White Glove Detailing is a Kennewick business focused on cars, trucks, boats and RVs and is run by a couple of proud car fanatics.
Dawn Caldwell-Carter and Rickie Carter are so passionate about keeping cars in mint condition, Dawn’s brand new Ford Mustang GT is being given at least two weeks’ worth of upgrades and protections before it’s even considered ready to go.
“She’s got some new jewelry coming,” Dawn said. “She’s got some ground effects coming. She’s got some graphics coming. She’s got some exhaust coming. She’s got some cold air intake comment. She’s got some speed coming. I call it her bling bling.”
They’re even correcting paint blemishes on the GT that are likely invisible to most drivers, but may have been caused during shipment.
It’s not called detailing by accident, and when you make a living on the details, the Carters take it seriously. It’s how the Tri-City transplants are quickly making their mark on the local car detailing industry, bringing more than 30 years of experience to their newest venture, a shop that opened in two garage-style condos at 5204 W. Okanogan Place, Suite 160.
They’re operating in the north end of a $2.5 million project by developer Tim Bush, who opened Fat Cat Suites on the south end.
The Carters are leasing the units with the intention of closing on a purchase of their suites by the end of the year. It’s their goal to eventually own the entire building.
The services provided by White Glove cover a wide range, including ceramic coating for both the interior and exterior, window tinting, paint correction, water spot or overspray removal, tar removal, hand wax, deodorization and more.
The couple service any type of vehicle, most often the “daily drivers,” which account for passenger cars, trucks and SUVs, but also motorcycles, boats, RVs, fifth wheels and trailers known as “toy haulers.”
Simpler a la carte services like headlight restoration cost $125 and comes with a lifetime warranty, whereas a detail starts at $200 and covers the interior or exterior. Detailing the entire car will take White Glove a day to complete and costs about $500. They offer discounts to the military and first responders.
“It is expensive, but it is the best because we use the best products,” Dawn said. “To use those, you do have to go to the manufacturer and get that training and have that hands-on experience, not just online or watching a video. It is like cleaning on steroids, two or three times over. It’s not easy. It’s intense, it’s backbreaking and it’s tedious.”
“We go above and beyond,” Rickie said. “We get the cracks and crevices. We get the spots where the French fries fall that you can never get out or you spilled your mocha in between your seat or the center console and you think, ‘Well, I can never get that out,’ and you come to us for all that stuff.”
The couple each have their niche, with Dawn focused on training their three employees on the interior detailing and Rickie specializing on the exterior.
Along the way, Dawn said they have learned “techniques of the trade” which they are excited to pass on to their clients so they can best take care of their own investment even after the work is done. “I am the last quality control person and if it is not to my standards, it does not go out of the shop,” she said.
While most people might think of detailing as grabbing a rag and some cleaning solution, or getting a car wash, Rickie said the service goes far beyond that.
“Professional detailing is an art, and it’s the craft of cleaning and restoring a vehicle to like-new condition. A car detailing service is much more precise and labor intensive than getting a car washed by passing through an automatic system to just clean your paint,” he said.
Rickie’s first foray into detailing started when he got out of the military and was working for the government while detailing vehicles on the side.
The couple eventually ran a shop in the Willamette Valley in Oregon but had been visiting the Tri-Cities frequently to see family and ride their motorcycles.
Dawn loved the area and hoped to make the move here. “We wanted better weather and to be closer to Rickie’s family. We decided we would put the business on the market and put it all in God’s hands. Before we even had it on the market, a guy walked in and said he wanted to buy it and didn’t even know it was up for sale.”
Things moved quickly from there. The Carters finalized the sale of their Willamette detailing shop, found a home in the Tri-Cities, as well as the property available on West Okanogan Place, and opened for business by the first of May.
Six months later, their shop accounts for half of the detailers in the Tri-Cities who are listed as certified by the International Detailing Association.
The IDA describes itself as the “leading global association for professional detailing operators, dedicated to promoting the value of professional detailing services and the recognition of professional detailing as a trade.” The organization formed due to a lack of regulation in the industry and allows customers to feel more confident about a detailer’s skills prior to performing the service.
The Carters have taken the extra effort to have their skills validated in person rather than demonstrating knowledge on an IDA exam.
“It’s the same thing as when you’re choosing a mechanic,” Rickie said. “Are you going to go to a mechanic who’s got a garage full of wrenches or are you going to go to someone who is ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified?”
The Carters also enjoy servicing vintage vehicles and are already being booked for next spring.
“We’ve had many who come in and they’ve never won an award and after we detail it, all of a sudden they won two in a row. We love being a part of something so meaningful to them. It’s taking their history and making us a part of their family legacy,” Dawn said.
White Glove has received requests for mobile detailing, including going to a site to detail vehicles before a car show, but so far they haven’t committed to this service and keep everything in their shop off South Edison Street near West Canal Drive. But they have considered mobile detailing based on the encouragement of their employees, a generation removed from their experience.
“The younger kids coming into this world do things differently,” Rickie said. “I’ve got a young man who has a love for cars as well and he sees something that maybe I’m looking at with different eyes. We’re all about helping our boys grow and chase their dreams.”
The Carters are frequently hired to detail a car before it’s sold and encourage clients to consider this even for budget vehicles. Dawn said dealerships often claim the cleanliness of the car makes no difference in the value offered to trade it in, but said she’s seen the proof otherwise.
“We’ve had many people who were offered $1,500 to $3,000 more for their car when they brought it in detailed instead of dirty,” she said.
These car fanatics make no apologies about getting selfish when it comes to servicing high-end cars, keeping the work exclusively with the two of them.
“Those are our special babies. Those are the ones that, for us, are our dream cars. Those are the reason we do what we do,” Dawn said. Adding with a laugh, “Besides, our boys would just drool over them and then nothing would ever get done.”
White Glove Detailing: 5204 W. Okanogan Place, Suite 160, Kennewick; 509-870-7303; wgdtricities.com.
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