September 25, 2013

Commercial Banking Spotlight: Southland Auto Wash shines

Southland Auto Wash has been keeping rides clean and buffed since the days of tail-fins, big chrome and whitewalls. From their original downtown location at the corner of Sheldon and Oakes, the Ellis family has held on to that tradition, and grown to five Grand Rapids area locations, employing 60 workers. Mark Ellis, son of original owner Ernest Ellis, now runs the family business and has overseen its growth since the 80s. Mark’s son, Sean Ellis, represents this family’s third generation in the business, and serves as Vice President and Operations Manager.

In the car wash business, growth requires sizable financial backing. Since 2011, Lake Michigan Credit Union has partnered with Southland Auto Wash to help keep this iconic business on an upward financial trajectory.

Further growth is just ahead. LMCU’s Vice President of Commercial Lending, Jim Maskell, has a 15-year history with Southland Auto Wash. “LMCU is providing financing to acquire a commercial property on Kalamazoo Avenue in Kentwood. Set for opening in January of 2014, this will be a 6,700 square foot tunnel car wash, and the company’s sixth location in the greater Grand Rapids area. We also provide a full range of credit and depository services for day-to-day operations.”

For Ellis, people make the difference. His long association with Jim Maskell led him to consider Lake Michigan Credit Union as a finance partner. “Jim is a very special commercial banker. He truly understands my business. He’s very good at walking in my shoes and recognizing our unique banking needs. The entire LMCU commercial banking team has demonstrated high levels of interest, involvement and understanding. LMCU truly listens, and responds to the unique challenges of business lending.”

Ellis also appreciates the power of intangibles. “None of us enter into business relationships looking for personal friendships, but there seems to be a very natural camaraderie in our partnership that makes working with LMCU such a pleasure. This is nothing like a typical client-vendor relationship, and it’s altogether different than dealing with a traditional bank. That’s a good thing.”