Article by Natalie Ragus of Santa Maria Times  

     A Santa Maria upholstery business is jumping on the “green” bandwagon. The owners of Jack’s Upholstery, Jack and Aurora Plaza, are scheduled Thursday (July 31, 2008) to unveil their new line of reusable grocery bags – dubbed the Jaksak.

     The couple says they plan to run their 30 year old custom upholstery business in tandem with the operation of Jaksak, thus, as an added boon to the environment; they’ll recycle material left over from various upholstery projects and use it for bags. When her husband first presented the idea of making and selling reusable grocery bags, Aurora Plaza said she was so excited she found it difficult to contain herself. “My heart you know?” She said with a laugh clutching her hand to her chest. “I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. The next morning, I started making bags.” Two months and more than 200 bags later, the Plazas say the first Jaksak collection is ready for its public debut.

     After returning empty-handed from his frequent fishing trips for the fourth time in a row, Jack Plaza decided to explore the effects of pollution on waterways and wildlife, and said he was startled to learn of the correlation between plastic grocery bags and environmental destruction.

     According to Californians Against waste, nearly 600 bags per second are discarded in California – destined either for the landfill, the landscape or the ocean. At least 267 species have been scientifically documented to be adversely affected by plastic debris, which is estimated to kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and turtles. Each year, the non-profit environment research and advocacy organization said, adding that plastic bags are considered especially dangerous to sea turtles, who mistake them for jellyfish, their main food source.

     “I thought, I’ve got to do something,” Jack Plaza said. “I was born here (in Santa Maria). I’ve seen the disappearance of clams. I’ve seen the disappearance of a lot of things in our environment … we’ve been taking a lot of things for granted.” And his epiphany couldn't have come at a better time. The plastic grocery bag may soon become a relic of the past.

     Just last week(4th week of July, 2008), the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that bans the use of plastic bags at retail outlets and grocery stores throughout the city after July 1, 2010. San Francisco has a similar ordinance already in place, and environmental groups are lobbying state legislators to ban plastic bags throughout California. Several countries around the world also banned plastic grocery bags. On Tuesday, Aurora Plaza proudly showed the completed Jaksaks, which lined shelves and racks in the upholstery warehouse’s small, cramped office.

     The bags range in shape and style from tall, rectangular and striped to something like a trendy, oversized burlap purse. One bag was made out of the same material as the upholstery of some Volkswagen models. Heritage Oaks Bank has dubbed Jack’s Upholstery Santa Maria’s “Business of the month” for August and so will feature Jaksaks beginning Thursday.

     The Plazas’ launch plans for Jaksaks also include marketing the bags to small, locally based grocery stores and joining forces with surrounding high schools to sell the bags as fundraiser's. For the time being, however, Aurora Plaza will design and sew the bags by hand herself, but, depending on how much the business grows the couple could hire anywhere from five to 10 employees to assist her.

     “The kids are real hard working. You can see they’re real hard working. You can see they’re real ambitious”, said Jacks Plaza’s aunt, Flora Reyes, recalling that the couple started their upholstery business in their home by upholstering the furniture of her nephew’s Air Force colleagues for free. Now, Jack's Upholstery is a booming business housed in a spacious, two-unit warehouse building with five employees. Jack Plaza said he feels confident that Jacksaks will catch on with the public in the same manner as Jack’s Upholstery. So does his wife, soon she predicted “people will be saying, "don’t forget your Jaksak when you get your groceries."


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