Gleam Car Wash

4895 W 38th Ave
Denver, CO 80212
(720) 204-8658
Founder: Emilie Baratta

“Flex service, environmentally sustainable, car wash employing 40 people, doing exterior and interior cleaning. Gleam is a woman-owned social enterprise which goes out of its way to hire people with cognitive impairments; on balance, since opening in 2016, approximately 20% of Gleam’s staff are on the autism spectrum.  Gleam also believes in giving back to the community and has donated tens of thousands of dollars to local nonprofits and has helped schools and local nonprofits raise thousands more.  Plus, its shop sells almost 100% locally-produced food and beverages as well as products developed by local artists.  In its second year of operation, Gleam won the Denver Metro Chamber Green business of the year 2018. “

From the Website:

While we take care of cleaning your car’s interior, take a moment to walk around our Gleam Shop. We have coffee, kombucha, snacks, and local goods from many Denver businesses.

With years of experience in the car wash business, we understand how to clean your car of dirt and rust yet still protect the surface of your car from scratches. Drop your car off at Gleam and let us take care of washing your vehicle.

Gleam Car Wash provides tender loving care to your car with our safe and efficient automatic car wash, which also conserves water and gives back to your community.

[We use less than 15 gallons of fresh water per car wash. Compare this to an average of 80-140 gallons of drinkable water per wash when you wash your car at home. (No hot water used to wash its cars; Recycled water (more than 90%); 100 percent LED lighting 41 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof; Gleam Car Wash is a mini water treatment plant, reclaiming almost 100% of all the water we use and treating ALL of it]

The Visit:

Unlike most visits as part of this project where I had arranged visits in advance with founders/owners, I simply “stopped by” Gleam while in the area; I had learned of Gleam while in Denver from owners of other disability friendly businesses in the Denver area. I was only able to speak with co-founder, Emilie Baratta, after my walk through.

What is striking is that there is no easily visible signage indicating that people with disabilities work at Gleam—I only saw this mentioned in the video [] where Emilie mentions this as a source of pride and as an asset—she also mentions in passing that they strive to hire refugees. The naturalness of hiring this population is noteworthy.

I did observe several workers working on car interiors (vacuuming and cleaning) who did appear to me to be on the autism spectrum. They appeared to be very hard working, on task and attentive to detail.

Lessons Learned/Challenges/Advice:

  • We decided to be the greenest car wash we could and to hire people with disabilities because, even though both programs took a lot of up-front work and had some associated costs, both are better for our bottom line and therefore, will never be subject to “cost cutting” by either ourselves, our investors, or any future owner. By doing the right thing we are boosting the bottom line. For example, when we find people with disabilities who are the right fit for our business, they offer so many benefits, top of which are that they are good workers, loyal, and decrease our overall employee turnover rates.
  • Transportation of workers to the job site is always tricky, though we are lucky to be on a bus line.
  • The way to make the biggest difference in addressing the issue of employment for people with disabilities is for for-profits to figure out how to benefit their business by hiring people with disabilities. That’s the only sustainable way to grow job opportunities. It is also critical that some nonprofits lead the way and many of the businesses highlighted at are doing just that.

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