The Week: What Caught Our Eye

November 13, 2021

A still lake with floating docks and Adirondack chairsSaratoga Lake shimmers like a summer paradise on a late fall day from the deck at 550 Waterfront.

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

National Entrepreneur’s Day is Thursday, and we’re celebrating a pair of Upstate New York entrepreneurs a generation apart whose success in business is having an enduring impact.

CHARLEY WOOD was a child of the Depression determined to blaze a path to success. After World War II, the Lockport native came to Northern New York where he and his wife Margaret opened Arrowhead Lodge on Schroon Lake and Holiday House in Lake George. Chock full of ideas and energy, but short on cash, he was confident nonetheless that, in an era of rising prosperity, former GIs would steer their new cars to the expanding interstate highway system and find wholesome family fun in beautiful places like Lake George. He spotted land for sale in Queensbury and established Storytown, U.S.A., in 1954, a year before Walt Disney opened Disneyland. He went on to build hotels, restaurants, museums and other amusement parks, establishing a standard for hard work, vision, success and philanthropy that was passed down to his family. Today, grandson Braden Wages and his wife Yasmin are building their own hospitality empire in Texas, with a group of restaurants known as Malai Kitchen, devoted to fresh ingredients, six house-brewed beers and impossible-to-forget Singapore Sings, inspired by their travels through Vietnam and ThailandMalai Kitchen, the Dallas hot spot now celebrating the opening of its fourth location, would make Charley proud.

ED MITZEN launched three successful healthcare marketing companies that generate more than a half-billion dollars in revenue. His Saratoga Springs firm Fingerpaint regularly earns a spot on the Forbes Fastest Growing Companies List. He and his wife Lisa Mitzen, a Hudson Falls native, have formed the Business for Good charitable foundation that is buying (and saving) local businesses (and jobs) and turning the profits into big charitable contributions. Not long ago, Ed and Lisa called the Open Door Mission in Glens Falls and asked for a tour. Here’s what happened.

LEARNING TO HAVE OPTIONS: We’ve all met them, and undoubtedly admired them. You may even be such a person, in which case you already appreciate the value and importance of being a lifelong learner. In today’s fluid marketplace, where job and even career changes are common, the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn is vital to long-term success, write the authors of a piece advising readers to make learning a part of your daily routine. They offer a variety of tips and techniques to make that happen.

HAPPY TRAILS: M.J. Eberhart — he prefers Nimblewill Nomad, his trail name — just became the oldest man ever to complete the Appalachian Trail, finishing his hike in our neck of the woods in Dalton, Mass. (he didn’t hike it end to end). Not satisfied with merely 2,193 miles of hiking, the 83-year-old started the walk from his home in Flagg Mountain, Ala., adding hundreds of miles. And that’s not even close to his longest trek. 

NOT PLAYING AROUND: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and even in retirement, he never stopped making points as an author, lecturer and humanitarian. He had the sports world buzzing this week with his unvarnished takedown of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who made news by coming down with COVID-19 and having to miss a game after claiming he was “immunized,” then fired back at critics. Beyond being reckless, Abdul-Jabbar writes, Rodgers’ actions threaten the ability of professional athletes to generate outside income, which depends on favorable public perceptions. “Rodgers complained that the ‘cancel culture’ was coming for him, but his own words cancel him as a liar and a bad thinker. If he had a principled objection to the vaccine, he could have chosen not to play, like Kyrie Irving, who at least is honest. … He might also remember that the only reason he is able to play in front of crowds again is because all those suckers got vaccinated.”

WILD DEBATE: Since 2009, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, N.Y., has been training young climate advocates to turn their passion for the planet into practical action they can bring to their colleges and communities. Its leadership on the issue earned the Wild Center a coveted invitation to participate in COP-26, the global climate summit in Glasgow. It’s one of only two museums represented there, and its nine-member delegation, including six students, is getting a close-up look at the epic struggle among nations to cut emissions, pay countries that have suffered, and find funding support the switch to cleaner energy.

BUFFALO ON BOARD: Many versions of the classic board game Monopoly have found their way to store shelves over the decades. Monopoly National Parks. Monopoly Game of Thrones. Monopoly Star Wars. Various city editions. Now comes the First Edition City of Buffalo Monopoly game, with proceeds benefiting pediatric cancer patients in Western New York. The game pieces include a chicken wing and a snow shovel.

Yellow flowers on a shoreline, with mountains in the background.Nature rarer uses yellow than another hue / saves she all of that for sunsets, ­-- prodigal of blue /  Spending scarlet like a woman, Yellow she affords  / Only scantly and selectly like a lover’s words. – Emily Dickinson (Jeff Killeen photo)

BILLY SLIMS: Legendary singer Billy Joel emerged from pandemic isolation 50 pounds lighter, which he attributed to a general loss of appetite following back surgery. Joel, who swore off dieting as recently as 2016, said he nonetheless was happy to have dropped the weight. The New York Post’s music critic said the uptick in the musician’s energy and endurance were noticeable in his first performance at Madison Square Garden since the start of the pandemic.

