How a Car Wash Led to the Creation of the Drillbrush Power Scrubber

Posted by John Cittadino on

How a Car Wash Led to the Creation of the Drillbrush Power Scrubber
It Started in a Car Wash...

Great ideas can come from unexpected places, and that’s very much the case for the Drillbrush Power Scrubber. Invented in 2005 by Anthony LaPolla, the Drillbrush Power Scrubber has been revolutionizing the way people clean by making the job faster and easier without the strain of hand scrubbing. However, this cleaning juggernaut wasn’t created in a boardroom or a lab; it all started at a small self service car wash in Central New york.

Today, we’ll go over Drillbrush founder Anthony LaPolla’s humble beginnings and what led him to create the Drillbrush Power Scrubber.

The Marcy Car Wash

The Marcy Car Wash

New Pumps from Kleen-Rite

Anthony LaPolla, got his start in construction and electrical work. He spent many years working on various projects across the country. After completing a job in Colorado, he returned to his native Central New York and was looking for his next venture. He purchased a plot of land in Marcy, NY along the main drag and looked to develop a property on it. Originally, he planned to build a four unit apartment complex on it, but pivoted after noticing the community was lacking something essential.

Marcy did not have a car wash at the time, with the nearest being a full service building in neighboring North Utica with the nearest self service wash even further away. Full service washes are nice, as the process is quick and automated, but a self service car wash, where customers wash their own vehicles, allows for the washing of non-standard or oversized vehicles, like ATVs and work trucks, which were a common sight in the nearby communities. That opening in the market, paired with the lot’s close proximity to a highway off ramp, made it a perfect site for a car wash!

However, LaPolla had no experience in the car wash space, so before diving right in, he sought wisdom from other car wash owners in Central New York to help him gain his footing. Many were quick to offer advice, but the most helpful of all was the owner of the Waterville Car Wash in Waterville, NY. The owner, who was in his late 70’s at the time, showed Anthony and his father around the establishment, giving him tips on what equipment to order, how to manage the business, and assurance that opening a car wash in Marcy would be a good idea.

He said there were two key factors to having a successful car wash; make sure the equipment is always up and running and make sure the facility is clean and neat. LaPolla’s mechanical background would come in handy when maintaining machines, so the prospect of becoming a car wash owner seemed more and more feasible.

Possibly the best advice given to Anthony LaPolla that day was to get his soap, parts, and equipment through Kleen-Rite. Unsure of what that company was at the time, the old man gave Anthony a catalog that highlighted all of the car wash supplies that Kleen-Rite sold. The catalog was far thinner than it is today, but it still gave LaPolla plenty of options to choose from.

After their meeting in 2004, Anthony LaPolla attended Kleen-Rite’s Expo in Colombia, Pennsylvania. While there, LaPolla met one of the Kleen-Rite representatives who, upon hearing that LaPolla was new to the space, personally showed him around to each vendor and gave him advice on which vacuums, change machines, and washers to get. Impressed with the variety, quality, and price, he made his purchases for the car wash, which arrived in a bulk shipment via a truck a few weeks later. With the supplies acquired and the building soon completed, the Marcy Car Wash opened in 2005.

The Origins of Drillbrush

The Origins of Drillbrush

The Marcy Car Wash: Birthplace of the Drillbrush.

While the Marcy Car Wash was a self-service facility where customers used the provided equipment themselves, Anthony LaPolla would like to assist by helping customers scrub their tires and rims.

However, Anthony LaPolla suffers from Carpal Tunnel syndrome, and while the gesture kept customers coming back, the toll of hand scrubbing made it difficult for Anthony to provide this service.

Then, one day, Anthony LaPolla had the idea to attach a brush to a cordless drill, which he theorized would allow him to scrub vehicles just as efficiently without having to strain his hands. He ran out and bought a cheap toilet scrub brush, chopped off the handle, and added a drill bit to the bottom. With his new tool in hand, he gave it a test run on some rims. Lo and behold, it worked like a charm, and soon he was scrubbing tires at record pace.

Customers quickly took notice of his bold invention, and wondered how they could get a drill-powered brush for themselves. Thus, Drillbrush was born! From that one brush spawned our entire line of brushes, pads, and accessories that have helped so many homeowners, detailers, professional cleaners, and even some other car wash owners around the globe! We even still sell some brushes at the car wash where it all began, which is still operating under the same ownership to this day!

The Sultan of Scrubbing

The Sultan of Scrubbing

While LaPolla enjoys the runaway success of the Drillbrush Power Scrubber, he looks back fondly on the car wash that got him started, as well as the people who helped him along the way. Without the car wash operator community, we all might still be scrubbing rims by hand, so to them, we extend a hearty thanks!

To learn more about the history of Drillbrush as a company, check out our Drillbrush retrospective blog.

Photo of Author John Cittadino

John Cittadino | John is the lead graphic designer, script writer, and video editor for Drillbrush. John is a die-hard motorsports fan and loves storytelling and illustrating.


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