Carwash carts stream into shopping center parking lot

An eco-friendly carwash company from Buenos Aires called GeoWash plans to offer its services Monday at its first U.S. location at the Harlem Irving Plaza shopping center on the city's Northwest Side.

This is no drive-through.

A fleet of mobile washing carts, which are designed to look like a cross between a moped and a jet ski, roam the parking deck, cleaning parked cars while shoppers run errands inside the mall.

The environmentally friendly carts run on battery power and use biodegradable cleaning products and about 1 gallon of water per car. Cost: $8 to $20 per wash.

Entrepreneurs Mario Munoz and Thomas Falkowski spotted the machines in South America and thought the concept would make sense in Chicago, especially during winter when road salt builds up quickly on vehicles and getting to the carwash every week can be a hassle. So the two men decided to open a U.S. franchise.

"I was traveling through South American and I saw a funny jet ski on wheels and started talking to the operator," Falkowski said. "I wanted to have it." He is talking to the city about bringing the service to Navy Pier, Millennium Park, McCormick Place and other public parking garages. He also hopes to open in suburban malls and golf courses by next year.

For Harlem Irving Plaza, which houses 140 stores including Target and Carson Pirie Scott, GeoWash pays rent as a tenant and gives the shopping center a leg up on competitors. The carwash has no storefront; shoppers flag down attendants operating the 10 machines roaming the parking lot.

"When they demonstrated the machine, I thought it was the coolest thing ever," said Edan Gelt, the mall's corporate marketing director. "It's something no other mall has. It makes us unique."

The mall plans to give away GeoWash carwashes from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15 to shoppers spending $100 or more in the shopping center.

GREEN ATTITUDES GROW: A poll from Maritz Research suggests that green marketing is effective with Generation Y shoppers.

In a national survey of 1,062 adults between ages 18 and 30, 47 percent said they would be willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products and services. Out of that group, 77 percent said their willingness to pay more was because they "care about the environment."

"The percentage lends credibility to environmental messaging, which is only likely to gain more momentum with consumers in the future," said Gloria Park Bartolone, vice president of Maritz's retail group.

MOVING IN: Chiaroscuro, the home accessories and gift store, plans to move from Chicago Place mall, where it has operated since 1992, to a 5,000-square-foot store on the second level at Water Tower Place. The store is scheduled to open Oct. 1. Chicago Place is preparing for a renovation that will turn the eight-story Mag Mile mall into a hotel with a few larger retailers, including Spanish cheap-chic chain Zara, with storefronts on North Michigan Avenue.

Clothes Mentor, a Minneapolis-based clothing resale chain, plans to open its first Chicago-area store in Naperville on Saturday. The franchise, similar to the sports resale chain Play It Again Sports, buys and sells "like-new" clothing, focusing on such popular brands as Talbots, Eddie Bauer, Gap, Coach and Liz Claiborne.