DUNEDIN — This grand opening has been 10 years in the making.
Back in 2000, local business owners Spiro and Labrine Voutsinas took their family to meet the "green patriarch," His All Holiness Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christianity. He talked about the importance of saving the environment. So the husband and wife began thinking of ways they could help.
"We have to be more green, more involved," Labrine Voutsinas said, calling the green movement a "moral issue."
And what they came up with, possibly the state's first "green" gas station, opened for a ceremony on Wednesday to a crowd of nearly 50, including Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers and state Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin. The store won't officially open for business for about another two weeks as contractors add their finishing touches.
The Bayshore Breeze Mobil gas station is being billed as Florida's first gas station, with a "green business certification" based on the Green Business League's standards. The international group created benchmarks similar to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED certification.
Anderson welcomed the change to the "gateway to Honeymoon Island," which sees more than a million visitors annually. Inside, etched into the polished concrete floor, is a map of the nearby barrier islands.
"It's great that this will be the first gas station that is going all green," Anderson said. Eggers said he thought the station was a great small business success story during tough economic times.
What makes the gas station green is in the details. It uses all gas appliances, including a tankless water heater. A special spray foam insulation was used in the ceiling and between the walls. Efficient LEDs and solar tubes are used for lighting. Tile made from recycled rubber tires covers the concrete floor in the walk-in beer cooler.
The owners plan to keep the new station "green" by using nontoxic cleaning products, and they plan to use water from their new multi-zone air conditioner to water plants and keep the station clean.
Rather than just use regional distributors for food, they also will use local sources. They plan to stock bottled water in biodegradeable packages from a company in Pinellas County. Organic juices will be among the many "healthy alternatives" available. "We are hoping local green markets will keep us supplied," Labrine Voutsinas said. While the station is built with a green focus, it will not offer biofuels like E85.
A small group of residents came to check out the event. Allie Harrington came down for the winter last week from Syracuse, N.Y., like she has the last 11 years. She liked the change for the block. "We need things happening," Harrington said.
Jules Vickers also thought the idea of the green gas station is a step in the right direction. "From the Keys to the Panhandle, we're the first," Vickers said. "Wow. That's just great."
The floral clock at the corner of the intersection is gone, replaced by one on the front of the new "green" building.
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.