It was another hotter-than-normal evening on June 28 in central Phoenix. But there were no complaints, as a collection of customers, neighbors, vendors, classmates, government officials, and community leaders celebrated the opening of a new business—180 Degrees Automotive—a small triumph during a big recession, demonstrating that businesses and neighborhoods can recover together.
“This corner used to be an eyesore,” said David Rukstales, a neighbor and new customer, who lives a few blocks away from the clean, brightly painted auto repair facility near 7th Avenue and Camelback. Another Phoenix resident, Seth Derrick, has taken his car to 180 Degrees Automotive’s owner for six years, since she worked out of her garage. “Bogi [Sarah Lateiner] is the only person I would let touch my car,” the software engineer said, “She’s knowledgeable, fair, trustworthy and skilled. “
Throughout the evening, Sarah “Bogi” Lateiner thanked people who helped her get to this point. But there was plenty of mutual admiration. While Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot helped her navigate the bureaucratic maze that slows development, his aide Nicky Borselli presented her with a certificate for helping revitalize the neighborhood. The 180 Degrees Design team presented Lateiner with a “before” poster of the mess before the firm helped design the new office and garage.
The evening demonstrated the value of cross-promotion. Lateiner promoted Pizza People, which provided pizzas to the audience. Many local businesses, like Fez Restaurant, provided door prizes for the raffle. Lateiner’s facility will be decorating with pictures from local artists that her customers can purchase.
Representatives from many community groups—e.g., Local First Arizona (LFA), Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce (GPCC), and the 7th Avenue Merchants Association–came to demonstrate support for small business. “New small businesses are great for neighborhoods,” said Kimberly Lanning of LFA. while GPCC Ambassador Darryl Robinson said “ We came to welcome Bogi, her customers and clients into the Chamber.” All helped her cut the ribbon.
This ribbon cutting had another significance: 180 Automotive is a woman-owned and operated facility. “We are very proud of Bogi,” said Mike Blankenship, one of Universal Technical Institute (UTI) employees, who came to support the UTI alumnus. The female employees present, like Whitney Fikes, said they love the customer-focused atmosphere. From the beautiful, spacious garage to the comfortable waiting room to the friendly, attentive service, it appears the customers and new neighbors will enjoy the new atmosphere as well.