Delmar B

This is a short reflection on my experience with the Cloister Car Wash chain. I met Mike Mountz in 1984 when I was an employee at the previous car wash that Mike purchased to begin the Cloister era. In some respects I was Mike’s original employee. I was with him from his first day till the day of the sale, when I respectfully tendered my resignation. Not to slight the fine group that bought Cloister, I even worked several months for them during the transition, but I knew there could never be another “Cloister.”

What made Cloister recognized as one of the premier car wash groups in the world? Cloister did high volume with high prices, which is unusual in the industry. But that was not the legacy that will be left by Cloister. Over the years, many car washes came in to evaluate the Cloister model. I have traveled the industry since leaving Cloister, and I see footprints of Cloister that have been imbedded into car washes today. The Cloister model was often referred to as the “Disney of car washing,” and could be considered more of a movement in the car wash industry.

There was never just one thing that made Cloister unique. Here are a few of the things you could expect at a Cloister location if you dropped by:

  • Clean facilities and grounds: For a Cloister manager to walk by a piece of trash on the ground was unpardonable. A manager was a parking lot cleaner first.
  • Employee Appearance: Males were clean shaven, shirt tails tucked in, hair codes, managers and greeters wore ties, a somewhat military look to its personnel. When Mike Mountz entered into the car wash industry this was not the image of the car wash employee. Mike never wavered on dress code, and the managers did a strong job in enforcing it. A new employee may have balked at first, but in the end looking sharp gave them a sense of self worth.
  • Cloister cared about its employees. No tips were allowed. Cloister would pay its employees competitive wages; customers were not expected to pay their wages with gratuities. Cloister workers were compensated with evaluation increases, even if they were not manager candidates. Good hard workers were rewarded.
  • Employees were predominately high school and college students. They were accompanied by professional management which made a more disciplined employee. Most moved on in their careers. Today Cloister alumni includes those working on Wall Street, professors, lawyers ,doctors, politicians, and business owners, to name a few.
  • Most have come back and stated the enjoyable and important influence Cloister had on their formative teenage years.
  • Females in car wash positions: Cloister was one of the first to use women in car wash positions usually thought of to be only men. It was not uncommon to have 50-60% of its staff be women. Also, a large part of its managers were females, including top management. This was a movement that is now common in the industry.
  • Customer Service: Fast, friendly, and high quality. If there was even a slight chance Cloister failed it would be made right. Fast conveyor chain speeds when needed because long car wash lines were frowned upon. Customers do not like to wait. The goal was never more than 15 minutes on property no matter how busy.
  • Open on rainy days: One man commented “Cloister runs more cars on rainy days than some do on sunny days.” Cloister never liked to have customers guess whether they were open. We kept a cleaning crew around and would still wash. If the sun came out we would be ready to go.
  • Never satisfied, always wanting to improve. Everything can be done better and more efficient.

Cloister was not for everybody; but for those that embraced the culture, it was memorable. While we were somewhat disciplined and regimental in our management, Cloister employees were allowed to have fun and laugh. Managers were encouraged to know employees desires and goals in life, and always be part of helping achieve them. Ex Cloister employees still get together as almost a fraternity. Cloister was not just car washes and lubes, it was a movement.

Wayne F

Wayne painted the murals and created the signage at Cloister's four locations. He is a well-known and highly regarded Central Pennsylvania artist. Among Wayne's many projects are the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, the Elizabethtown, PA Mural Program, and the Murals of York. To view Wayne's work click here.
See photos of Wayne's murals

Shirley S

Thanks Mike for asking for my remarks as your Banker. I remember our first encounter at the partially finished East York location, where another local bank couldn't fulfill your needs. We had no experience with car washing, but you brought us up to speed in no time flat. Your experience, always on top of the details to insure customer satisfaction, was always evident. Our bank provided financing for other locations as well. I was a banker for 40 some years, and often reflect on what I learned from your organization.