My dad, Toby, and I hired Charles Tuncle for kitchen-floor lino jobs. Tunkl means dark in Yiddish, which my dad never failed to point out. Tuncle — the man — was black. Also, he was a killer. He shot a man in a bar.
When Tuncle was sent to prison, my dad wrote the parole board about Tuncle’s quality vinyl-floor work, and Tuncle got out early. My father never told the tenants — or our building managers — about Tuncle’s record. My dad never said: “You see that guy over there with the utility knife? He’s a killer.”
My dad called our business Reliable Management Co.
We should have hauled garbage with a name like that.
When I started an offshoot company, Acorn Management Co., my dad said, “What the hell does ‘Acorn’ have to do with anything?”
“Dad, I live on Oak Road. That’s why.” It was 1976. Environmentalism was the next big thing.
“Nobody is going to understand ‘Acorn,’” he said.
I sometimes call my company “Reliable + Acorn Management companies” now. That makes me feel like a Danish architecture firm.
I hired Standard Roofing for a roof tear-off. Standard Roofing went under. Too standard?
My electrician is Jack Kuhl, pronounced “Jack Cool.”
I knew Emin Lyutfalibekov, a handyman. I told him to shorten his name, and he said no way; he was offended. He said he was royalty back in Azerbaijan.
Napoli Construction is a bricklaying firm. Art Gallo, chief mason.
I use Donnelly Heating once in a while. Dan Donnelly. There are four Donnelly heating companies on the West Side: Dan, Tom, William and Original. They must have large Seders.
Lawrence Christopher Construction — that was Larry Vesely. He filled a hole for me for $9,000 — a coal bin that had collapsed beneath a parking lot. The city wouldn’t allow me to fill the hole with plain gravel. The city wanted a reconstructed coal bin that could practically double as a bomb shelter, complete with beams and concrete. Larry said the job would cost $3,000 and take several weeks.
The final bill was $9,000 and the job took nine months. One delay and complication after another.
I could not charge higher rents just because I had a nice coal bin. No tenant cared I had a bomb shelter.
I paid Larry back in nine monthly installments, just to get slightly back at him.
Tuncle the floor guy — I miss him. He died at 84 in 2008. A nice guy, except for that night in the bar. He didn’t have any other criminal record.
I was at a gathering of Jewish landed gentry — a landlords’ shabbat — in Pepper Pike.
Landlord A — to my right — owned a 17-suiter which her late father had bought in 1955.
Landlord B owned a building his father bought in 1936.
Buy and hold, chaverim. Shabbat shalom.
I owned (with my sister) a building my dad bought in 1965.
In real estate — as in many fields — it’s good to pick the right father.
In college Donald Trump bought his first building, using his father’s money: a 1,200-unit apartment complex in Cincinnati. Trump’s dad owned property in New York’s outer boroughs. Trump’s net worth upon graduating college in 1965 was $1.4 million, in today’s dollars. [Trump, The Art of the Deal.]
Suites, a local real estate mag, did a profile on Marty Cohen, a Cleveland landlord. The article said Marty “couldn’t shake his interest in property management.” Marty worked at a bank for a while, but that wasn’t a good fit. His family owned a 150-unit Parma apartment complex. Maybe that had something to do with Marty finding a good fit in real estate.
Buy and hold, brothers and sisters. Pass the strudel.
Griffith, the state boiler inspector, called.
I said to him, “You’ve been around as long as me!”
“Yes, sir,” he said. “I was around even when your dad was still around! You know, your father was a kinda guy. A good dude. I miss your dad. He was hoping you’d take over the business. And you did!” (My father died in 1986.)
“How long you been around, Griffith?”
“Since 1972. You were just a kid. You were in high school.” (I was in college, Griffith!) “Your dad was a little worried about you, I’ll be honest with you. I hope you don’t take this personally, he thought you didn’t have the fire. You know, he had went through some things that weren’t easy, and he wanted to leave the buildings to somebody who would appreciate them.”
“I gave my father some things to think about, I guess.”
“I’m proud of you. You come around. If he was around, I’d tell him how good you’re doing.”
I didn’t run the family biz totally into the ground.
My epitaph — if I’m lucky: I’m in the Ground But My Business Ain’t.
Next week’s post will be on Thursday, not Wednesday, due to Yom Kippur.
Here’s an op-ed I wrote for the Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/16/12). “High Holidays beckon twice-a-year worshipers.”