Road Dogs, biting dogs and dogged determination
I recently had to re-Kindle my love of reading, after losing my original Kindle on the plane ride back from the ABA Forum in San Diego. You’d think fellow passengers would turn in electronic devices left behind on planes. I know I would - if I was ever lucky enough to find someone’s Kindle with a lot of great books loaded on it like: “This Is Why You’re Fat,” and “Eating Animals.” There was also a tome narrated by a dog that lives with a down-on-his-luck detective named Bernie. Most likely, “Dog on It” made the finder a keeper.
That’s the problem with being a road warrior, you need to travel with every electronic device that makes your life easier - but weighs heavily on your shoulder. I travel with my iPhone, MacBook, Kindle, Garmin watch in case I exercise and an iPod in the event I’m charging my iPhone. I also carry a magazine or hard-copy of a book so that I have something to do when the plane’s taking off and landing and I’m not allowed to use my electronic devices. God forbid, I’m ever left alone with my own thoughts for even a few minutes.
In November, I was on a back-to-back-to-back trip: One to the West Coast Franchise Expo, the second to our Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas and the third to Denver, where I attended the National Women’s Studies Association’s conference. I was there to foster a relationship between franchising and feminism - plus my daughter Sarah was presenting a paper on Feminist Fitness at the conference. While I think it’s funny to talk about my children’s short comings in my column, I didn’t appreciate learning that I’m her example of someone who cannot learn to do rib cage slides or cross-body jabs no matter how much instruction I receive. She probably doesn’t think I’m much of a feminist either, since I had to ask her why one of the rest rooms was labeled “Gender Neutral.”
I always learn a lot on the road - about myself, about other people and about franchising. Usually in that order. For instance, in Los Angeles, I learned that I have low expectations when it comes to hotel accommodations. I actually thought my sparse room at The Standard, with the bed almost on the floor and the 360-degree view shower in the middle of the room, was kinda cool, while my coworker, Kevin Pietsch, vowed never to stay there again - although he might be persuaded to visit The Standard’s rooftop bar on his next trip West.
The road also provides a “what-goes-around, comes-around” experience. At the ABA forum, I loaned Assistant Editor Steve Pease my hair gel when his got confiscated by airport security. And in Los Angeles, Kevin offered to share his hair paste with me when I forgot to pack mine. I love working with metro-sexual road dogs.
In early December, I didn’t even bother to bring hair gel when I flew to Boston for 24 hours to interview the Zografoses for the cover story.
I will never be perfect hosts like George and Cathy. When people spend the night at my house, the only special accommodations I make is to board the dog so he doesn’t bite anyone - especially not his siblings. Hank the dog likes to leave a lasting impression on anyone who falls victim to his seemingly innocent good looks.
Attorney Lane Fisher has told me for years I should do a story on George Zografos and his fabulous house, but I never had the chance. (And if it seems like Lane’s name pops up in my column a lot, I’m sorry, but seriously, he’s the only person who talks to me.) When I was introduced to George at an IFA event and he told me he and his wife were selling the house, I knew it was now or never.
A lot of people might flaunt their good fortune, but Cathy and George were almost apologetic they had such a big house. My husband always accuses me of liking pretentious people, and I do. But I also like the Zografoses who are as salt-of-the-earth as the ocean behind their home. I’m not sure I’d be modest if I lived at their address. After all, I could entertain the world, because Hank could live in the detached garage with the radiant heat floors and not have to give up any square-footage.
Service MarcSM saves the day
Stopping an alleged thief during the West Coast Franchise Expo isn’t the only heroic act Marc Kiekenapp has performed in his life (see the story on page 58). Years ago, Marc was a firefighter. I don’t quite remember why Marc wanted to become a Decorating Den franchisee - maybe fighting fires had provided an opportunity to see a lot of really bad decorating, or perhaps his schedule of 10 days on, 20 days off provided some spare time to fill.
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But when he applied for a loan, the SBA told him he needed equity. (For those of you who just got into franchising, “equity” is what homes used to have.) His $30,000 house didn’t provide enough equity for the bank, so Marc sold the house and used the money to buy a lot. He then proceeded to build an A-frame house for $68,000 which later appraised for $195,000 - enough to provide the equity needed for his franchise.
The curious thing is that Marc was not a home builder. He relied on the Time Life Books series on carpentry. Unfortunately, the publisher didn’t send the books in order, Marc said, which meant building a house from the ground up sometimes took a detour while he waited for the book on plumbing or installing windows to arrive in his mailbox.
“I just don’t fail,” Marc said, as if that explained why he built a house to become a Decorating Den franchisee. His franchise competed against his uncle’s business in a town of 45,000. “That made Thanksgiving really cool,” he said, grinning.
His Wyoming franchise was No. 3 in the country. And yes, he took some ribbing from his fellow firefighters, but most of them later admitted to liking the fact that the comforters on their bunk beds matched the curtains.
As we enter a new year, remember the sage advice of that great writer, Shakespeare: “Stories are gifts - share.” Oh wait, that wasn’t Shakespeare, that was Starbucks. But, really, does it matter who said it? Please just keep sending gifts my way.