Therefore, it was with trepidation that I climbed the stairs to the Uncle Henry’s Marina office. I shouldn’t have worried.
Dave is a native of Canton, Ohio. He grew up in the city, and left just as soon as he could.
“It was just too cold,” he explained. “I left high school and went to California to go to college.”
After he graduated, he backslid a bit in his plans to escape the icy clutches of his home state.
"Unfortunately, I made the decision to go back to Ohio,” Dave said, ruefully. “I moved to Toledo, Ohio, and I worked there for about eight years.”
While Toledo may not be subject to the lake-effect snows that swamp northeastern Ohio each winter, it was not what Dave wanted.
After his return to the great white north, Dave headed south again, this time to Atlanta, where he worked until 1999. Having finally correctly calibrated his internal compass, he then moved to Orlando.A childhood spent on the water gave Dave an enduring love of the medium, and even while working in landlocked Orlando, he kept a sailboat in St. Petersburg.
“I accidentally came to Boca Grande in 2001,” he said. “I decided that I was going to spend the winter on my boat, First, a little time in the Keys, then head over to the Bahamas for the rest of the winter. The following spring, I was going to make my way up the East Coast with a semi-destination of the Chesapeake Bay area.”
It was a dark and stormy night ...
Actually, it had been a pretty bad day on the water, and Dave had plans to stop at Cayo Costa for the evening.
“I didn’t even know that this place existed, and I looked over and there were no high rises, and it looked like a little town,” he said. “As I came through the Boca Grande Pass, I decided to head for Gasparilla Island instead of Cayo, and in my cruising guide I saw that there was a little place called the Pink Elephant. I pulled into the anchorage there, and decided that after such a bad weather day, I needed something nice to eat, and I walked into the Pink Elephant.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I met JT Turner and his father-in-law, the late Paul Kreuger, and Kurt Olsen and kind of immediately decided that this was an interesting place,” chuckled Dave. “It was dark, so I couldn’t see anything, so the next morning I got up and went for a walk downtown. The first thing that struck me was that I was home.”
Dave fell in love with Boca Grande immediately. It only took him a little while longer to meet the woman of his dreams.
“Shortly thereafter, I met Becky Paterson and we have been together ever since,” he said.
With Becky came a new wrench in his plans to stay as far south as he could.
“Becky’s family is from Maine, and she owns a house up there,” he said. “She bought it before we met, so against my better judgement I’ve spent a number of years going up there.”
Dave does have a criterion for the trips north, however.“
They have this thing called the Mason-Dixon Line for a reason,” he said deadpan. “You don’t cross it before May 15 or after October 15.”
The house in question is known as the Red Rooster, a late -1800s Victorian with a carriage house. Both are rented out to vacationers.
“There is also a three-story barn on the property,” said Dave. “We have an antique shop in there with some friends of ours.”
When asked whom he admired most, Dave named fellow businessman Ken Langone, one of the founders of Home Depot.
“Mainly because he’s been a very successful man, but he is very straight-shooting, a get to the point of the matter kind of business man,” explained Dave. “At the same time he is very philanthropic, especially in the hospital and medical-treatment fields. Most of all, he and the guys at Home Depot, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, represent what you can achieve, starting out with nothing but an idea.
In 2004, Dave was in the middle of a project for Pirate Coast, the local magazine he and Becky started in 2002. They were driving Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine all the way to Key West, and chronicling the journey.
“We were in front of the Bronx Zoo in New York, and Becky got a text from the office down here,” he said. “All it said was, ‘What do you think about Charley?’ She texted back, ‘Charley who?’ And that was how we found out that there was a hurricane coming.”
By the time they made it out of New York City, the couple had to make a decision.
“We drove straight through from there back here,” said Dave. “We got here at 11 p.m. the night before the storm hit. We loaded up our artwork and our family pictures and the things that we wanted to save into our trailer and SUV, and then about 2 a.m. we headed out.”
They ended up on the east coast of Florida, in Melbourne. In keeping with Dave’s philosophy about hurricanes, they got out of the way.
“At that point I had been up for about three straight days,” he laughed. “On the way back, Becky had the flu, so she was kind of out of it. We got to the hotel in Melbourne and I laid down on the bed just as they said on the TV that the storm was coming up the Gulf, nearing the Pass.”
As he collapsed into an exhausted sleep, he remembers hearing one particularly bad piece of news.
“The last thing I heard was that they were expecting a 15-foot storm surge,” said Dave. “The thought I had before I went to sleep was that I had only rigged my sailboat for about ten feet.”
He spent the next eight hours dreaming that his boat was in his neighbor’s yard, if not in their house.
“It wasn’t until 10 hours later that I found out the hurricane had turned up into the Pass and went up through Arcadia,” Dave explained. “It hit Becky’s sister’s house pretty hard, so when we came home that day we stopped at a store on the east coast and got supplies for them. We dropped them off on the way back here.”
Seeing the destruction gave Dave a certain perspective on what happened to his property.
“We had damage,” he said, “but we got about $50,000 worth of tree trimming for free, and all I had to do was carry it to the curb.”
The copies of the Hurricane Charley edition of Pirate Coast are still jealously guarded.
“Pirate Coast came about because I have a fascination with history, and I owned a publishing company before,” said Dave. “Over the summer of 2002, I worked out the layout and what we should put in it, and we’ve been doing it for 10 years now.”
What has surprised Dave is how many people have held on to their copies of the magazines throughout the years.
“Sometimes I even get calls from people who have misplaced an issue,” he said. “They want to know if I can get them another copy.”
Dave’s latest venture is managing Uncle Henry’s Marina, and it is one he seems to relish.
“I spent 20 years doing business turnarounds, and the last few years of that was working with internet startups, developing strategy and getting companies headed in the right direction,” he said. “I’ve been away from that since, basically, 2001. I was looking at the marina and it piqued my interest. With the economy they have had trouble selling the slips, and we got to talking about it and trying to come up with a plan to turn it around.”
Dave knows that he has a job ahead of him, but he has plans.
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