Small Business Awards 2008: Small Green Business Award

Luscious Garage
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As soon as you enter the woman-owned Luscious Garage, you know you're not in your typical stinky, boys-only auto repair shop. The art-lined walls are painted creamy yellow. Plants and open windows — in place of energy-sucking exhaust systems — act as an air filter. The second-hand furniture, all dark wood, gorgeously contrasts with the light walls and green leaves. A corkboard beckons with fliers from other green businesses like Green Cab, which sends its fleet to Luscious for maintenance.

Beauty meets function on the spotless floor made of nonporous cement, not the usual grease-stained epoxy. It won't absorb toxins, making it easier to clean and maintain. Natural light fills the room with a sunny glow while soft halogen task lighting shines only on the necessary work areas.

More than just the so-called "women's touch," it is the culture of hybrids, which are exclusively serviced at the shop, that the appearance of Luscious Garage reflects. That culture acknowledges driving as a necessary evil that's not going to disappear anytime soonbut one that shouldn't stop us from being environmentally responsible.

The impetus for all this beauty and responsibility came to owner and lead technician Carolyn Coquillette soon after she got degrees in English and physics from the University of Michigan — when her car promptly broke down. "I thought it was stupid that I couldn't solve the problem because I didn't have basic car knowledge," she recalls. She began taking auto repair night classes at a community college and eventually took a job at her instructor's garage. But she was eager to understand more about advanced hybrid technology and followed that interest to California.

Apparently she wants to pass some of that education onto her customers. At Luscious, a technician uploads car information to the shop's Web site, which customers can access online to track the repairs. Not only does this practice make the services "fully transparent" to the car-illiterate, it allows Coquillette to follow another important green business practice: keeping her garage paper-free.

That's not all: Luscious Garage brews its own windshield fluid out of vinegar and water and uses re-refined oil in place of crude-refined oil. All linens are washed on site to monitor water, energy, and chemicals, and a gray water system is being set up to water plants. Rags are used to clean residue off the concrete, and a service launders them off-site so that the chemicals are disposed of properly. Containers are refillable and fabrics are repurposed to make durable, reusable floor mats and fender covers.

When it comes to being green, Coquillette sums it up: "People are like, screw it, there's nothing I can do. But there are small things you can do: make better choices, make greener choices."

Seems like she's doing some pretty big things too. (Ailene Sankur)

LUSCIOUS GARAGE

459 Clementina, SF

(415) 875-9030

www.lusciousgarage.com

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