Three Kansas City dads’ community-first mindsets pushed the trio to develop a “first-of-its-kind” technique for making grocery and retail stores across the metro safer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their mission: disinfect shopping carts and other well-used items via a sanitization trailer — bypassing the arduous, fallible and potentially dangerous process of cleaning by hand, said William “Billy” VonWolf, co-founder of Cart Kings.
“We set up in a central location and we gather all the carts, wheelchairs, kids carts, and we push them through what’s [set up like] a conveyor belt system — about 120 carts per hour,” he explained of the operation, which pressure washes the shared objects at 160 degrees and douses them with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved biostatic sanitizing solution — protecting them for more than 30 days.
Not only does the service allow local retailers to show customers their health is being taken seriously, it allows them to put their employees back to work, doing what they were hired to do — in a lower-risk environment, VonWolf said.
“Every place we go into, we see the one or two employees they’re having to pull away from their essential duties to clean these carts and use these chemicals — spraying them with a weedkiller machine or a spray bottle and paper towels, wipes,” he said.
“It’s putting them in harm’s way. We don’t know any lasting results of these chemicals they’re putting on there and it’s taking them away from what they need to do.”
Cart Kings also boasts environmentally friendly practices that include use of a self-contained water recycling unit and possesses the ability to offer adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing to its customers, giving them tremendous insight into what current practices are really doing to protect customers, VonWolf said.
“It’s essentially like a DNA swab kit,” he explained of the process, which measures actively growing microorganisms on a surface.
“We went to a large retailer in Overland Park and they used the same thing — paper towels and wipes, employees spraying them down. The store manager was like, ‘Here’s one of my carts we just cleaned,’ and we did a swab test on that cart and it was still way in the red. Failing because of the level of virus and bacteria.”
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Such capabilities have customers signing up for Cart Kings’ service in droves, VonWolf said.
“The KC Metro area is big enough to be a big city, but small enough to be a small city. So with that, you’re getting into a lot of family owned stuff. You’re trying to get into a business where there have been relationships with vendors and retailers for decades,” he said of the Cart Kings’ trio — also childhood friends — and their entrepreneurial experience so far.
“I would say we’re right on par with where we’d like to be and where we’d want to go. … We don’t want to say we’re reinventing the wheel, but it’s been a different way to do things and to give retailers a chance to see that there are different options out there — and it’s a great way to get their employees back to work by letting us take care of a service that we saw was much needed here in town.”
Doubling as a local first-responder and father of three small children himself, VonWolf also sees the effort as an extension of his duty to protect and serve all Kansas Citians, he said.
“All three of us have kids. This is about safety for friends and family. Our motto is, ‘Making a difference one cart at a time,’” he continued. “We’re really excited about helping our community out.”
VonWolf hopes to see Cart King expand as the need for sterilization services becomes even more prominent in the COVID-recovery period, with opportunities to use its technology on everything from golf carts to playground equipment, he said.
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