Iconic downtown Phoenix business closing after 60+ years

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

An iconic business in the heart of Phoenix will close its doors at the end of the year.

Los Olivos Hand Car Wash has been on the northwest corner of Third Street and McDowell Road since the mid-1950s. For the past three decades, it has defied the trend of replacing people with machines and remained a completely hand wash and dry facility.

Owner Coletta Spurling started as a part-time worker at the car wash in 1989. She worked her way up and in 2002, she purchased the business and the land and has enjoyed tremendous success. But then things started to change.

“It’s been tough the last couple of years being a small business owner," she said. "The $3 and $5 car washes have really hurt me. And then when in January the minimum wage went to $10 an hour, that was a big hit."

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Developers from Santiago, Chile, have been interested in the property for years and have tried to get Spurling to sell them the prime real estate.

"I just kept saying, 'No. No, No.' But after the minimum wage, I decided that it was time to go," she explained. "It was a hard decision when you’ve done something for that long.  It’s been my whole life. It’s been a really tough decision but I think the new chapter is going to be awesome."

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Some of the employees have been with Spurling for more than 25 years, and the business has had customers for even longer than that. 

"This carwash has been a great part of my life for 40 years or so," said Baltazar Iniguez, a Phoenix attorney. "This is the only place I get my car washed. The people are as friendly and the service is the best I've ever seen."

Los Olivos has been a staple for many people. For Iniguez, it’s more than just a car wash.

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"This is a place where you come for friendship, to relax for a few minutes, read the paper and unwind," he explained. "I’m so used to this place I’m still trying to process the fact that they’re not going to be here because now, I don’t know what I’m going to do to get my car washed and my shoes shined."

You heard correctly -- shoes shines. One of the unique allures to the place was that there was always someone working the shoeshine stand in the small reception area.

According to Spurling, the men loved that.

"They would come, they’d bring their lunch, they sit up on the shoeshine stand and eat, have their cars done, have their shoes shined. It was awesome for them,” said Spurling.

News of the car wash’s closing has signified, for some, a changing of the times and of the downtown Phoenix area.


James Richards, who said he’s been coming to the car wash since the '80s, said he will miss the convenience of the neighborhood business, but more so what it symbolizes.

"Even though it was a long wait here sometimes, it’s always a great job and I love the people here and the atmosphere," he said. "It’s like tearing down your childhood, so to speak. That’s what they’re doing around here is just tearing down my childhood. Bashes, for instance, on Seventh Avenue and Osborn, that was a heart-wrencher, too, and then now this."

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Spurling said she’s had a few breakdowns thinking about closing down what has been her life for many, many years. But she looks forward to the next chapter.

"I am going to go give back," she said. "I have decided I want to volunteer for Hospice of the Valley. I’m going to travel and my first trip is to Santiago, Chile because that’s where the guys are, the Chileans, who bought this land. So, I’m going to go visit them and I’m going to be a grandma."

Los Olivos will wash its last cars on Saturday, Dec. 30. Spurling will have a DJ and food truck on site because she said she wants to go out big. 

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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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