Dale Davenport, Man of Mystery? No, Mayor, He's Just a Car Wash Owner.

Categories: Schutze

Tuesday I talked to Mayor Mike Rawlings about the car wash on MLK Boulevard that I have written a lot about lately -- well, a lot about over the last eight years, as a matter of fact. It's the one the city recently threatened to take by eminent domain.

We did settle one point. The mayor said he had not seen the city's letter to car wash owner Dale Davenport when his spokesman, Sam Merten, talked me a couple weeks ago and suggested the letter was not an eminent domain threat. Since then both he and Merten have reviewed the entire package sent to Davenport and they agree it was an eminent domain threat.

carwashposterx.jpg
Exactly how exotic, mysterious or entertaining can one car wash be?

Mayor Rawlings said the sending of an eminent domain threat was a mistake, a failure in communications at City Hall. I will get into that in more detail in a column in next week's paper.

But let's deal with another issue first. I found that both the mayor and his spokesman were still somewhat dubious about the true nature of the car wash as a business. They wondered why it was so busy all the time, and they wondered who Dale Davenport really was. How did this white guy from East Texas end up running a car wash on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in South Dallas, and why was he so determined to stay?

It is a recurring question, one I have heard from City Hall for eight years. In it I hear echoes of last year's South Dallas Shamrock gas station story, when community activists in South Dallas tried to force a Korean store owner to sell his business and get out of the neighborhood. The question is always this: Why do non-black business people come into the old center of the black community in Dallas to do business? Why do they seem to do so well? What's up with that? The unspoken subtext is that they must be drug dealers, pimps or operators of betting rings -- something sinister that amounts to preying on the community.

I spoke to Davenport that evening, after my meeting with the mayor, and I asked him to answer those questions. I told him people think he's a drug dealer. So who is he really? What's his real game? How did he come to South Dallas? I told him that the mayor is still skeptical that his business could be a profit center based merely on car washing.

See also:
Dallas Officials Deny They Threatened Car Wash Owner. What Do You Think?
South Dallas Shamrock Kwik Stop Story Ends With TABC Squeezing $1,500 Out of Store Owner

We spoke by phone. He was standing on the lot at the car wash at the time. Once you prime Davenport, it's not hard to keep him talking:

"I am standing here looking at seven bays that are covered up with cars," he said, "three cars behind each bay. Do they think that I'm not making any money down here?

"When I was 16 years old I bought a car wash in Naples, Texas, a little three-bay car wash. My dad was an electrician for the steel mill, and we got that car wash up and running. We fixed that car wash, and that was my project, that's how I made gas money for my dates and stuff, OK? I was 16 at the time.

"The car wash did real well. I promoted it. We had local church car washes and everything else. The car wash did good, and then I bought another one in the town of Hughes Springs, right next to the Dairy Queen. It did well, paid for itself in about two years.

"And then I went on to college and all that, and then this thing [on MLK in Dallas] came up. We were able to buy this one. The thing had been for sale for two years and nobody bought it. We invested our money, got it up and going.

"About the first day or two I was down there somebody robbed me while I was working on a vacuum cleaner. Here I am, you know, bought this car wash, made this big investment here in Dallas. To us it was a lot of money at the time.

"I gotta go back down there tomorrow, and I'm worried about somebody robbing me. But I gritted my teeth, and we got it up and going and running.

"I was thinking if I can't even get on the lot how am I going to survive down there. I found that there's a lot of good people there. I have enjoyed the people of South Dallas. There's a lot of really cool people down there, and there's a lot of bad people down there. The people have been very, very nice, very respectful to us."

I asked Davenport why his car wash is always so busy.

"We keep our prices reasonable. We use a lot of soap, good pressure. We give people a good wash. I give 1,200, 1,300 pounds of pressure, you know. Our vacuum cleaners work. You put your money in, I've got Sensitron [coin boxes] in there that are electronic so the quarters don't hang up like they will at some car washes.

"You walk inside my equipment room, it's a pretty darned good equipment room. It's one of the best. I've got very good equipment in there, the biggest pumps, the biggest motors. We're proud of the fact that everything works.

"That's something that they really didn't have in South Dallas. It's a large lot. It's well-lit. It's clean. It's busy because it works.

"We keep it clean, keep it spotless. We keep that car wash immaculate. There was a time when we first bought it, I'd see kids walk across the lot, and they'd just throw a can down. I'd go pick it up. Now, when somebody throws trash down, somebody around them will pick it up and put it in the trash can. There's that little bit of pride.

"I work down there every day, every night without a gun. Now, if it gets to be a rough crowd or something, that's a different story. I'm packing, and I'm ready to go, because I want to come home. But, you know, I tell you what, those people down there have been very good to me."

I asked Davenport to give me a thumbnail sketch of himself as a businessman.

