Gary Williams has lived a charmed life, moving up the retail corporate ladder easily on the coat-tails of his friend and mentor Ira Jacobs.
It's time for him to make his move and leave his comfortable office, wanting to make a mark in the retail business on his own.
After a long search for the right opportunity, Gary finds what seems to be the perfect opening. He will take over a distressed, family owned, specialty retail chain; initiate a turn-around and advance it into greatness.
The only challenge appears to be the owner, Dan Collins Senior, an eccentric and some say 'crazy entrepreneur', who Gary replaces. Dan Collins, the primary stockholder, first supports Gary and his new initiatives and then gradually goes from advocate to mortal enemy. Dan Collins will do whatever it takes to seize back and retain control of 'His' business and if not through the normal business channels, then it will be through personal terror.
Gary slowly enters a world of insanity and on into a nightmare, where he and his family are fighting not only for the business, but for their lives.
Just how crazy is this 'crazy entrepreneur'.
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Read an Excerpt
A FAMILY BUSINESS
By GREGORY KILGORE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Gregory Kilgore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCollins Men's Clothier had just finished its first full year of operations. The store was looking great and had a center court location within a very strong regional mall. Unfortunately, in spite of its perfection, the store had finished the year with only moderate sales.
Dan Collins Senior has risked everything to open this store. It was more than just a men's clothing store; it was the beginning of his ascension to greatness ... his dream.
The store's gross margin was also not up to what Dan had expected, and this left him with a personal and business shortfall in cash flow that put tremendous stress on his home life, as well as his struggling business.
Nancy Collins was continually referring to his new business venture as a stupid idea and ridiculous; stating resolutely that Dan should start sending out résumés and get a real job.
"You took your shot and it didn't work out, so now it's time to get real and take care of your responsibilities ... you've got a family to think about," she would tell him at least once a week.
Dan was not so quick to give up his dream, especially with the thought of the next 20 years of 'I told you so's' that would be streaming from that bovine bitch he called his wife. He would never live it down and be reminded of what a failure he was with relentless constancy.
Dan would think of something; he had to think of something. He would double his efforts; he would not yield. This business will work regardless of what had to be done ... regardless of what sacrifice had to be made.
During a number of buying trips into New York City, Dan had noticed several street vendors and small shops along Canal Street; a person could buy Rolex watches, Nike sweat suits, Polo sweat shirts, and a great many other branded items at ridiculously low prices.
Dan had purchased several watches and a variety of merchandise for himself, just for shits and giggles, and was amazed at how good they looked. As he wandered from one street vendor to another, he wondered if this knock off merchandise, called 'gray goods', could be purchased at even lower prices if he were buying in bulk. The merchandise consisted of cheap imitations but carried very exclusive logos and designs ... and most importantly, it was really inexpensive.
A Rolex watch for 20 bucks, a Nike sweat suit for 24 dollars, and a whole lot of other merchandise that was equally desirable and easy on the pocketbook. The merchandise was right out on the streets ... being sold in little hole-in-the-wall stores and in tiny kiosks on the street corners in both New York and Philadelphia.
Dan had not seen this type of merchandise in the Midwest or on the West Coast.
"Hey you, how much for that Rolex?" Dan asked.
"Twenty five dolla ... but for you I make it twenty," the petite Asian man said with a grin.
"What if I buy two?"
"Give ya two of your choice for thirty-five," he said flashing his gnarly black and brown teeth once again.
"Tell you what ... I would really like to buy 25 watches ... I'll give ya eight bucks apiece ... I pick the ones I want."
"Fuck off ... ain't no way," the young Asian man scoffed.
"Hey look, I bought a whole bunch of exactly the same shit down the street for ten bucks ... just thought you might want some of my cash."
"No way," he repeated, but looking a little unsure of himself.
"Okay ... no problem, I'll take my business to the next guy. There are plenty of other guys to choose from," Dan said, as he turned around.
Dan walked about 15 yards down Canal Street when the street vendor caught up to him.
"Can't do it for no eight dollas, man. Do the same as that other guy ... I'll give 'em to ya for ten bucks. I pick out half, and you pick out half," the small man said.
"Okay, give ya ten bucks, but no way that you pick. I pick the ones I want."
"You got the cash on ya?"
"Sure do," Dan said with a smile of victory spreading across his face.
"You lookin' to do more ... this kind of thing ... you want some Gucci handbags ... got some Air Jordan T's ... what da ya think?"
"Let's take a look."
In one day on the street, Dan bought eight thousand dollars worth of great counterfeit merchandise.
He boxed the new goods and was able to get some of it on his plane coming back to California by slipping the sky cap $100, sending the rest via UPS directly to his store.
In one week he had sold every piece, turning his eight grand into more than twenty-two thousand dollars. Not bad for his first trip.
