A local Wilmington business owner is looking to expand the local detailing industry through opportunities in Wilmington.
Mark Johnson, who was previously a partner in the Buff Master’s Hand Car Wash & Detail Center off College Road, sold his part in the business and has launched Autoworx Pro Detailing LLC in Wilmington with a second Autoworx location opening in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, he said Wednesday.
The details of the sale, which took place in April, were not disclosed. He sold to Peter Russo, who is now the sole owner of the Buff Master's business.
His move away from Buff Master’s happened after more than 30 years with the carwash business, which started in 1988, Johnson said.
Now he is taking on a new venture and another partnership to take his detailing and ceramic coating business to the next level.
“There were a lot of things I couldn’t do with Buff Master’s that I am free to do with Autoworx,” said Johnson in a news release. “I’ve had the idea of diversifying my services to include specialized detailing for boats, RVs and small aircraft; ceramic coatings for home and car; paint protection film (PPF); precision equipment and polishing techniques that revitalize neglected car paint.”
The company is an extension of his vision to support the car, boat, RV and airplane detailing industry and service with Ceramic Pro, a company that makes a ceramic surface coating used in automotive, industrial, marine and aviation applications.
Autoworx currently operates Autoworx Marine & RV Detailing at 293 N. Green Meadows Drive in Wilmington, where they also have a full-service marine upholstery repair and replacement shop. He has partnered with Mark Blackburn, classic car enthusiasts and local business owner.
The Wilmington location opened this summer, he said.
The company is currently renovating an existing car wash in Myrtle Beach that is slated to open early October as Autoworx Car Wash & Detail Center, according to the news release.
Due to a non-compete that came with the Buff Master's sale, the company is not able to do the automotive detailing and car wash portion of the business in New Hanover County for two years, Johnson said.
The company is, however, offering full detailing services for boats, RVs, airplanes and motorcycles, he said, adding that on the upholstery side to the business, the company is able to service cars. On top of the detailing services, the business also offers a separate service that installs ceramic coatings in home settings, such as on tile and outdoor appliances.
Both the Wilmington and Myrtle Beach Autoworx locations are certified Ceramic Pro coatings installers, stated the release.
Johnson is also looking to further the industry in Wilmington by opening up training with the company and providing more jobs in the area.
"[We're] creating these jobs that people can get paid well; there are benefits. It's not just a part-time mentality," Johnson said. "It's a career path in the sense that they can learn it, they can make a living and they can grow within the company and move forward."
Currently, there are eight employees in Wilmington. Johnson said he is looking to hire two additional sales employees and two installers. Over the next 12 months, that employment could grow to 15 people, he said.
The demand for detailing services for boats, planes, cars and more, is increasing in the local markets, he said, adding that was one of the driving factors of venturing into the Autoworx business.
Johnson aims to continue to grow the industry with a future plan in mind to possibly develop a training facility in Wilmington. Over the years Johnson has been developing a training program for detailing professionals, who can grow with the company, he said. The new company allows him to take that even further.
“I want to create jobs for young people who need a job while in still in school or right out of school, where they can learn about the industry, support themselves, and work their way up into a career in the auto appearance industry. Technology, equipment and innovative products make detailing and protective surface care a growing need among car, boat and RV owners and the skills one can develop lead to a precision-based skilled profession," Johnson said in the release.
Johnson has had a long history in the industry. He is certified by the International Detailing Association, a founder’s club member of that professional organization, and member of its board of directors, according to a news release.
He is also a member of the Air Force One detailing team at Seattle’s Museum of Flight and a “made-man” of what is called the "detail mafia," an accomplished team of automotive detailers in the U.S., artisans in the care and maintenance of automotive paint and automotive interiors, stated the release.
He would like the detailing business to be recognized more as a trade, Johnson said, adding "this industry is growing exponentially as a whole and that's what we're trying to do is create the professionalism in that."