Hill Peyton grew up in the Gate Petroleum Co. family business.
Along the way, he said he’s worn many hats for the multifaceted company best known for its gas stations and convenience stores.
Now, Peyton is adding a new hat — he’s head of Gate Express Car Wash, a business expansion of Gate. He will continue to run the company’s charitable foundation.
Gate operates car washes at 15 of its area stores, which Peyton has overseen for almost a decade.
“Growing up in something, you’re always trying to change things along the way,” said Peyton, son of Gate founder, Herb Peyton. “But to start something up … it’s neat to have my own thing.”
He said the freestanding car wash business has been in the works for about two years. Market research showed certain customers enjoy having a clean car, but didn’t want to wait for full-service operations that typically take 30-45 minutes.
Gate is launching what Peyton calls an “express” model to fill in what the company sees as a service void.
“We think the car wash business is going in this direction … and we want to be the first ones in this market to do it,” he said.
Customers will still get a “tunnel experience” and go through a 125- to 145-foot facility that can accommodate up to seven cars.
All told, customers can expect to make it through in about four minutes. Each wash starts at $5 with membership packages available.
Detailing is absent, as employees won’t actually touch cars. However, there will be multiple self-service vacuum and dry bays for customers who want to take that extra step.
The car washes should be springing up in Northeast Florida over the next several months, with “coming soon” signs hitting the street next week.
The first will be at Collins Road and Interstate 295 in spring 2017 at a Gate station in front of a Walmart Supercenter complex. The second will be in Nocatee, also at a Gate store.
While first two will be at Gate stores, Peyton said that won’t typically be the case. Most will be freestanding and independent of the gas and convenience chain.
The first few will begin operating in 2017 and the rest “will follow quickly after that,” said Peyton, the younger brother of former Mayor John Peyton, who’s president of the company.
Other identified sites are Philips Highway and Florida 9B; Beach and Hodges boulevards; Nocatee Parkway and Davis Park Drive; Florida A1A in South Ponte Vedra; Durbin Park; and Emerson Street and Philips Highway.
There also are letters of intent for two locations in Middleburg and one along Baymeadows Road. The company is pursuing sites in Fernandina Beach; Fleming Island; Third Street at the Beaches; Atlantic, Beach and San Jose boulevards; and Old St. Augustine Road.
Peyton said early plans would have about 20 sites in Northeast Florida. Each would employ six workers, with three on-site during the 8 a.m.-8 p.m. hours.
He declined to provide a capital investment price for each facility or the overall early stage of the expansion.
Later plans could call for the expansion into other Gate markets in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Palm Coast, Peyton said, after solidifying the local market.
Although new to the expansion, Peyton is familiar with the car wash side of the business. Since 2008, he’s overseen the chain’s efforts in that area. Models have changed since then, he said, but the biggest difference is speed.
Peyton said back then it took on average about seven minutes for each wash. Four minutes will be the standard with the new business, but Peyton knows it’s generally a little faster — closer to three minutes.
It’s the kind of convenience and speed he believes today’s customers demand and he’ll lead that effort.
After years of wearing those many hats at Gate, he’s ready to keep this one on for a while.