By Mae Lee Sun
Inside Tucson Business
Published on Friday, August 22, 2008
By outward appearances Tony Vaccaro’s Brooklyn Pizza is a normal, successful, pizzeria. The storefront, at 534 N. Fourth Ave., is brightly painted lime-green, orange and black. A small group of hip-looking teenagers crowds around a few chrome café tables on the sidewalk, enthusiastically eating wide slices of thin crusty pizza. It’s a Friday night and Brooklyn Pizza is packed.
Inside, behind the counter, two white-aproned guys and a woman with flour-dusted faces are tossing dough, smearing sauce and dealing pepperoni as fast as they can to keep up with incoming orders. Some of those pizzas are about to be delivered by 21-year-old Fred Bohnen in Brooklyn Pizza’s newly purchased Smart car. Acquiring the car was a weighty financial decision for Vaccaro. As were other environmentally conscious changes.
Vacaro says he did it because the timing was right and it’s the right thing to do.
“Why the car? Because I am a very efficient person — I do everything that way — and that car is about as efficient as you can get and it really makes a statement,” Vaccaro said. “The car cost $17,000 and I could have easily spent that on a TV ad where people might see it once and then forget about it. The car is advertising in itself. Businesses can be good role models and people would feel good about supporting a store that supports the environment.”
Vaccaro says he’s been looking to make environmentally conscious changes within his business for years.
Ever since he was a kid, he says he’s dreamed about solar panels, and at the age of 16 attended an energy conference at Delphi University on Long Island where he became even more infatuated after hearing a talk on photovoltaics. The obsession never receded. Because Brooklyn Pizza has enjoyed steady growth over the 12 years Vaccaro has owned it, he says he has been able to save money to invest. In addition to the Smart car, Vaccaro more recently bought a $102,000 – before rebates and incentives – photovoltaic system for solar that will reduce by roughly half Brooklyn Pizza’s reliance on the Tucson Electric Power grid. He says the system should be up and running by the end of this month. Although it would take selling a lot of pizzas to even begin to recoup a return on investment, Vaccaro says it makes sense in so many other ways to make these kinds of investments.
“My passion and enthusiasm come from having a conscience and having a lot of exposure to nature,” Vaccaro said. “I’m also a capitalist. If my business plateaus, I’ll refuse to accept it and I’ll continue to grow it. Some entrepreneurs might laugh at what I’m doing but with a $35,000 rebate from TEP and a state credit of about $10,000 it was a good investment. It’s going to be considered ignorant to not look at green investments. It needs to make economic sense and it does right now.”
The rebates Vaccaro received from installing the photovoltaic system vary depending on the type of system installed. But this is just the beginning for Vaccaro, who hopes to have Brooklyn Pizza be 100 percent solar at some point. He monitors state and federal tax laws as well as city zoning ordinances (Brooklyn Pizza is in the city’s empowerment zone and already receives tax breaks for that). While up to his ear in making pizzas, Vaccaro also has his entrepreneurial eye on the possibility of starting a wind farm and attracting donors through a website where they can donate $100 each to make it a reality.
Brooklyn Pizza Company
534 N 4th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85705