“He goes off every hour,” Jurassic Car Wash owner John Borek told me as we watched an animatronic pterodactyl raise its wings while cawing toward the traffic on South Congress. Underneath the dinosaur, a line of customers wash their cars with soap that smells like piña colada. It’s these unique details that make Jurassic Car Wash a successful and quintessential South Austin small business.
Meet the Owner of Austin’s Clean-Conscious Dinos
Jurassic Car Wash isn’t John Borek’s first business in Austin. He ran Autocraft Bodywerks for 30 years. The day he sold it, he drove past a car wash for sale on South Congress. He felt like it was a sign. Roughly a year and a half later, around 140 cars drive through his automated car wash every Saturday alone.
Borek connected dinosaurs to the business because he knew he needed something to make it special, and he just so happened to have two animatronic dinosaurs already. “I’m kind of a weird guy,” he joked. “I’ve got a bat mobile, a flying saucer…and I had these two [dinosaurs] at my house.”
During Halloween, he would set the pair of moving dinos out in his yard until the HOA complained. As someone who values bringing joy to the curious minds of children, he was devastated to not be able to share the dinosaurs with the public any longer.
Now, he has installed the two dinosaurs in the back of the property. They’re currently undergoing maintenance, but soon they will come alive when customers insert a coin. Eventually, Borek would love to see a much larger moving dinosaur installed behind them, perhaps a brontosaurus.
Welcome to Jurassic Car Wash
While walking around Jurassic Car Wash, I saw the line of self-service vacuums combined with shampoo and fragrance machines next to a “car care vending center.” In front of them are two yellow dinosaurs that double as benches, perfect for a photo op. And in true Austin fashion, a food trailer called Big Vinny’s BBQ is parked right next to the dinos. (Big Vinny’s is open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until they’re sold out.)
Past the four self-service car wash bays that were surprisingly busy on a Wednesday at noon, I noticed the “Jurassic Pet Wash.” This see-through cube contains a spotless room dedicated to safely sudsing your pup. If your dog needs a snack, there’s a dispenser for honey and peanut butter treats. And if you need some ambiance, there’s a changeable radio with a great sound system. Since I only have a cat and can’t imagine her stepping foot in a pet wash, I had to move on to something else on the property.
As I progressed toward Tommy the T. Rex who reigns over the entrance of the automated car wash, he “spit” water onto my car. Driving past the initial shower, I noticed the cleanest interior of a cash wash I’ve ever seen. The red and yellow spin brushes are still bright and look surprisingly fresh. But the best part hands-down was the blue, pink and purple foam hitting my windows and forming gorgeous pastel patterns that smell like bubblegum, followed by a purple wash that smells of berries. After I drove out and under the driers, I took a look at my car and saw it was sparkling clean.
Support Austin’s Small Business Community
When the normalcy of our growing city starts creeping in, Austinites need to find a way to keep it weird. Visit Jurassic Car Wash to satisfy the dinosaur-loving kid in you while maintaining the pesky adult responsibility of washing your car.
Jurassic Car Wash is located at 4809 S. Congress Ave. and is open 24/7 (though the dinos only come “alive” during the daytime.) Most of the machines take credit cards, and the automatic car wash costs between $5 and $10 depending on the level of wash.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are your favorite small businesses in Austin that are keeping it weird?