vehicles in their driveways.
The initial know-how came from watching videos on YouTube, but Tharge soon outgrew that with his hands-on knowledge. The Superior man estimates he’s detailed at least 1,000 cars over the years. He poured proceeds into equipment for the business, trying to make each detail better than the last.
“My favorite part is when we can, you know, make something that looks like it’s, like, ‘No way, don’t even waste your time,’ and just make it look new again,” Tharge said. “And just to see the customer’s reaction after, you know, it’s pretty gratifying.”
Even as the business grew, he kept the mobile format. It's become one of the business' selling points. Detail & Dash can clean vehicles at a client’s home or provide pick-up and delivery service within a 50-mile radius, from Two Harbors to Iron River. Tharge stresses quality work and customer service, offering a menu of options so clients can customize their car care.
Word of mouth and social media, where Tharge posts before and after pictures of detailed vehicles, have been the main drivers of his business. The new location is poised to attract more interest, as it’s right across the street from a car wash and within blocks of two auto-focused shops, Bob’s South Tower Service and Thatcher’s Tires Plus.
Growing during a pandemic
Brad Lewis, company trainer and supervisor of Guardian Pest Solutions, has used Detail & Dash for both business and personal vehicles. Guardian, based in Superior, has a fleet of more than 60 service vehicles that cover a nine-state area. Technicians can be rough on the vehicles, particularly the interiors.
This fall, Lewis gave Detail & Dash five trucks to clean, what he called the “worst of the worst.” Expecting to sell them at a loss due to their condition, he handed them to Tharge. All five came back in great shape, even the one that reeked of tar whenever you turned on the heat. Lewis expects he'll get another year or two out of each vehicle.
More recently, he had his Chevy High Country truck detailed and added a ceramic coating. It shone like a diamond when it came back, he said, and practically washed itself during a rain storm on the way back from Colorado.
Detail & Dash has found a way to grow during the pandemic. In addition to the new storefront, he was recently approved as a government vendor. That opens up potential opportunities to detail vehicles for the Air National Guard, along with personal and business vehicles.