CITY SNICKERS: Remember all the stories about New Yorkers bailing out of the city and seeking wide open spaces during the early days of the pandemic? Turns out country living had its own unique set of challenges, from leaky roofs to hungry animals and garbage disposal.

RUFFLED FEATHERS: Congratulations, Big Bird, it’s your turn in the center of the culture war. Once almost universally beloved, the kindly Muppet tweeted that he had received the COVID-19 vaccine. “My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy.” Crank up the outrage machine.

WINNING FASHION: Albany native Taofeek Abijako designs street fashion inspired by his experience growing up in Albany and Lagos, Nigeria. Street wear puts the hip in hip-hop. Think hoodies, sneakers, and sweatshirts. It transfers the power of fashion decisions to the streets and away from big companies, retailers and traditional designers. Most street wear is sold online, not in stores. When Instagram first announced its inaugural #BlackDesignVisionaries grant program in June, Taofeek applied. Now, he and his design brand, Head of State, have won a $100,000 Visionary Small Business Grant.

CHOSING RETIREMENT: If we make good decisions and are lucky, we may reach the time when we’re choosing between continuing to work and retiring. For many, it’s a more complicated choice than it might seem, made more challenging by concerns about spending down savings or having a purpose without a job. Financial planners have some advice for how to recognize when you’re ready to take the plunge, and how to get there if you’re not.

SWEET APPLE: An original Apple computer, designed by company co-founder Steve Wozniak and assembled by a team led by Steve Jobs, has sold at auction for $400,000. The Apple-1 computer, which still works, is one of 200 ever made. An electronics professor at Chaffey College in California was the first to buy it, and he sold it to one of his students for $650 in 1977.

HUDSON HIGH LIFE: If you’ve ever wanted a home right on the Hudson River, here’s your chance. A few helpful details: the home is 14,800 square feet, sits on 10 acres, has an indoor pool, a theater room, spa and gym, and lists for $45 million.

JUNIOR ACHIEVER: Joseph Girard III, a Glens Falls native and the all-time leading scorer in New York high school basketball, is off to a solid start to his junior season at Syracuse, with team highs of 20 points and 7 assists in an easy victory over Lafayette. Girard averaged 12.4 points a game as a freshman but slid to 9.8 a game as a sophomore. “I’m really looking forward to being confident again,” he said after the victory.

THE META WHAT? The late New York Times columnist William Safire wrote a witty and wise column “On Language” that each week dissected a new word or phrase that seemed to have suddenly entered the public lexicon. If Safire were still on the beat, we think his word of the week would be “metaverse.” It’s everywhere, literally, but what is it? Metaverse (subscription required) refers to an online world rooted in science fiction where we’ll soon be able to play, shop, work and learn. Strap on your goggles, and step inside a virtual office or store, talk to your colleagues or do your holiday shopping. You may never get off the couch again.

LIVES

DICK WOOD delivered the news from his seat at WTEN in Albany for 18 years, and for many years after hosted a jazz show on local radio and served as the voice of TV ads for Quick Response Restoration. Born Richard Woodward in Marlboro, Mass., the New England accent never left his rich baritone. “The world is going to be a sadder place without Dick Wood,” his former co-anchor, Marci Elliott, told WTEN. He was 91.

FW de KLERK was the last leader of apartheid-era South Africa, stunning his nation in 1990 by announcing that he would free the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, legalize anti-apartheid groups and negotiate to end racial inequality in the country, leading some of his fellow conservatives to label him a traitor. He shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela and a year later lost to Mandela in his bid for re-election as president. In a final video message, de Klerk said, “Let me today, in the last message repeat: I, without qualification, apologize for the pain and the hurt, and the indignity, and the damage, to black, brown and Indians in South Africa.” He died of mesothelioma at 85.

MAX CLELAND lost both legs and an arm while serving in Vietnam and later became a Democratic U.S. Senator from Georgia, only to lose to his bid for re-election because questions about his patriotism somehow got traction. He was leading the Veterans Administration at the time of his election in 1996, and the tactics used against him in 2002 — foreshadowing the aggressive, no-holds-barred approach that has since come to define our politics — offended even prominent Republicans. He died of congestive heart failure at 79.

PETER POLLAK was a radical left-wing student organizer and passionate crusader for racial equality during the 1960s, a white man who was a key member of the Black militant group The Brothers in Albany. Later in life he became staunchly conservative and a supporter of Donald Trump, a turn that puzzled and saddened many of his longtime friends. He self-published a memoir in which he argued that it was not his core values and world view that had changed, and that the left had capitulated to “woke culture.” He died at 78 after a long illness.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“Smart people learn from everything and everyone, average people from their experiences, stupid people already have all the answers.”

Socrates

THE SIGNOFF

SUPER SPUD: A couple in New Zealand unearthed a knotted, lumpy potato that may be the largest on record. The spud, which they named Doug, weighs more than 17 pounds and has become an instant sensation around town. “We put a hat on him. We put him on Facebook, taking him for a walk, giving him some sunshine,” the husband told NPR. “It's all a bit of fun. It's amazing what entertains people.”

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Jeff Killeen, Claire P. Tuttle, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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