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Eco-friendly, waterless car wash opens

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A waterless car wash has opened in the proposed Gelson's site. Photo courtesy of Envi

A waterless car wash has opened in the proposed Gelson’s site. Photo courtesy of Envi

While a revised proposal to install a Gelson’s market in the former car collision lot on Sepulveda Boulevard and 8th Street is being finalized, a new business has moved in temporarily: Envi, a waterless car wash.

The business was started by a recent transplant from Australia, Chad Zani, a man who could go on at length about the dangers of washing cars with water.

“Car washing scratches cars,” said Zani. “Walk though any parking lot in America, and you can see who washes their car. We’ve been scratching cars as long as we’ve been making cars.”

Envi is promoting itself as being environmentally friendly and socially responsible — hence the name “Envi,” although it’s pronounced “envy.”

The business wants to make hiring deaf people a priority, although not all its employees are deaf. A sign reading, “Support your deaf community,” hangs out front.

The service says it uses eco-friendly chemicals and preserves water during the drought.

“Finally Californians are starting to realize how precious water is,” said Zani. “There’s a car wash on every street corner. It drives me crazy.”

The car enthusiast said he hasn’t washed a car with water for 12 years.

Besides the social implications, Zani believes that hiring deaf people makes good business sense.

“When you lose one of your senses, your other senses get stronger,” he said. “They have an amazing sense of sight, an amazing sense of touch. If you care about your car, you want someone with great sight and touch.”

The service also has an app through which customers can order a cleaning wherever they’re parked for at least two hours, although it’s currently limited to areas within Manhattan Beach. Zani described it as “Uber for detailing.”

Envi sells its product direct to the consumer, too. An unspecified amount of the proceeds go to a nonprofit co-founded by Matt Damon, water.org, whose mission is to provide access to clean water and sanitation in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition to the support of Paragon Commercial Group, the real estate company trying to bring in Gelson’s, which Zani said was charging him a “nominal fee” to use the space, Envi also has the support of Assemblymember David Hadley.

Hadley, who was introduced to the business at a job fair in Gardena, was impressed by the company’s emphasis on hiring deaf people.

“Two things really struck me,” said Hadley. “One is the notion of taking care of cars without the use of water in the current drought situation. Two is they are really working to hire the deaf. The notion that they provide a good service and create job opportunities for people who don’t have all the opportunities that you and I do — it’s a win-win situation.”

While $30 might seem steep for a car wash, Zani points out that every cleaning includes a waxing.

“Every time we clean someone’s car, the feedback is, ‘It never looked like that.’” ER

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