Business

Largest car wash company in world buys Columbus-based Goo-Goo

The Goo-Goo 3-Minute Express Car Wash locations have been sold to a privately owned British company called IMO. There are 53 express wash outlets in seven states. The company said Friday it will honor all gift cards and promotions sold by the former owner. --
The Goo-Goo 3-Minute Express Car Wash locations have been sold to a privately owned British company called IMO. There are 53 express wash outlets in seven states. The company said Friday it will honor all gift cards and promotions sold by the former owner. -- tadams@ledger-enquirer.com

The Goo-Goo Car Wash company that has been headquartered in Columbus and operated locally by the same family since 1972 has gone international.

A privately owned British firm called IMO Car Wash Group, which markets itself as “The World’s No. 1 Car Wash,” acquired Goo-Goo about two weeks ago, company officials confirmed Thursday. No financial details of the purchase were released.

The Goo-Goo name is expected to live on, however, following IMO’s purchase of the company from Lamar Beck and two partners, Roger Beck and Darren Bradham. None of them wished to comment about the sale of the company.

Phil Wise, regional vice president of operations for IMO, who formerly was chief operating officer with Goo-Goo, said Friday that customers should not notice a difference in the new ownership.

“They’re going to stay Goo-Goo. The operations will be the same,” he said. “We’ll be honoring all of the gift cards and all of our current promotions. There will be no change from that standpoint.”

Lamar Beck is a Columbus resident who in 1970 took over an Anniston, Ala.-based car wash company founded a quarter-century earlier by his father R.D. Beck. The son then purchased the Goo-Goo Car Wash in Columbus in 1972, with it on the one-time site of a popular former Columbus restaurant and drive-in called Goo-Goo. He kept the funny-sounding name and began expanding from there.

Goo-Goo operates 53 3-Minute Express Wash locations in seven states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. The bulk of them are in Alabama, which has 15 car washes, and in Georgia, which has 14 outlets. The Columbus locations are on Mercury Drive, Whitesville Road and Gateway Road. They all are 3-Minute Express Wash outlets.

There are eight Goo-Goo self-service car wash outlets — three in Columbus and five in Auburn-Opelika, Ala. — which remain in the hands of the three partners who sold out to IMO.

IMO was founded in 1965 and is headquartered in High Wycombe, a suburb of London. The company has grown to nearly 840 car washes in 15 countries, with more than 320 in Germany, about 280 in the United Kingdom, and the rest spread throughout Europe, Australia and the U.S. It washes more than 35 million vehicles a year, according to its LinkedIn page, “offering a high quality, fast wash with attended service at a great value.”

Three years ago, IMO was itself acquired by TDR Capital, a British private equity group headquartered in London.

The Goo-Goo Car Wash name, according to the Goo-Goo website, originated from comedy radio broadcasts in the 1930s, with ventriloquist Joe Penner ending his shows by saying, “Wanna buy a duck?” He had a duck beside him that would reply, “Goo-Goo.” Cartoon great Mel Blanc was the voice of the Goo-Goo duck, the site says.

“We decided to keep the name Goo-Goo and use it in our advertising,” Lamar Beck is quoted on the website. “It’s been pretty successful for us.”

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