Snowstorms, Florida in Philly, and Baseball Cards
Traveling in the east in late January can be an adventure. El Nino has brought rains to L.A., dryer weather to the Southwest, and incredible storms to the Northeast. Cold and snow is everywhere. I spent a few days in Philadelphia preparing for the Parking Industry Exhibition conference we are sponsoring this month and had my share of adventures.
I drove to Harrisburg (about a 90-minute excursion) in a raging snowstorm. I guess the car rental gods were with me when they gave me an all-wheel drive vehicle (by mistake) on this trip. My destination: Cramer Airport Parking at Harrisburg International.
The details of Stan Cramer's operation can be found elsewhere in this issue. Suffice it to say that this jolly man and his wife have a real parking business going in the capital of Pennsylvania. This little note is about his son, Soloman.
Stan told me that I should go see Sol's business. According to Stan, the bright young man got bored in college and took a small investment from his dad and opened a business. Stan wouldn't tell me about the business, he had to show me.
We went to a warehouse section of town and took a look. I was told Sol wouldn't be there, since he did a lot of his work at night. I walked in to a large warehouse with row after row of baseball cards. Literally millions. Some were in the original precut sheets; most were cut and categorized by player and quality of the card. Where does he sell them? eBay (hence the night work), shows and direct to collectors. He has at least three employees, a forklift, and everything necessary for this booming business.
One fascinating story: Sol had heard about a woman who was renovating her kitchen. When she pulled up the linoleum, low and behold, under it was sheet after sheet of uncut baseball cards (many in perfect condition). I don't know how much money changed hands, but it certainly was a unique place to find a supply of raw material.
Stan also pointed out a parking lot near his that was filled with over 10,000 cars. They were parked without aisles. Why where they there? Seems that they were cars that had been returned to banks after the lease was up. They couldn't "unload" them, so they sent them here. Stan says there are a number of lots like this across the country, the result of changes in interest rates and the banks getting sideways with the lease agreements. The cars simply weren't worth as much as the bank hoped when the lease began.
Stan Cramer is one nice guy. It's difficult to see how a nice guy could succeed in a cutthroat business like airport parking and car rental. One little item he mentioned over and over offers a clue -- service.
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My next stop in the trip took me to Parkway Corporation and its President and COO, Robert Zuritsky. Rob kept me waiting (well, maybe I was early) and I was glad. It gave me the opportunity to look over his company's offices on the top floor of one of their garages on Broad Street in Philly.
Remember it was mid-winter, snowing and cold. When I walked in, I thought I was in Florida. Taking advantage of the skylights afforded by being on the top floor, the Zuritsky clan and their corporate employees work in an open-plan office surrounded by sunlight and plants -- big plants. It must be a great place to work, particularly when you have just walked in from a snowstorm.
Rob Zuritsky has taken over operations of the Parkway from his father and seems to have settled in well. I was asking his advice on things we might do for PIE, calling on his expertise as the chairman of NPA's convention held in Philadelphia last year. His advice was good. This will be great convention.
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Speaking of PIE, the final tweaking is almost done. The party for the exhibitors and speakers is in its final form. (Did you know that Sunday night, before the opening of PIE, is the Academy Awards? How's that for a theme?) The final speakers' list is done (check out our Web site). The hotel is nearly full of parking folks. And, best of all, hundreds and hundreds of attendees are signed up.
Registration boss Pat Restivo tells me that she predicts even more than the 700-plus attendees we had last year in Chicago. She should know. She has her finger on the pulse of these get-togethers. She can tell, based on some magical formula, just how many people are going to be at a given event a month before it opens. She says it has something to do with how many times her phone rings a day. Makes sense to me.
I have reached my initials so it's time to stop. See you March 23 in Philadelphia for the Parking Industry Exhibition and Conference of Parking Management and Technology.