Though it originally sold only two things—audio products and wireless phones—Car Toys has gradually expanded its repertoire. Today, with 50 locations spread across four states, electronics-certified technicians install everything from Alpine in-dash navigation units to phone-integration systems that sync iPhones, Androids, and tin cans to car stereos. Meanwhile, in the garage, detailing technicians meticulously spruce up cars inside and out, using deionized water, paint-friendly shampoos, and high-quality wash mitts to protect against scratches, swirls, and water spots. The team also sweeps through interiors with vacuums, hot-water extractors, and ozone deodorizing treatment, which kills airborne bacteria and nasty smells in one fell swoop.
So established is Circle K that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including Ball Park hot dogs. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with Premium Coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
Black Diamond Car Wash's expert team of auto immaculatizers buff cars with an eco-friendly list of cleansing services. The emerald wash begins with a vacuum of the passenger compartment to suck up dirt, dust, and discarded burrito wrappers from floor nooks and seat crannies. Then, sullied exteriors are stripped of grime with a high-quality tunnel wash to reveal shining fiberglass bodies. After a towel-dry and a deep-clean dusting of the dash and console, finger-drawn hearts are carefully erased from interior windows. Most washes are finished in about 15 minutes, though larger vehicles may take longer.
PlanetSwim founder and owner Stephan's life is a timeline of aquatic achievements, containing awards that he won as a competitive swimmer as well as several teaching titles—lifeguard trainer and Red Cross–certified swim instructor among them. At PlanetSwim, Stephan holds his staff to similar standards. Each teacher has a minimum of five years of swim-instruction experience and has also been Red Cross–certified. Together, the team channels its knack for tutelage into swim lessons for children and adults of all ages in indoor, heated pools, including the one in Louisville, which is filled with warm water to encourage students to get in.
PlanetSwim's philosophy centers around personal attention, an element that demands small class sizes and a supportive atmosphere. Whether they are leading a 10-minute lesson for a water-shy toddler or an intermediate course on different strokes, the instructors monitor their pupils closely to ensure both comfort and development of technique.
Although Mototech's Chris Bond and Robert Mayer are ASE-certified experts in the maintenance of vehicles ranging from flashy Audis to muscular Dodges, their most important innovations are invisible to the naked eye. The co-owners both worked as engineers, but now exercise their knack for invention with product-developing companies, researching and designing chemical degreasers and cleaners with the least environmental impact. Their molecular triumphs grew into the shop's signature line of decontaminants, which they create onsite with environmentally friendly ingredients from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Design for Environment list. During day-to-day operations, knowledge of science empowers them to perform sustainable car modifications, such as converting a motor to run on renewable ethanol or a puppy's boundless love, and to implement a broad program to reduce energy costs and recycle waste such as motor oil.
Bond and Mayer's met as industrial designers at Intelagard, a firefighting-equipment manufacturer, and bonded over their previous careers as mechanics. Missing friendly chats with clients and the impressions of Louise Jefferson wheezed out by jalopies, they quit the firm to open their ASE Blue Seal–recognized garage. Bond contributes specializations in metal fabrication, welding, and machining, and Mayer brings 12 years of expertise as a master mechanic and certification as an L1 advanced engine-performance specialist. They keep their team small to ensure a high quality of work and to welcome clients with familiar faces, and are a participating center in the NAPA AutoCare network, which guarantees parts and labor at any of its locations nationwide.
The automatic washes at Grizco Car Wash scour harmful salt and grit from four-wheeled friends using high-end Karcher equipment. Like a mad scientist entertaining his cat, the high-tech cleanbots use laser beams to get the job done, precisely measuring the height and width of each vehicle for a meticulous scrub and polish. Each Ultimate car wash douses undercarriages with a purifying spray, followed by both a low pH- and high pH-factor double presoak. Next, a wheel blaster applies a vehicular pedicure to rubber toes, and a contour-following high-pressure rinse removes grime from paint jobs. A clear-coat wax locks in shimmer, and a spot-free rinse removes any leftover specks of dirt, dander, or mustard before a high-volume air drier wicks away moisture. Each of Grizco's spic-and-span stations are fully automated for 24-hour access, seven days a week.