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North Vancouver's Oasis car wash has closed

It’s been a North Vancouver landmark for more than 50 years, but the Oasis car wash closed for good on Sept. 29.

After more than 56 years, North Vancouver’s Oasis has run dry.

The Four Seasons Oasis Automatic Car Wash – better known just as the Oasis – gave their last wash and wax on Sept. 29.

Despite its hallowed North Van status, the Oasis origins are in Burnaby where founder Elgin Arnold established his first bucket-and-hose car wash business in 1952. At the time, his wife Helen was already a successful entrepreneur with Helen’s Children’s Wear on Hastings Street in Burnaby Heights.

They developed a solid reputation for customer service and in 1962, Oasis expanded to the North Shore, opening a West Vancouver location at Park Royal. The North Vancouver location, with its tropical themed sign, giant palm tree and fountains facing Third Street, opened in 1967. It was the last surviving Oasis car wash.

Elgin Arnold died in 2011. Helen lived to be almost 100 but died in 2019 – the same year the original Kingsway location of Oasis closed.

In an update to the company’s website posted on Sept. 29, longtime manager Steve Daniels made the sad announcement that the Arnold family's vision could no longer carry on. Daniels cited numerous cost pressures on small business.

“It is the sign of the times” he said. “The high cost of property taxes, insurance, materials and especially labour make it impossible to stay afloat.”

The post added thanks to the employees who’d kept the business going over the years.

“Nothing but best wishes for your future,” the post read.

In an interview, Cyndy Daniels, the company’s bookkeeper and wife of Steve Daniels, said they’ve been inundated with phone calls and emails since word got out, with many people expressing how much they’ll be missed.

“If it wasn’t for the customers, we wouldn’t have gone as long as we did,” she said. “It’s really sad we couldn’t keep it going. But it’s just not profitable anymore.”

Cyndy said she looked over some old ledgers and found they used to do 1,000 to 1,200 cars a day. Since the pandemic, they’re lucky if they see 120.

“I think it’s the economy too since COVID,” she said. “People don’t want to spend their money to get the car washed.… It’s sad and there’s so many business right now that are shutting down because of the same issues.”

Although Helen and Elgin's business legacy is coming to its close, the couple’s contribution continues to live on in one of Burnaby’s most recognizable landmarks. The famous neon “swinging girl” sign in Burnaby was commissioned by Helen for her store in 1956. In 2010, the City of Burnaby purchased the sign, had it refurbished and changed its neon script from “Helen’s” to “Heights.”

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