Park City, Utah, native Mike Walker wanted to start a business that fit his personality and his love for the environment.
After eight years of service in the Marine Corps, Walker used the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program to purchase Pizza Fusion.
Walker says he and his wife, Nicole, are set to open their first San Diego location this May in Hillcrest.
“The biggest turn-on to us was Pizza Fusion’s dedication to social responsibility and environmentally-friendly business. The franchise application was very strict, asking everything down to whether or not I was a smoker,” Walker said.
Michael Gordon and Vaughan Lazar founded Florida-based Pizza Fusion in 2006.
The chain’s owners say they are committed to opening only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED-certified, locations, including the Hillcrest location, which is currently registered for certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s San Diego chapter.
According to the USGBC Web site, no restaurant in San Diego has so far obtained LEED certification.
“There is a myth that going green is much more expensive. The biodegradable materials we use for our disposables, like spud ware and cornstarch materials, are really pretty easily accessible and not much more money than plastics and paper,” Walker said.
The use of bamboo flooring and use of local organic farmers are among Pizza Fusion’s green-friendly features.
“You can’t really advocate a clean atmosphere in an old model car, so all of our delivery vehicles are hybrids,” said Walker, who also said that Pizza Fusion’s proximity to mass transit, the Fifth Avenue bus stop, gave the restaurant more points for LEED certification.
New franchisees can open an average-sized store of 2,100 square feet with a startup fee of $30,000, and depending on location and size, an additional cost of between $250,000 and $500,000.
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Car Sales are Slowing:
Sales of new car and light truck registrations in San Diego are stronger than those statewide, according to a recent California Motor Car Dealers Association report, though the automotive industry isn’t faring well.
Registrations of new vehicles in the state totaled 1.9 million in 2007, a decline of 8.2 percent from 2006, according to the California Auto Outlook Fourth Quarter 2007 Market Report, reflecting the worst year since 1999.
While San Diego’s relative sales also were down, countywide sales saw a decline of only 5.5 percent, according to Lance Roberts of the New Car Dealers Association of San Diego.
“Our economy is bouncing back quicker in San Diego than in other parts of the state, in part because our economy is a little more diversified than some of the other metropolitan areas,” said Roberts.
According to the 2007 report, the biggest threats to new vehicle sales are extremely tightening credit markets, rising unemployment, falling housing values and excessive consumer debt.
While the CMCDA projects that new vehicle registrations will decline another 4 percent in 2008 over 2007, the agency remains optimistic for the future.
“People still need cars, so dealerships are offering incentives like extended warranties, and manufacturers are offering low-interest financing,” said Roberts.
Further, some dealers may match manufacturers’ discounts, especially to higher-priced vehicles, Roberts says.
He says he has been surprised by the lack of change in the type of cars Californians bought in the past year, based on the statistics in regular statewide reports which San Diego closely mimics.
“There really hasn’t been a significant shift in the type of cars people are buying between 2006 and 2007,” Roberts said.
He says that people are still buying what they need for utility purposes, size of family, or commuting efficiency.
“Car sales in 2008 will really depend on the stimulus package that goes through Congress, and rebate checks may also go towards new cars for some,” Roberts said.
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Stores Becoming More Energy-Efficient:
Earth-friendly products and low pricing do not have to be mutually exclusive, according to John Mendez for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sam’s Club public affairs.
Southern California stores are leading the way in an initiative to retrofit 30 stores with solar panels, and the Santa Ana, Chino and Palm Desert stores have made the first public announcements.
By 2012, Wal-Mart aims to make every store 30 percent more energy-efficient, Mendez says.
“These initiatives would reduce the company’s dependence on oil, lower greenhouse gas emissions, as well as save money on electric bills,” Mendez said.
Mendez is one of 300 Wal-Mart employees who are required to drive a Prius, Toyota’s hybrid sedan that’s in Wal-Mart’s corporate fleet.
Every year, the company plans to issue 150 more hybrid vehicles to managers and other employees.
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