On the second trek into the city, he took twenty thousand dollars and again, within ten days turned it into almost fifty grand ... and on it went. Dan was making a 'shit-pot of money', week after week; his 'gray goods' business seemed endless. He had established a strong relationship with several of the Asian gentleman that he was now doing business with, but wanted more variety and an easier way to buy the stuff. It was costly coming into New York on a weekly basis, having to hand-pick each item, and then ship the merchandise himself. There had to be an easier way.
Talking with one of his biggest New York street vendors, Dan learned that he could get some real fresh product from one of the vendor's friends in 'Jew Town' in Chicago. After more conversation, Dan had a name, address and telephone number of this guy's associate in Chicago, and a reference for doing business. The vendor said he would contact his friend and let him know to expect a call from Dan; this could be his big break and if it proved out, was going to be a major step up the food chain.
Dan was a little concerned that the guy in New York would so easily give up a name for someone that potentially would take money out of his own pocket, but Dan had to follow it up.
It had too much potential.
Dan landed at Midway Airport in Chicago at noon, rented an extended van and took off for the address given to him by his business associate in New York.
As he was renting the van, he asked directions to the address. The young man at the counter responded with a peculiar expression and a suggestion that he might want to reconsider. Dan smiled, thanked the young man for his concern, but said that "yes" he still had to go to that address; after all, it was called 'Jew Town' ...
After receiving directions, Dan was on his way.
Approaching the area, Dan drove into what appeared to be what he had seen on television or movies scenes, depicted a post nuclear war setting. The few buildings that were still standing looked like bombed out shells, with grungy people that looked to be the extras from the movie 'Mad Max', wandering aimlessly. The only difference being, nine out of ten of them were black.
What the ... Jew Town?
There were many 55-gallon drums along the streets with fires burning in them and small swarms of people collected around them warming their hands. In one less dilapidated area, stood a few more respectable relics that passed for retail stores and warehouses. Dan turned toward them, and sure enough, found his address.
Nervously, Dan parked the van, walked into the adjacent retail store, and asked a hefty middle-aged black man to direct him to Ram.
A few minutes later, a well-dressed middle-eastern gentleman approached him, introduced himself as the owner of the store and asked him why he wanted to speak with Ram. Dan explained and the gentleman disappeared for 10 minutes returning with a young lady.
"You will please follow her," he said without expression.
"Sure, no problem."
Dan trailed her from the stores back door and across an alley to a warehouse covered with graffiti and razor wire. Two very large, ugly, mean looking black guys were hanging around the doorway.
Scary shit ... maybe this wasn't such a good idea ... Jew Town??
Dan walked into this apparent dump, and was immediately surprised as he moved through the door, having been transported into a semi formal office and warehouse ... he felt like Alice must have felt going through the looking glass.
Dan was escorted into a reasonably nice office and was asked if he wanted anything to drink; coffee, a Coke, some fruit juice ... maybe some ice water. Dan thought ice water would be fine ... "no wait let's make it a Coke instead."
A few minutes later and a different gentleman entered the room. He was short and skinny, dressed in black ... the silk shirt having padded shoulders. His dark skin, pony tail, and gold jewelry gave him the look of a 'B' movie gangster ... a Middle Eastern gangster. This thought almost made Dan chuckle, but with some effort he restrained himself.
"Hello Dan, I am Ram," said the small Middle Eastern man in perfect English.
"Hi ... um, I'm not sure, ya know, if you can help ..." Dan stuttered.
"It sounds like you are doing some serious business with some of my people in New York City. I thought you might want to buy direct and make some extra margin. This will depend on the size of the order, of course," Ram said, getting right to business.
"Yeah, I can spend a lot more ... if you have some additional items to pick from. How do I see what you have?"
"In some cases we can make items in bulk ... a lot of the things that you are currently purchasing, for example. We can also screen print whatever you want ... for example ... you want Polo, Nike; whatever ... we can make it for you and cut a better deal than you're getting on the street. Some of our other products like the watches I bring in from overseas or Mexico. These items, you pick what you want, and just order them from our warehouse when they come in. Then, on certain very special items, we get one-time shots ... like tonight; I have some leather jackets coming in from one of my ... special sources. Give you a great deal on 'um. If you're interested, come back at nine tonight and we'll see if we can't make some money together. (Ram paused) Wanna take a look at the warehouse and buy some merchandise?"
"Fuckin'A," Dan said excitedly.
Dan spent the better part of the afternoon going through everything he could find. It was like Christmas had coming early.
It was like printing money.
After 'shopping' he left the front of the store, realizing he had skipped lunch and was starving. Hopping into his van, he went in search of food ... obviously he had to get out of the area to find a decent place ... a place where he felt a little less conspicuous ... and a little safer. He would eat at a nice sit down restaurant, check into his room, and then return at nine as Ram had suggested.
"So where's the new stuff?" Dan asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
"Actually, we need to go out to the alley. The two vans are what you're going to look through. Why don't you go out and sit in the passenger side of the blue van and I'll be out in a minute ... we will take a little drive ... and then you can go through the merchandise."
"Okay, no problem," Dan said, getting a little nervous.
What the hell is this ...