"I am on the board of two banks. I mean, I've got a finance degree, 30 rent houses, a successful land development business. I do a lot of septic tank work. I am on the board of the Cass County National Bank and Morse County National Bank.

"The bank that loaned me the money for the first car wash that I had in Naples, Texas, is the bank that I sit on the board of, and I am the youngest board member. And I'm proud of the fact that they asked me to come back home, sit on their board, one of five board members, and to offer me stock to buy in that bank."

He said, "It all started with my little car wash in East Texas when I was 16 years old."

So now, Dear Reader, I will ask you a question. Does this sound to you like a sinister man of mystery?


My Voice Nation Help
46 comments
bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

It's not the OLDEST story, but it's certainly one of the older ones.


"But Caesar says he is ambitious,

and Caesar is an honorable man.

So are they all, all honorable men."



PerryMoore
PerryMoore

And you trust this man over your own city government?

sos0
sos0

I am pretty sure Davenport and Schutze have run City Hall off. They have packed and headed for the hills..................this is a major lawsuit waiting to happen for CoD and they will lose, lose big! 

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

The very good Jim writing today. 

But I gotta ask, if you can hang around the place, talk to folks, chat with the owner, observe and report, why can't His Honor and other City Hall folks do this? Does somebody lock them in their offices? That's always mystified me about the political class. Why do they only show up at election time? Why, when they ask questions like "why it was so busy all the time, and they wondered who Dale Davenport really was?" do they sound so tragically clueless?

James080
James080

I drove by the car wash about an hour ago, and there were at least thirty cars at the facility. Jim, tell the Mayor to get off his elite fat ass and have his chauffeur drive him by that location, it's a little gold mine of a business.

rusknative
rusknative

but.....but....but.....WHEN was he a COMMUNITY ORGANIZER or something LEGITIMATE?

Greg820
Greg820

New city motto:

Dallas!  Where People Should Know Their Place.

WylieH
WylieH

Another issue that may be at play, here, is that the Davenports are violating the "natural order" of things here in Dallas, where "crony capitalism" is the operative business model. Under this closed-loop system, South Dallas redevelopment is expected to be undertaken by those with insider connections who become beneficiaries of substantial largesse dispensed by City staff via bond issues, TIFs, grants, etc. In return, the beneficiaries are expected to support the long-standing "regime."

In this case, the Davenports invested their OWN money, without any assistance from the governing powers. This means they aren't beholden to anyone, and that's a problem.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I'm pretty sure the contrast bothers the powers-that-be, and it's not just the skin-tone contrast.


He is modeling success to people in an area where it behooves a certain few to tell these people that there's no point in trying, and you need to depend on US.

Justthefacts
Justthefacts

Everyone is missing the point. The Mayor wants investment in Southern Dallas.

The Mayor and city don't support people who have invested there already like the car wash owner. The C Store owner becomes a political pawn because of his race.


Small business investment creates jobs and economic opportunity. But even small business owners have a choice where to invest. My guess in Southern Dallas isn't going to be on the list based on how these business have been treated.  

James080
James080

The subtext of your post is that the Mayor supports the notion that there is a white Dallas, a black Dallas and a brown Dallas, and it is his job to be suspicious of any businessman crossing the racial boundaries of the city.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

I'm relatively new to Dallas and have only recently moved down into the southern sector.  From what I can tell, car washes and laundromats are THE social spot in S. Dallas and Pleasant Grove.  On Thursday and Friday evenings in good weather, this car wash, one near Malcolm X and Hatcher and one near 2nd and Pine will always be packed to the gills.  Vacuums humming, bays full and people drying and polishing out in the lot are all accompanied by a lot of good-natured hootin and hollerin.  If you wander around a bit, it's easy to see why, at the car lot you have all the elements that deter crimes against your person: it's well-lit, highly visible from major roadways, and jammed with potential witnesses.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Does he qualify as a job creator?

MargaretHuntHill
MargaretHuntHill

The Mayor continues to say that the issue is not the paying customers but loiterers up to no good.  What accounts for the social aspect of this place?  Who hangs out at a car wash?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

When our washing machine died we had to haul the clothes to the Laundry mat .You know someone is making a lot of money when the owner rolls out a weeks worth of  quarters in several five gallon buckets.

I guess the same is true for the car wash business .

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Sometimes I think those of us who have always worked for large companies or institutions just don;t have a very good sense of how much money somebody can make with a good small business. I know I did a lot of yard work to earn money as a kid. Sometimes I look at the trucks whizzing by with huge trailers full of equipment and bi-lingual staff and think maybe I should have stuck with that.

WylieH
WylieH

I obviously can't speak to the quality of equipment, but every time I've been by that car wash, it is jammed with paying customers--- most/all of the bays and vacuums are being heavily utilized, and the place is is spotless-- no trash anywhere (in contrast to the City of Dallas-owned property next door, which is typically overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash).

