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Eco-friendly downtown supply store closes

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The city’s pioneering store in eco-friendly building products, Green Way Supply, has closed its doors.

Selling everything from rain barrels to urban wind turbines, Green Way opened in 2007 as the green-building and remodeling trend began to catch on locally.

But the faltering economy and departure of business partner Terry Black, who moved back to his native Chicago to launch Live Green Now, left the other partners—the father-and-son team of Fred Gray and Randy Gray—to re-evaluate the direction of Green Way.

“I backed away from the business and my son is going to start a new business,” said Fred Gray.

Randy Gray’s business will open in a new, to-be announced location, and sell a mixture of eco-friendly and more traditional products such as skylights, the elder Gray said.

Green Way, with a 1,200-square-foot showroom at 620 N. Delaware in downtown Indianapolis, had six employees. In 2008, its partners told IBJ they were projecting sales of $3 million annually within three years.

“I was sad to hear it closed. I really was,” said former Green Way partner Black, who had been a fixture on morning television news programs with advice on eco-friendly building materials. “We had some pretty good growth for the first two and a half years.”

The recession hurt sales at Green Way, Black said, but he noted that he thinks the long-term future for green businesses remains strong. “I said [at Green Way] we’re on the right path here. We had a formula I thought was working.”

Fred Gray said his former business partner wanted to continue to invest in expanding the business, something he was not as inclined to do at the time.

Green Way was believed to be the only such store of its kind in the Indianapolis area, with the nearest being in Chicago.

The store was a good place to showcase Indiana-made, eco-friendly products, said Laura Arnold, former president of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association, a group of more than 60 renewable energy product manufacturers and related firms in the state. In fact, the association held its kickoff at the store.

Among Green Way’s customers was the Indianapolis Museum of Art, to which it sold products such as recycled tire flooring for the 544-seat  Randall L . and Marianne W. Tobias Theater, better known as “The Toby.”

While the number of eco-friendly products has blossomed in recent years—many available via the Internet—Green Way gave shoppers a place to check out such relatively exotic products such as countertops made of concrete and recycled glass.

Big home-improvement stores have widened eco-product offerings in recent years, although they often don’t have the knowledgeable store personnel, Black said.

His new business in Northbrook, Ill., also has an e-commerce site with more than 300 products.

Black said he continues to partner with firms in the Indianapolis area to supply products, and recently finished installing a 40,000-watt solar array atop a parking canopy of an Evansville apartment complex.

The Chicago market offers more sales opportunities and Illinois offers broader incentives for green products, Black said. “There’s still a market down [in Indianapolis]” though, he added.

Among the ever-expanding array of products Black sells these days is a device that sprays water vapor onto outdoor air conditioning compressors, to make their heat-transfer more efficient.
 

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  • Green Heating
    There is an Indiana company called Solar America Solutions, which sells a solar heat system that reduces heating costs on homes, offices, etc by 50% or more. The typical ROI on their system is less than 5 years, with a typical cost about the same as a new conventional HVAC system. Green is good, especially when it saves you "green"!
  • green can be good
    Most of the people in the 'Green' business sector, or renewable energy fields are regular workers from the building, electrical, and home improvement trades. We work hard, many more hours than a 9-5 job, and we don't make much money on the sales. Take a wind turbine for instance, on a $20,000 installation we can make about $3,000 or 15% and it takes tremendous capital to keep a green company running. I don't know who is making enough money off of green stuff to ride on jets and limos, but it isn't the people installing or selling the products.
  • Green Building
    I work for a manufacturer of commercial plumbing products and we run into the "green" or LEED building projects all the time. I was talking with a mechanical engineer the other day and he was working on a "green" project that was wanting Silver LEED certification. The ROI on that stuff takes years and years to get back. The shortest time frame for the ROI on any product they were specifying was 40 years. Guess what? The product will wear out and have to be replaced before it ever gets to 40 years. It is a scam and doesn't save as much as everyone would like you to think.
    • Visability
      I live near the closing store; which is too bad! But what a lousy location...when walking by, always wondered how it stayed there as long as it did. Few knew what it was even if noticing the building.
    • Green Building Material
      This "Green" is a crock and no one in their right mind believes that it is anything more than a money siphon with little benefit for the environment. The same greedy idiots who push this "GREEN AGENDA" also ride around in their limos and fly their private jets. Its like you go green so I dont have to...

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