A Working Vacation
by , 08-16-2008 at 09:53 AM (48629 Views)
July 16: I won’t pay for first-class airfare, although I wish I had
on this trip. I never recline my seat during the flight, and I always
pray the person in front will stay upright as well. My flight to
Chicago became insufferable when a heavyset Russian
woman spent the entire flight practically in my lap, using all
of her might to recline her seat to its full capacity. I was wearing
my CAM boot because of my broken foot and couldn’t manipulate my
left leg. It became a 3.5-hour-long battle.
Due to my extensive travel schedule this year, we decided this
would be the family vacation. Chicago is my kind of town. Dawnette
and I took the kids to one of our favorite local eateries, Gino’s
East of Chicago.
After having the best pizza on the planet, we drove out to Key Lime
Cove, a water park and resort. The kids went to bed early
because Dawnette had some sort of mysterious surprise
July 17: We drove 10 minutes over to North Point Marina in Winthrop
Harbor to meet Greg Weber of Shogren Performance Marine.
Based in Chicago, Shogren is Fountain Powerboats' biggest
dealership. I was thinking that Dawnette had lined us up for a
boat ride. Boy, was I wrong! Her surprise was that she had purchased
a 2001 38’ Donzi from Shogren for $125K. I was flabbergasted.
I guess I had complained once too often to her about having to
beg for a ride at each poker run we attend. We launched the boat
and Greg began filling the boat with fuel. I decided to be
expedient and politely refused the gift. We can’t possibly pull
a boat from event to event and still accomplish what
we are doing. I apologized to general manager, Greg
Weber, and left with the kids so they could play at Key Lime
Cove while I caught up on my blog. I immediately became
concerned that Scott would be mad, as many people had gone to
great lengths to get this boat poker-run ready and stickered
with our logo. Fortunately, he assured me that he understood
and that everything was good. I told him I would see him the
following day to interview him.
July 18: Earl and I arrived at Shogren Performance Marine
at 10 a.m. We drove around the area a couple times looking
for a traditional boatyard. We entered the professional building,
only to find out that the dealership was inside.
As soon as we walked through the doors, we were welcomed with
a nice sign. The only other client to do that for us was Mercury
Racing in Fond Du Lac back in January. It is a nice touch.
Inside the 35,000-square-foot facility, you can find virtually any
type of Fountain amongst the 17 different models on display.
Shogren believes in the product so much that he is exclusively a
Fountain dealer (although he does take in trades and purchases
used boats of various lines). I asked Scott why everything was
inside. “Chicago can get some rough weather," he explained.
"Inside a meticulously kept facility, boats can be purchased year
round and presented properly.” Smart businessman.
Additionally, they are an authorized MerCruiser service
center, but only service their own customers.
Shogren has risen to the top very fast. He got to know Reggie
after starting to race offshore in Fountains. He's one of those
unique individuals who is simultaneously perceptive, genuine
and aggressive. Having excelled in the audio
he jumped wholeheartedly into the boat business in 2003 and
procured the Fountain Chicago dealership. He has driven his Fountain
sales to more than $30M in those five years.
He is a devoted NASCAR enthusiast, to say the least, having
raced at private courses like the Chicago Autobahn with the
likes of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. He has some very rare
Earnhardt collectibles, including the last signed limited-edition
Warner Brothers/NASCAR licensed poster of The Intimidators,
signed by Dale Earnhardt on the day he was fatally injured
in Daytona. Of the 2,500 total pieces issued in the fall of 2000,
fewer than a hundred were signed by the late Earnhardt.
After leaving Shogren, we drove over to Grayslake, IL, and
met with Mike Livorsi at Comp X Marine.
Mike got his start more than 20 years ago making liquid-filled
speedos. He worked tirelessly developing a wide range of products
for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Livorsi Marine
is the industry leader in manufacturing a full line of gauges, throttle
shifters and billet accessories.
CompX International, a publicly traded company, purchased
Livorsi Marine in 2006, and built a brand-new facility on the original
site. CompX is best known for its security products related to
high-end locks. Additionally, CompX Marine owns CMI of Neenah,
WI, known for its custom marine exhaust products.
Mike introduced us to Zolly, who operates their new Haas Laser
CNC machine. This amazing piece of equipment can create
anything out of billet aluminum.
In the new 120,000-square-foot facility, Livorsi occupies 21,000
of that footage. Inside the facility, there are 12 full-time mechanical
and electrical engineers who create the latest and greatest.
Additionally, they maintain their own QC area, as well as tool
and die department. The new powdercoating machines put an extra
fine touch on all of their bezels and throttles.
It was late afternoon by the time we finished. We were
ready to head to East Chicago for the Chicago Powerboat
Club run. Mike warned us that traffic would be four hours of
frustration on a Friday afternoon. He spontaneously invited
us over to his home for brick-oven pizza baked in his one-of-a-kind
custom-built brick oven. He called his wife, Victoria, to notify
her that our gang would be storming the Livorsi residence shortly.
Mike's awesome house sits on Fox Lake, which is one of the larger
Chain o' Lakes. He immediately got to work stoking the wood to
exactly 1,050 degrees, while the kids played pool, Vegas-style slot
machines and with his 200-pound St. Bernard, Max. He has
the ultimate party house.
We had a couple shots of chilled tequila, which was enhanced
by Mike’s expertise in creating pizza. We spent several hours
there before reluctantly heading off to northern Indiana.
Before leaving, Mike showed us his customized black 2007
GT Ford Mustang with the Regency package.
Because we had the kids, we couldn’t stay at the aging Ameristar
casino in East Chicago. We stayed on the outskirts of Gary, IN,
which was scary to say the least, as we rolled down Broadway St.
at midnight to our hotel in Merrillville.