Vic Odermat remembers driving through Alexandria, Virginia, in the early 1950s and seeing a car wash for the first time. He paid $1.50, and a group of men thoroughly cleaned the exterior, Windexed the windows, and vacuumed the interior. "I was impressed," the 77-year-old says in a deep, Johnny Cash–like voice.
At the time, Odermat, a Seattle native, had been stationed at the Marine Corps post in Quantico. When he moved back to Seattle in 1954, he decided to give the business a shot, creating Seattle's first car wash. It was hard going at first, with little profit and not enough customers. But eventually, in 1957, he successfully formed and maintained what is today known as Brown Bear Car Wash.VIEW ARTICLE