The hand car wash has returned to town. The businessman behind the much-missed Cattle Market facility has opened on Coppice Street.
Alfred heard that this new partnership with Shaftesbury Football Club includes hot food for waiting customers.
At 8.30am on Friday, the five men who will clean Shaftesbury’s motors, 7 days-a-week, packed away the barriers so cars could drive onto the newly concreted forecourt outside Shaftesbury FC. They were ready for business.
Entrepreneur Hemdad Syed, who also answers to the nickname of Ali, opened his car boot and unloaded two industrial vacuum cleaners, collected from Bristol last night. He set them down next to his new pressure washer.
I wondered whether he would get any customers today in the torrential downpours. “Ironically, it is pouring with rain. It is October and in England, you don’t expect anything less,” said Shaftesbury Football Club Chairman Steve Coffen. He’d turned up early, on his birthday, to wish the men well. But the downpours didn’t worry Hemdad. “When we were in the Cattle Market, even when it was raining, sometimes we were busier than on a dry day, to be honest,” he said.
After months of planning, the day that Hemdad had been looking forward to had arrived. “We had a lot of good comments. People kept coming around here and asking me when it was going to be open. They were excited. Everyone’s supporting us,” said Hemdad.
If Shaftesbury social media posts are a fair representation of public opinion there was a lot of love for Hemdad’s hand wash and dozens of locals lamented the end of the operation when Lidl bought the Cattle Market site. Soon afterwards, Hemdad moved operations to East Stour’s Udder Farm Shop. That service will continue but Hemdad says his heart is in this hilltop town. “I’m more than happy to reopen in my business in Shaftesbury. I’ve been living here for ten years now. It is important that I am in Shaftesbury,” he said.
With two sites now in operation, I asked Hemdad whether he wanted to expand his empire into adjacent towns. “If different places (come up) I would open there if I could,” he replied. It’s a wonder he has time to consider taking on more work. This new Coppice Street car wash will open 364 days a year. “Between 8.30am and 6pm, seven days a week, every day. On Christmas Day we will be closed. We don’t want to work on Christmas Day – I am excited about my dinner,” Hemdad smiled.
His friend Steve laughed. Kurdistan-born Hemdad had previously explained to ThisIsAlfred how he had fallen in love with England’s curious cuisine of sprouts, stuffing and Yorkshire puddings.
For Football Club Chairman Steve, the hand wash opening is the end of a long process, which has dominated much of this spring and summer. The car wash proposal split opinion on the Town Council. Members were unable to agree on their position on the planning application. The August planning meeting became confused and went off on a tangent, discussing the Football Club’s lease rather than planning considerations.
“Some of the councillors didn’t understand their responsibilities in the council meeting. I think they need to worry about what they do, and we will worry about what we do, because we’ve now got planning permission granted and the lease for the carwash agreed. Hemdad and his team are here to build a successful business and a relationship with the Football Club. We’re looking to move both businesses forward together,” said Steve.
“The guys are keen to help out around the place and are not here just to earn money for the car wash. It’s a complete combined effort to improve non-league football, the Football Club and the community asset that Shaftesbury needs to be proud, and of which I am,” Steve added.
Steve said that the Town Council’s Business Manager had been highly supportive. “Relationships with the council have always been good since Brie (Logan) has been involved. She’s absolutely brilliant. We’d like to thank her for everything she does for us and all the other communities in the town.”
Town councillor Peter Yeo remains concerned about the potential for increased traffic disturbing neighbours. But Steve feels that Dorset Council’s approval of the project should give comfort. “Highways approved the car wash. The car park around Shaftesbury Football Club was once a bus park. Back in the day, they had buses coming up and down the road. I can’t see there’s going to be a major issue for a car wash business,” he said.
And on Saturdays, while the men are polishing and shining cars, customers will be able to buy bacon sarnies. “We will be opening from 10am, serving hot drinks, bacon sandwiches and sausage sandwiches. It’s a new beginning. We’ve got some other ideas up our sleeves to maximise revenue,” said Steve, adding that the Football Club is a not-for-profit business. “No director gets any money whatsoever out of the club. It’s pumped back into this community asset and the football for the town.”
The Saturday food and drink service could be extended. “If it is successful, we’re going to be opening during the day for teas and coffees during the week,” said Steve. “We’re going to trial it to start with and then and then go from there.”