Editor’s Note: This is the first in a new Pioneer series, Heroes Among Us. Do you know someone who should be featured? Let us know at email@example.com. Include their name and contact info.
After a 20-year career in the Air Force and degrees in business, professional aeronautics and aviation safety and management, Carl Paul was ready to make his dream of owning his own business a reality.
Rather than stay in aeronautics/aviation, he had an opportunity to open a franchise for Chemical Guys to sell auto detailing supplies. His wife Graciela, who also served in the Air Force for 14 years, had family in the Bay Area and the couple chose Concord for their business because of how helpful all the various government entities were in getting new businesses started.
In opening the auto detailing business, the former airplane mechanics also saw an opportunity to help others. They said that the military gave them many opportunities to give back to the community, and it was something that was just part of who they are.
For Carl, this choice was also about teaching young people how to care for their cars and how to start their own mobile detailing businesses.
Launching Cans and Cars
Only a year after they opened Detail Garage on Monument Boulevard, the pandemic hit and the Pauls had to close their business for several weeks. When they reopened, they began donating hand sanitizer and cleaning products to police and other first responders.
They then saw the need for food donations as they passed Monument Crisis Center each day on their way to work and noticed the growing line of people waiting to get food.
The Pauls combined their values of giving back to the community with their military training in leadership and started Cans and Cars. The combination food drive and informal car show sometimes attracts hundreds of cars.
Carl believes bringing donations of food empowers others, and that together we can all make a big impact.
“I want to show people that you can make a change at the local level,” he said. “Some young people don’t realize their power. You don’t have to be rich to make a difference in your community.”
Connecting the community
Alexa Gambero, pantry services coordinator at the Monument Crisis Center, said she’s been impressed with the initiative.
“Detail Garage really goes out of their way to make sure families in our community get fed,” she said.
In addition to the truckloads of food being delivered, the car show serves as a way to connect car enthusiasts and provide a safe outdoor gathering opportunity.
The Pauls have also sponsored a Trunk or Treat event at Halloween, a backpack drive and a $2,000 scholarship for youth wanting to go to college or get into the car detailing business.
Their annual toy drive is another fun event that includes not only their two boys but their customers. Anyone bringing in a toy gets a raffle ticket for a car polishing kit.
“We found that this was a good way to get our kids, family and customers involved,” said Graciela. “They want to help their community but just didn’t know how.”
Carl Paul is making plans to acquire additional space next to the store where he can create a classroom and offer more training on car detailing. Owning their own business is just a way to do what they truly love: educating others and giving back to their community.
“We couldn’t have done this without our customers and the car community,” Graciela noted. “We’ve gotten a lot of love from the Bay Area as a whole.”
Cans and Cars is held 8-10 a.m. the last Sunday of the month in front of Detail Garage, 1853 Monument Blvd., Concord.
Kara Navolio is a freelance writer, telling stories of real life heroes and interesting people for several local newspapers since 2015, including The Pioneer and Lamorinda Weekly. She is also the editor of a local magazine, Northgate Living, and her debut children’s picture book Everybody Can Dance! was released by Brandylane Publishers, Inc. in May 2019. She has lived in Walnut Creek with her husband for 30 years and is the mom of two now grown children.