Dan left the back door of the warehouse, entering a narrow alley and passing one of the two vans, which had a couple of black guys ... angry looking ... gang-bangers maybe, sitting and waiting.
He climbed into the second van as instructed with another black guy behind the wheel.
"Hey, how ya doin?" Dan asked.
If I live through this, I swear I'll start goin' to church.
Moments later and the two vans took off; driving about a half a mile, they stopped in another alley very similar to the one they had just left. Stopping mid-alley, they scrambled out of the vans, opened the back of both, and two of the guys moved to each end of the alley as if to keep watch.
Inside the first van were boxes of great looking men's and ladies leather jackets and coats. The merchandise was obviously very high quality product ... not the knock offs and fakes he had bought off the streets.
Whoa! They even have some leather basketball warm-up suits. Great stuff!
"Pick out wha ya want ... din we can talk price," said one of the bangers.
Dan spent the better part of an hour looking through the cartons of jackets and coats and was almost giddy with what he was looking at. It was fantastic. The items that Dan picked stayed in one van, and the leftovers went in the other ... then quickly, they all piled back into the vans and took off.
After cutting the deal of a lifetime, Dan was returned to Ram's warehouse, where his merchandise was boxed and loaded into his rented van. The extended van was stuffed ... even the front passenger seat was filled up to above the dash.
Dan paid in cash ... a lot of cash.
Interestingly, all of the leather coats and jackets he didn't pick stayed in the van and drove away. None of the leathers were left at the warehouse and his merchandise was boxed and in his van in minutes.
Things are definitely lookin' up.
Chapter TwoIn Southeastern Iowa, along the Mississippi River was the town of Daly City, widely accepted by most of its inhabitants and visitors as the armpit of the Midwest. Daly City was made up of a variety of races and religions, like most other Midwestern cities of this size, but had the particular quality of being an exclusively blue collar, industrial city. The community consisted of an uneducated, unskilled population, which, for the most part, stayed close to home and kept to themselves.
Ferguson's Sheet Metal Plant, Farm Equipment Manufacturing Company (FEMCo), Barns Tannery, Illinois Beef Packers, and Anderson's Experimental Farm, gave Daly City its flavor. Not a good flavor, mind you, but a flavor none-the-less. The sticky summer air was continually corrupted by the smell of packing plants or the tannery, and on good days, when the winds were just right, a combination of both.
The smelly, yellow brown haze would cling desperately to its host city, but on occasion would break free and drift down into the Mississippi Valley stretching its toxic tentacles like a lifeless yellow fog looking for fresh victims.
Inhabitants wandered the streets of Daly City looking like pasty-faced ghouls, complaining about the stench in the air and about their various ailments, but never associated one with the other.
The few unfortunate fish able to exist in the Raccoon River, which flowed directly through the center of the downtown, had a steady diet of factory run off and farm pesticides from the surrounding community.
Occasionally, a person could find some delicious fish filets "just a floatin'" on the surface.
"All ya have to do is just scoop 'um up with a net, filet 'um and cook 'um up."
Tasted a bit funny, but that was okay.
Daniel Allen Collins had been named after his great grandfather, the only man that Daniel's mother, Debra Allen, would say she actually loved. Her grandfather, she would also say, was the only man that had treated her decently and with respect ... and had actually loved her back.
In fact, it was the only man's name that didn't trigger fear or loathing in Debra.
By the time her son Daniel came along, Debbie was still a young woman in years, but looked and felt ancient and worn out with all of life's experiences and disappointments.
She was married at eighteen and had given birth to Daniel four months later.
Debbie had spent her life at the lowest end of what would be considered white trash, with both parents being lazy drunks that could barely hoist themselves from their broken down living room sofa for something as critically important as a can of beer or a shot of cheap booze.
At least they weren't physically abusive ... being abusive would have taken too much energy ... too much effort. They just screamed at each other and their one and only daughter from their respective perches ... just enough to remind her of her place in their wretched existence.
Debbie knew what she was, and hated it ... she knew what she would become and she hated that even more.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, she met this great guy, Bob Collins.
Bob seemed to have a plan, he had ambition, and most importantly, he had said that he loved her. Debbie had been suddenly swept up in an emotional hurricane, and just as suddenly, felt there was, just maybe, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Maybe life would not have to be just a re-run of her mother and fathers non-existence. Maybe she had a chance at a real life ... a decent life.
That light, unfortunately, turned out to be a freight train.
Her husband Bob, as it turned out, was meaner than a snake and found great joy in using her as a punching bag. One minute he could be bubbly and happy, the next he would be wild with rage and kickin' the hell out of her, or worse yet, out of their son, Danny.
He was nothing at all like when they were dating, when Bob was sweet and caring and always making her laugh. He had been manly and macho, with a toughness about him that made her feel safe and secure, but never threatening. Bob had been a big, muscular, good looking guy that seemed to be smiling all the time, and clearly destined for great things.
Excerpted from A FAMILY BUSINESS by GREGORY KILGORE Copyright © 2012 by Gregory Kilgore. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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