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A Breezy filter at BooKoo. Courtesy image.

For Mill Valley business owners, the COVID-19 crisis has created the most maddening, complexity-laden game of whack-a-mole they could ever imagine. 

It seems each day since the shelter-in-place was instituted in mid-March has demanded a skill set that spans from innovating your business model on a near-daily basis to digesting scientific concepts like manipulating air flow to avoid aerosol-based disease transmission.

One of the ways business owners and managers have persevered through the past nearly nine months is by staying connected to the Mill Valley Chamber, and to one another, about the ups, the downs and, most importantly, the best practices.
As owner of Boo Koo, Matt Holmes gets dozens of cold calls for new products and services per week. Most draw little more than a quick thanks but no thanks. But when Duncan McRae reached out about his Breezy air filters for commercial use, Holmes’ eyes lit up. 

With winter’s arrival and the need to make sure his space was safe for some degree of indoor dining (which has since been halted due to a spike in COVID metrics in Marin), Holmes had been investigating air flow solutions, leaning on his brothers, both doctors, for how their irrespective hospitals were keeping their spaces safe and clean.

“So much of what I’d been hearing was so cost ineffective and frustrating that I was willing to listen,” Holmes says. 

PictureA Breezy filter at Tamalpie. Courtesy image.

​McRae, who grew up in Marin, pitched Breezy, a high-capacity air purifier that uses MERV-13 filters to remove smoke and virus particles from the air and does so at an airflow rate of 900 cubic feet per minute, five times the typical airflow, according to the company. At $179 and the need to change the $20 filter every 4-6 months, the costs are a fraction of HVAC system models. McRae says that he and his partner Patrick McDonnell, a mechanical engineer, had been exploring the filtration space when, “as engineers, we just looked at it as, ‘how can we make a better product?’”

“More than anything, it gives peace of mind to parents and family members that we are doing everything we can to keep our employees and our customers safe,” Holmes says. “We now have yet another tool to combat all of this. I want to do everything possible to keep the community safe.”

Word spread quickly among Mill Valley business owners. 

Manufacturers have flooded the market with residential and commercial air filters during the COVID-19 crisis, but when you distill the array of options down to those that would meet the needs of a restaurant space by cleaning and circulating the air at least six times per hour – and avoid the costs associated with large HVAC units – Breezy stands out, according to local businesses that have jumped on board in recent weeks.

“It’s a simple but effective product,” says Ronda Priestner, owner of FitWise Pilates & Gyrotonic. “Duncan couldn’t have been more professional and absolutely accommodating with the installation and the service and the promise to return to change the filter at the right time – just the kind of company you want to give your business to.”

A Breezy is essentially a “massive fan and filter, simply constructed and rigged up to fit inside a steel box that’s positioned about eight feet up on a wall,” McRae says, adding that it’s designed to diffuse air upwards and avoid cross draft. 

“The bottom line is that we wanted to make it as safe as possible for our guests,” says Miguel Gutierrez, general manager at Tamalpie. “The product matched our needs – we got two for our 2,000 square-foot-space and keep them where there is the most foot traffic.”

“In the restaurant business, you stay focused on the basics,” Gutierrez says. “When it comes to air quality and all that stuff, it wasn’t something you had to spend a lot of time focusing on – until now. But we’re glad to do everything we can to create a safe, comfortable environment for our guests.”

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