Learn About the History of Blue Beacon

Blue Beacon History

Blue Beacon International operates throughout the United States and portions of Canada. It employs more than 4,000 people, including 200 in the Salina, Kansas home office. Blue Beacon is the foundation of Walker Family for-profit enterprises and has spawned charitable institutions. It all started with Charlie Walker, a modern day Horatio Alger story.

Charlie’s first successful entrepreneurial, Power Vac, was born in 1963. Driven to build a better mobile wash system, he put together a wash system complete with an oil fired burner to supply hot water, concentrated soap tank and separate low pressure application pump, a large on-board water tank and a diesel powered wash pump unit that could be used anywhere, without need for electricity or water supply for smaller jobs. He continued improving the business and expanding into retail sales of the unit and commercial signage. Eyeing a greater opportunity in truck washing, he established a new truck wash venture.

In 1973 the first Blue Beacon Truck Wash opened in Salina, Kansas. To raise capital to aggressively expand the promising business, Charlie sold the Power Vac Wash System. The Power Vac operation expanded into commercial sign manufacturing, eventually becoming a support system to support Blue Beacon.  Power Vac began blending cleaning solutions, stocking and reselling necessary support parts, supplies, uniforms and trucking them from Salina to each Blue Beacon Truck Wash. Blue Beacon currently owns and operates over 100  truck wash locations across the US and Canada, and is the most recognized truck washing service in the nation.

Charlie’s entrepreneurial instincts and experience in the truck wash industry led him to consider entry into the car wash segment. In 1980, Green Lantern was born with a convenience store, fuel island and a self-service car wash in Salina, Kansas.  Using industry-leading methods developed and refined by Blue Beacon, Green Lantern offered customers a high quality spot-free rinse. In 2001, the company introduced its first automated, tunnel car wash in Salina offering a superior quality exterior wash with a quick, thorough interior cleaning option. Since this first prototype, Green Lantern has continued to expand the model into Kansas City, Wichita, and St. Louis.

Charlie entered the hotel industry in 1999. Lighthouse Properties began with three Interstate properties, which he eventually sold and refocused on properties that could either be acquired or developed and operated far into the future. In 2006 the company acquired The Raphael in Kansas City and developed a Homewood Suites by Hilton property in Wichita’s upscale Waterfront development. The company continues to seek opportunities and work toward completion of projects under development.

Charlie’s creative energy and enterprising nature led him to ranching and real estate ventures that resulted in two charitable institutions: Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure and The City. What began in the early 1980s on a section of ground in western Saline County that he purchased and barn he built to house Belgian horses morphed from Rolling Hills Ranch into Rolling Hills Zoo, operated by a non-profit foundation dedicated to the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species. The facility includes a zoo and a 64,000 square foot wildlife museum and conference center. It affords a variety of educational and adventure programs for children and families.

The City is a 14,000 square foot, state-of-the-art teen entertainment center and educational facility located in Salina, Kansas. The City opened in November 2000.  The City is operated by TeenTown, Inc., a 501(C)(3) non-profit providing services to the teens of Salina and the surrounding counties.

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