You put your car through a lot- So why not put it through a custom car wash?

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Business Spotlight, Featured

Published on October 22, 2019 with No Comments

by Lee Lyons

Who was it who said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”?  Well, it wasn’t Mike Reisnger, owner of the Portage Car Wash, but it could have been. Mike has been loving his car washing and detailing business for 33 years and even though it does require work, it’s pleasant work and very rewarding.

“If you like it, it’s not hard,” Mike says of the business that provides customer service to hundreds of drivers and their vehicles as well as a good starting job for so many young people. “I love the kids that have worked for me,” he says. “Over the years, at least 2,000, many in their first job. We couldn’t do the job without them and often, the children of people who started working here years ago come to us for theirfirst job. It’s very satisfying.”

And it must be since so many of his current staff have worked at the Portage Car Wash for 10, 20, even 30 years.  Kile, one of the managers, has been there since 2012. Patty the cashier and the person who has first, crucial contact with customers, has been there 32 years. About half the staff have made the business their home and that sense of belonging produces the kind of customer service that has brought the Portage Car Wash so much repeat and loyal business.

Employees stay, according to Reisnger, because they “feel valued, part of a team.”

“When you show people love, you get it back.” And his workers agree, adding that “feeling good about their jobs and the work and the way they are treated” is the primary reason they stay.

“You build your crew and have patience with new employees,” Mike explained one of the secrets to his success. “It doesn’t do any good to be short with new people. They’ll just leave and those who replace them will also need training and time to settle into the job. If you are patient with your crew and give them time to learn and grow, it’s so much easier on everyone.”

The business Mike Reisnger built 33 years ago started as a solution to the question: “Where do we go from here?”  Mike and his father, Robert, were both working at the former Inland Steel (known locally as “The Mill”) when Mike was laid off and Robert’s retirement was looming. Together, they started the Portage Car Wash. Over the years, Mike also opened two self-service car washes in Lake County that service those drivers who like to do a quick exterior wash “on their own.” A family business at first, Mike’s dad, Robert, worked at the car wash for six years before “really” retiring and even Mike’s mom worked there for a year. Today, Mike’s son, Nick, works as general manager and the other employees and Mike have formed their own “family” on the job.

Families are known to take pride in what they do and that pride is evident at the car wash where employees “greet” incoming dirty cars at the rear entrance and get to work with wet mops as the cars get pulled along by the conveyor to be soaped, gently scrubbed, receive undercarriage and inside cleaning, and wiping down by hand until they’re dry and shiny. Those at the finishing end wear big smiles, having produced a clean vehicle for their labors.

Even the grounds of the car wash reflect this overall pride. Clean, undamaged pavement all along the way is flanked by lovely landscaping that Mike and his crews did themselves. No broken pavement or loose gravel at thiscar wash, and no trash or mess, either. Both the inside and outside show a care and consideration for customers and appearance that reflects a work ethic of “happy customers and clean vehicles.”

Too bad they can’t come and clean my house.

If you have a dirty car you can find the Portage Car Wash at 5865 U.S. 6 in Portage (next door to the Family Express gas station). It’s open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information, call 219-762-1999 or visit


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