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Work hard from 16.... In carolyn Davis' district, that makes him a bad influence. No wonder she is lunatic about harassing him.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@sos0I hope you are right but I fear the powers that be will merely bide their time to launch another attack. 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@WylieH

Yes, and you could apply the same rule to Richard Allen and the original Inland Port project offering 65,000 new jobs. Dallas reacted like a snooty butler: "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm afraid I must ask to see your invitation."

James080
James080

I'm beginning to believe WylieH hit the nail on the head. The Mayor's problem with Mr. Davenport probably isn't per se that he is a white man with a successful business in Fair Park, it is that Davenport hasn't paid to play in an area of the city where tradition dictates that tribute must be paid to the overlords, or equity must be surrendered to race hucksters, or part time preachers must be tithed, or council member asses must be well oiled with cash on a reasonably regular basis. 


And then they go on retreats to try to figure out why more people won't invest in South Dallas.

rusknative
rusknative

well....INTEGRATION of public schools "violated" the natural order too....and we all learned to LIVE with that.....so, City Hall.....make way for Whitie to have a business in Darktown.

rusknative
rusknative

kinda like how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RTGolden1

Have you been there when the guy is there with his barbecue machine? It's like one big neighborhood picnic. 

rusknative
rusknative

that is the Public Library role...homeless loitering....

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I remember back in the 70s and 80s people would gather (usually teenagers and younger adults) at places where they would wash their cars listen to their music and hangout together. To me, it is sad that we seem to have lost this socializing with others aspect to our daily lives.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@MargaretHuntHill

Guess my comment did not post from my stupid phone. So, again: People gather at the car wash because they feel safe there, and it's a fun social place. Look, I don't want to get all us-'n-them about this, but I just came back from Northpark, and I saw all kinds of people kind of out in the aisles, obviously not shopping or doing anything useful, just sitting around on the benches sipping lattes. I guess I could have walked up to one of the many DPD officers I saw and said,  "I want all these people in fur coats sitting around loitering cleared out of here now!" But they're not really called loiterers at Northpark. I think they're called people up there.  

Gangy
Gangy

folks who feel welcome and safe and who see good neighbors there

ryan762
ryan762

A guy I went to high school with started a pool cleaning business while he was in college for extra money. He eventually grew that business to the point that it now does all sorts of landscaping and lawn and pool care. Twenty years later, he's still at it and making a good living. I don't know if he ever bothered finishing college.

roo_ster
roo_ster

What you wrote, JS, with bells on it.

I have a STEM bachelors and an MBA.  My BIL has a high school diploma.  Before he got hurt, we made roughly the same per year, me at BigCorp, and he with his one man tile installation business.  


One year he did so well, he asked me, "roo_ster, what should I do with all this money?  I don't know anything about investing."  I told him to invest in something he understood.  He ended up buying and rehabbing a house he then rented out.  


He did not need to resort to drug dealing to do well without a degree.



ruddski
ruddski

If you hire the subsidized workers, you can really clean up.

ruddski
ruddski

If I was this guy, I would harass the city about that, incessantly and annoyingly. After all, negligence of their property can affect the businesses in the area.

WylieH
WylieH

@JimSX@WylieHAgreed.  If he had simply partnered up with one of the ruling families, cutting them in for a piece of the action, things would have played out very differently.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

I know a very famous developer who doesn't pay to play and hence forth is working just over the line in a couple of high profile communities.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Yes I have, and the barbecue is fantastic.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RTGolden1

I talked to Dale this afternoon. He's in East Texas attending a bank board of directors meeting. He said the other directors were saying to him, "Now, explain this to us again. The city of Dallas is mad at you because your business attracts too much traffic?"

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Hell, we did it in the late 90's and early 00's.  Those who had nice fixed up cool cars all hung together.  On Fridays after school or work, we all met at a carwash, cleaned the rides, hung out and checked out other peoples rides and then usually went out as a group.  Wednesdays and Saturdays we used a large parking lot at a Burger King in The Colony to gather and mingle.  It seems that what this carwash is.  The problem down there seems to be whitey is scared of an impala donked out with 24s and a candy paint job bc the guy driving it is black

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

That's what your twitterspacebook is for.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

This is so true. I also hung out at the bowling alley--sometimes I bowled,sometimes I didn't--and the hobby shop because that's what I was into. If you're into cars, it makes sense to hang out at a car-related place. Like, I dunno, a car wash?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@roo_ster

What should I do with all this money? A question one seldom hears in my field.

ryan762
ryan762

Yeah, in my hometown, there was a movie theater parking lot that became the place the hang-out for teens. It had a Taco Bell and plenty of space to just park and talk. Given that the police watched the place like hawks, it doesn't seem like people were hanging out there to be "up to no good". There wasn't any drinking (at least not on site) and very, very few fights. People just hung-out and had a good time.


After the teenagers got run off from there, a What-A-Burger became the big hang-out for a while.... especially right at 11pm.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...