CHICAGO — Fifty years in business is a long time. Buddy Bear Car Wash is celebrating its golden anniversary.

The business started on the West Side in 1972 and spread to the South Side and some suburbs with its other locations.

For many, Buddy Bear Car Wash has been more than just a car wash but an avenue of hope and opportunity and a true staple in for the community.

Owner Phil Degeratto is celebrating the business’ success and newly renovated car wash at its original location. The renovation cost half a million dollars and updated the tunnel.

“50 years at this original location,” he said. “My dad had me here when I was a kid when it was under construction.”

Several local and state dignitaries stopped by the original Buddy Bear Car Wash site at Washington Boulevard and Pulaski Road Friday to celebrate its growth and positive impact.

Congressman Danny Davis was among them.

“Phil and his family have been a mainstay in our community where we’ve lived,” he said. “Hundreds of individuals have had jobs and raised their families … and develop opportunities.”

Since its debut, Buddy Bear Car Wash has expanded to 16 locations.

“Phil continues to hire people from the community,” 2nd District Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer said. “That is a blessing because he is in the community and of the community and making sure that people that live there can make a living.”

“We’re here 50 years and we’re not going anywhere,” Degeratto said.

In honor of Buddy Dear’s anniversary, the business is offering 10,000 free car washes.