In the early 1980s, when Henry Weinschenk opened Express Car Wash, it was the latest twist in a career that included lots of “different things at different times."
After a successful run at UPS — the shipping giant — that spanned nearly a decade, Weinschenk said starting the small business seemed like the right move.
“I knew a little about car washes ... and I had learned a lot of about the service industry when I was with UPS,” he said. “I like to kid sometimes that I got my MBA from UPS ... then I have to look at [people] and say, 'It’s not what you think — it’s the parcel company.'”
For his entrepreneurship, enterprise and prosperity in the Charlottesville area, Weinschenk was honored with the 2013 Excellence in Local Business Award. Forward/Adelante, a bilingual business journal that covers Central Virginia, presented the honor Tuesday night during a Marketing to Latinos networking event at the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport.
In addition to his "UPS degree," Weinschenk also earned a degree in engineering technology from Otto Krause Technical College in Buenos Aires. A native of Argentina who gained U.S. citizenship in 1970, his work with UPS included establishing the company’s first overseas subsidiary and setting up distribution facilities.
“We selected Henry, CEO of Express Car Wash Company for 30 years, because his company has built an excellent reputation through quality service,” Olga Morse, publisher of Forward/Adelante, said in an award announcement. “By fulfilling the needs of local residents and earning their trust, Express Car Wash has achieved sustainable growth and prosperity.”
"I have lived the American dream and this is just one more milestone in my American dream,” Weinschenk said after receiving the honor on the airport's upper level.
“He is a phenomenally interesting guy, incredibly committed to this community, a fierce advocate for entrepreneurs and business, and we’re honored to have him as a member of the chamber,” said Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce President Timothy Hulbert.
Speaking before he was publicly honored, Weinschenk said starting and sustaining a small business has two key elements.
“You have to have the right combination of previous experience and education that you somehow can leverage to start something and hopefully be successful with it ... And also being at the right place at the right time and knowing when the right time is.”
Although economic challenges persist, the American dream is something people still enthusiastically strive for, said the event’s key speaker, Peter Rodriguez, a professor and chief diversity officer at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia.
“Immigrant groups, like first- and second-generation Latinos, are often the strongest advocates and believers in the promise of American progress,” said Rodriguez.
“When you talk about the American dream,” Rodriguez continued, "what you really mean is the embodiment of America’s open system where if you have initiative and talent, you’re able to thrive ... A lot of middle- and lower-income Americans see their prospects as dimmer than before and that is an extraordinary risk for any economy in the long run.”
But on the bright side, Rodriguez added, America’s strong existing entrepreneurial framework will enable sustainable economic recovery.
“I think relative to other high-income nations, we have a good competitive framework for the nourishment of entrepreneurship,” he said.
Tuesday’s event was sponsored by about a dozen local businesses and organizations. Proceeds from the event benefited the Community Investment Collaborative’s micro-lending scholarship fund.