What Entrepreneurs Are Driving
Business owners share the stories behind their wheels.
1. Jenni Barnett
2. Charles Feder
3. Ron Kaplan
4. Gina Freize
Co-founder and creative director of Roger La Borde, an international design firm with offices in three countries, specializing in interior products, gifts and greeting cards
Wheels: 1994 S Turbo 900 Saab, with "a trillion miles" on the odometer
Why: Barnett is based in Los Angeles, where the eccentric old Saab stands out amid the shiny new successmobiles.
When did you get it: 1997, secondhand. "I'll have it until it kisses me goodbye."
Loves: "The 900 convertible is the last great character car, and it's still just about modern enough--motorized roof, heated seats (the first to do them), economical and spacious, with lots of power when you need it. Cruising L.A. with the top down and music blaring still gives me a buzz."
Statement: Funky but chic.
Read the Commercial Vehicles Guide 2010
Owner and president of Rossmoor Pastries, a Long Beach, Calif., bakery known for intricate wedding and party cakes, such as an L.A. Lakers cake for Jack Nicholson or a crime scene cake for the CSI television show
Wheels: A fleet that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). Specifically, 12 Dodge and Ford vans, plus a 1999 Honda Civic and Feder's personal 1998 Ford Crowne Victoria.
Green bonus points: He built his own fueling station in the bakery's parking lot. "My compressor makes seven gallons an hour, and I use 70 gallons a day," Feder says. "There's a meter: It's run for 16,000 hours since December 2006."
The car that started it all: A 1999 CNG Dodge Maxivan that had 14,500 miles on it when Feder bought it at auction in 2006. He knew nothing about compressed natural gas vehicles, but he was an "old hot rod guy" and thought he could figure it out. "I removed the seats of the passenger van, added an insulated floor covered with plywood, tinted windows and put logos up, a rack on the back and a cart that straps in place." The single van saved him so much in fuel expenses--CNG was selling for $1.49 a gallon compared with more than $3 a gallon for gasoline--he decided to go for a fleet.
Savings: Feder estimates he saves as much as $80,000 a year on fuel.
Besides money: Drivers don't have to stop at the gas station and can use carpool lanes. There's less engine maintenance, and the natural gas fleet is welcomed at events promoting green causes. "Customers love it."
Statement: Greener than you.
Founder and CEO of Surf Ohio, a clothing and lifestyle brand, (and surf music and tiki festival promoter) devoted to bringing surf culture to the Midwest
Wheels: 2005 Honda Element (aka "the surfmobile," even though he bought it at auction in Denver, where it had been wrecked after rolling over in a blizzard)
Loves: The cavernous interior. "The seats fold up or I can take them entirely out, and the back becomes a huge box--ideal for hauling boxes of T-shirts, surfboards, displays, etc. I'm 6-foot-1 and that roomy interior is very comfortable."
Recession extra: It comes with a tent. "You pull the seats out and the tent goes on the back end of it and you can sleep in the car itself."
Hates: Nothing. "It's the perfect car, not just because it's a little surfmobile here in the Midwest but because it's truly functional."
Statement: I'm in California. In my mind.
Founder and owner of Venissimo Cheese, a chain of four artisanal cheese shops in Southern California
Wheels: 2002 cheddar-orange Vespa ET4
Why: Shops are located in high-traffic areas, such as downtown San Diego, where parking is incredibly difficult. "With my Vespa, I can park right in front on the sidewalk. Plus I can't tell you how many people notice me driving around with my basket of baguettes."
Special features: "Plenty of space for speedy cheese deliveries, enough power for myself and my husband together and super-great publicity. It's even big enough to go on the freeway. We sold one of our cars after we got this."
How's business: The first shop opened in 2004 with less than $200,000 in revenue; now her four shops are bringing in more than $1.2 million.
Statement: Cooler than you.