Gas station owner pitches new car wash for Sykes Mountain Ave


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2024 7:53 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The owner of a gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Route 5 and Sykes Mountain Avenue is seeking to add a fully-automated car wash to his business — close to the site of an existing car wash.

The Hartford Planning Commission will hear a proposal on Monday from Summit Distributing, a Lebanon-based petroleum wholesaler, which seeks to build a 100-foot-long car wash and 14 vacuum spaces on land abutting The Station Market, a service station and convenience store at 18 Sykes Mountain Ave., which Summit Distributing owns.

Summit Distributing plans to lease the proposed site — which currently contains an overflow parking lot for Greyhound bus station — from the lot owners, Ruth Hall Guernsey Revocable Trust, according to a project application submitted to the Planning Commission.

An agreement that the trust would provide overflow parking to Greyhound expired in 2009, the application states.

“We think this car wash is going to be a great tie-in with the (Station Market’s) gas station, convenience store and food court,” Tom Frawley, principal owner of Summit Distributing, said in a phone interview.

Summit Distributing renovated its convenient store 18 months ago, adding a small liquor store and a self-serve cafeteria with deli foods, fried chicken, and hot and cold sandwiches.

China Moon Buffet, which had leased a restaurant space inside the building prior to the renovation, moved to the former Cantore’s Crossroads Cafe space at 96 Sykes Mountain Ave.

The proposed site is only a few hundred feet away from an existing car wash, White River Car Wash, at 130 Sykes Mountain Ave.

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White River Car Wash is still owned by Charles and Allen Hall, whose former auto dealership, Gateway Motors, abutted the car wash. The Hall brothers sold Gateway in 2019 to J Auto, a St. Johnsbury, Vt., auto dealer.

Attempts to reach the Hall brothers by phone were unsuccessful.

Frawley said that his car wash will be a “tunnel car wash” system, which is significantly different from White River’s automated car wash.

Tunnel car washes are elongated structures that pull a vehicle along a conveyor to each station, where different pieces of machinery clean, rinse and dry the vehicle, according to, a resource provider for car wash and detailing professionals.

White River Car Wash has three self-service bays, where customers apply the cleaning agents and water manually, and two automated bays. White River’s system is a “rollover car wash” — where the user drives the vehicle into the wash bay and parks while the machines move back and forth over the vehicle to clean and dry it.

According to, both systems are able to clean effectively though tunnel car washes are most ideal for cleaning a large quantity of vehicles. A tunnel system takes roughly 50 seconds to clean and dry a car, compared to three minutes for a rollover system.

Frawley said he has not determined prices for the proposed car wash or a construction timeline, as he wants to focus in the present on acquiring town planning and zoning permits.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider the project on Monday, April 15 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment must also approve the project because the proposed site is in an area where a car wash is a conditional use. The Zoning Board on Wednesday continued a public hearing for the project to May 15.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at or 603-727-3216.