Seattle 'losing its character' after Elephant Super Car Wash permanently closes iconic location

A Seattle landmark is closing its doors after 64 years in business. Thursday, Elephant Super Car Wash corporate officials announced they are reluctantly shutting down the Battery Street location.

A staple in the community since 1956, corporate officials said they are closing the location permanently due to increasing crime, drug activity and homelessness. Coupled with “increasing costs of business in Seattle” and “burdensome regulatory demands,” the company said in a statement it’s “impossible” to run a small minimum wage business in the city.

The concerns are felt among business owners across downtown Seattle. In a written statement, the Downtown Seattle Association said:

“The Denny Triangle in downtown continues to be one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the country and we continue to see one- to three-story uses converted into denser office and residential buildings, even during COVID. Our most recent Development Guide offers further detail and analysis on development in downtown since COVID-19. Having said that, small businesses are in need of a plan from our city leaders to deal with a variety of issues they’re facing. Recently, over 500 businesses and organizations called on city leaders to take a small business pledge. We urge all city councilmembers to commit to the pledge.”

Kelsey Nyland is a spokesperson the Seattle Mayor’s Office. Nyland said Mayor Jenny Durkan has, “made it clear she does not support actions that compromise public safety.” Nyland’s written statement said, in part, this is why Durkan, “did not support the Council’s vote to reduce the police force by 100 officers and completely defund the Navigation Team, leaving the City with no central resource to address unauthorized encampments that pose public health or safety concerns. These actions have real impacts for the residents and businesses of Seattle.”

Q13 News reached out to the Seattle City Council for comment on the car wash company’s concerns regarding increased crime, drug use and homelessness in the area. City officials were not immediately available for response.

“Not seeing it there is going to be a little bit sad for me coming to work every day,” said Amber Young-Donahoe, who was born and raised in Seattle. “To have this just be another thing that’s not going to be there is just really sad.”

Young-Donahoe has worked directly across the street from the legendary car wash at Simply Dental as an account manager the last two years. She said the pink neon sign has been part of her whole life in the city.

“Everyone knows about the pink elephant car wash. As soon as you think car wash when you’re from Seattle pink elephant is the first one you think about,” said Young-Donahoe.

Young-Donahoe said she understands change is inevitable, but she just wishes change didn’t hit so close to home.

“It just makes me wonder who’s next? Everything from when I was a child is going to be gone. And I have a small child myself and there’s almost nothing I cans how her from when I was a kid,” she said.

The iconic, rotating “pink elephant” will be stored at the Museum of History and Industry. People in the community said once the business and sign are gone, Seattle won’t have the same charm.

“It just loses character. It just turns into another major city that’s just losing its personality pretty much. Now we just have these huge buildings and sky rises and Whole Foods and amazon and Microsoft and we’re just turning into another US major city,” said Young-Donahoe.