Paul Coleman, longtime owner of the Two Minit Car Wash at Piedmont Avenue and Rock Springs Road, passed away on November 16. He is survived by his wife, Heather; his father, Bobby; his brother, Eddie; and several nieces and nephews.
Paul’s father bought the car wash in 1974, and Paul began working there as a young boy. He quickly demonstrated a head for business, and in the late 1970s had the idea of putting a mannequin out front to attract customers. He installed a life-sized mechanical clown, which turned its head and waved at passersby, but it quickly drew complaints from customers who found it “creepy.” Paul exchanged it for a gorilla, which evolved into such a neighborhood landmark that the business became known as the “Gorilla Car Wash.” One customer even named the gorilla “George.”
When Paul’s father retired in 1997, Paul took over. George aged over the years and at one point had become so scraggly that Paul “retired” him also. But regular customers complained so much that Paul moved him back out front. Since then, George has had three new “suits” and two “operations” on his mechanical innards.
George almost bought the farm in 1999 when a water heater pilot light set off leaking gas fumes in the storage room where he spends the nights. The explosion blew out the door and windows and singed George badly, but he survived; that was when got his last new suit. Now his fur has become shaggy again; he can no longer turn his head nor wave at passersby.
In 2015, this newsletter first wrote about Paul and his gorilla, suggesting perhaps it was time to have a neighborhood fundraiser to rehabilitate George. Wouldn’t that be a most fitting memorial for Paul?
What about it, Piedmont Heights?
By Bill Seay (Rock Springs Rd.)