Local sign-maker thrives while making eco know-how a priority for everyone she works with.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Merry Trucksis strikes a smokin’ silhouette in a tight dress next to a hot rod – but don’t let that distract you from her other assets. For more than two decades, she has been producing signs and banners for some of the area’s biggest special events. Now she’s greening her business with the determination of a racecar driver.
The president of Trucksis Enterprises, Inc. is constantly tweaking her four-to-eight-person operation to shrink its planetary impact. And while she exudes the world-saving energy of a Berkeley post-grad, she’s more pragmatic businesswoman than woo-woo hippie. Her secret weapon: a charm that appeals to both Joe Six-Pack and Jane Tattoo.
Trucksis Enterprises is the only certified green sign and banner shop on the Monterey Peninsula, and Trucksis is proud of that. A Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program certificate hangs in the entrance to her warehouse, just off Highway 68 in Monterey. Inside the cavernous workspace, a young woman with a pierced lip and cherry-red hair leans into a computer screen, while a scruffy dude in an oversized hoodie lays tape on a vinyl surface. Bob, the resident dog, tucks his gray muzzle between his paws and naps on the floor.
Trucksis hasn’t always been a sign-maker: In the early ’80s, she managed a Chicago nightclub. After her dad’s death in 1983 she took over his textile business, expanding it to flags and banners. She relocated to Lake Tahoe, where she snagged the contract to produce flags for the downhill ski events in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Soon after, in search of a new home, she took an appraising drive down California’s Highway 1.
Santa Cruz “just felt too lax and out there,” she says, waving her arms in a pantomime hippie dance. Then she saw the Monterey Peninsula. “This place is stunning,” she remembers thinking. “It just felt right.”
In the 22 years since moving here, Trucksis has set down deep roots, producing signage for some of the area’s biggest institutions: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Salinas Rodeo, Monterey Jazz Festival, Laguna Seca Raceway and Monterey Bay Aquarium.
At 51, the eternally peppy Trucksis also moonlights as a Miss Mazda Raceway: one of the long-legged hotties in clingy minis and heels who promote the races at Laguna Seca. In photos of the sexy bunch, it’s Trucksis’ burgundy bob – not her age – that makes her stand out in the nubile, mostly blond lineup.
“I’m actually 19 with 32 years of experience!” she jokes.
The entrepreneur has just as little regard for the status quo of Earth-plundering commerce. About three years ago, she gave her entire product line a green makeover. Most of her banners and signboards are made from BIOflex brand PVC, which biodegrades. Her inks are non-toxic, and her rental flag and dancer poles make re-use a thrifty option.
“Everything here is recycled,” she says, surveying the 4,000-square-foot warehouse. The furniture is secondhand, and she claims to have not purchased any packing materials since 1987, instead re-using her supply boxes. Her business cards are made out of corn, and surplus banners insulate the warehouse walls. She recycles ink cartridges, is replacing her fluorescent bulbs with energy-efficient models, and heckles her creditors to bill her electronically. She even makes her employees re-use tape until it’s lost its adhesive.
Barbara Ingenhutt, Trucksis’ account manager (and fellow “Mazda girl”), says her boss’s green obsession has been good for the books. “It’s actually more cost-effective,” she says. “Overall, our costs have gone down.”
But for Trucksis, the savings are secondary to the principle.
She quizzes her suppliers about the cradle-to-grave impacts of their products, asking them to root out toxics, switch to earth-friendly glue and recycle. “We’ve had to strong-arm major corporations,” she says with a sunny smile.
“When it comes to the green stuff, there is no stone that goes unturned with Merry,” says saleswoman Liz Kelly of New Jersey-based Ultraflex, which produces biodegradable banner material. “She’s stern, because it’s something she’s passionate about.”
Trucksis uses a gentler but equally persistent tack with her clients.
“Merry suggests the green materials,” says Concours d’Elegance Operations Manager Kay Sorenson, laughing at the understatement. “She’s always friendly – I don’t think Merry’s ever pushy – but she definitely makes it a point to let her clients know it’s important.”