Before heading out on the water one morning he shared his story.
He was originally a teacher, and how he went from teacher to business owner is so simple it’s kind of funny. He was born to it, because most of his family members on his mother’s side were educators.
“It was kind of what you were expected to do – you were either a teacher or a lawyer,” Paul said.
That’s at least part of the reason why he wound up teaching at Pinelands Regional School in Tuckerton, N.J.
Handiwork and clothing are part of his roots, as his mother, Catherine, was originally a seamstress and her father was a custom tailor on Wall Street.
He took his mother’s advice and decided to enroll in college, and took his guidance counselor’s advice and studied industrial arts. In 1978 he earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial education from Rowan University (then Glassboro State), concentrating on communications technology. He earned a master’s degree in industrial education while working as a graduate assistant and teaching photo typesetting, finishing in 1980.
Paul taught drafting and auto mechanics at a different high school for a year before landing a job at Pinelands, where he taught for 29 years.
“I was able to teach drafting or graphic arts and photography,” he said, “but I enjoyed the graphic arts more.”
That interest carries over well to his business – boat lettering and boating accessories – the inspiration for which came from a student. Paul said he had finished teaching a career lesson to his high school photography and graphic design students.
“One of them asked if I do this on the side because I could be making more money than teaching and I said, ‘No.’ Out of the mouths of babes. I decided he was right,” he said.
He had already been doing this in a different capacity.
“My job was not just to teach the printing but, if they had an event and they needed T-shirts, my class would silkscreen the shirts,” he said. “I printed all the school newspapers, the programs the school would use.”
He also worked at a newspaper part-time, as a paste-up artist and graphic designer. While he worked for several publications, three of them had great names: the Beacon, the Tuckerton Beacon and the Lacey Beacon.
Paul also knew that with two daughters getting ready for college the extra income from a side business would be useful. The family helped get everything off the ground in 2003 and built Yachta Lettering LLC (a play on the “Seinfeld” joke: ‘yadda yadda’) into what it is today. His wife Lynn, a former art teacher, is the backbone of the business and his partner.
He had always worked two jobs, coaching and teaching at once, so the extra hours didn’t deter him, he said. When he retired in 2009 he only stayed retired for about a year. That’s where Uncle Henry’s came in.
“I was doing my end of the Yachta Lettering business and she was doing billing and other stuff and she finally said, ‘Go find something to do and get out of my hair,’ ” he said. “The ad in the paper for Uncle Henry’s came out and I called and took the job. It was something to do, to get out of the house, but it’s a great job because I get to talk to different people every day.”
It also seems to fit in with the nautical theme that ties many other things in his life together. He and his wife Lynn are both recreational sailors who’ve spawned a couple of competitive sailors, daughters Corinne and Nerissa. While Nerissa sailed for FGCU, Corinne sailed for Ocean County College. Nerissa, who is younger but went to FGCU first, helped start their sailing team, Paul said, and Corinne was a sailing instructor on Long Beach Island, N.J.
He said he and Lynn usually sail their 34-foot Catalina, “Yachta Yachta Yachta,” for pleasure.
“When my daughters get on the boat, then we start racing,” he said. “They tell me I’m going too slow.”
He learned to sail when he was a Boy Scout, but didn’t sail for quite a while, until 1980 when he and Lynn were married. They bought a 13-foot daysailer together. Since then they’ve owned several boats, each one a bit bigger than the last, but they were all Catalinas, a brand close to Paul’s heart.
He credits his close knowledge of those boats with landing the business one of its largest opportunities.
As a volunteer at a boat show for the Catalina Yacht Store, he happened to have a chance to speak to its owner, Dave Day. Paul had noticed some shoddy design work and pointed it out.
“He was showing me some of the clothing he’d ordered and I said, well that’s wrong, and here the logo’s wrong, and so on,” Paul said. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re right.’ ”
The other clothing vendor had mixed up the coloring on certain parts of the Catalina logo, which was supposed to be the same as that on the sails. There were more noticeable mix-ups, including T-shirts with pictures of mismatched hulls and sails.
“The guy he had before really didn’t know that much about the company,” Paul said. “Because I was a true blue Catalina owner I knew what they were supposed to be. I think he was impressed by that, and because I was truthful and honest about it. My wife was getting mad at me, but I think that’s why the guy liked us, because we were always truthful. That, and because his tag line with me was, ‘If there’s a way to do it, Paul will find a way’.”
At the time he’d been the president of a Catalina fleet and asked Day to look at the shirts he’d made for them.
“He took a chance with us,” he said, “and we’ve been working together since 2005. It’s helped us out a lot. It gave me the confidence to really build our business.”
Paul still works closely with Dave, and through working the boat shows he’s since done business with some other people of note in the sailing world, including Bob Bitchin, and the International Order of the Blue Gavel, an international organization of retired yacht club commodores.
Paul said he was thrilled to be recognized personally by the owner of Catalina Yachts and invited aboard the owner’s boat for the 2009 and 2010 Newport to Ensenada International Yacht race.
“It was an eye opener for me,” he said. “It’s a big race.”
He found himself alongside names like Stars and Stripes and Pyewacket, owned by Dennis Conner and Roy Disney, respectively, huge names in the sailing world. He admits he was awestruck.
Paul and Lynn also were the masterful creators of the burgees for the 2013 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, done in brilliant purple and white.
In addition to sailing for pleasure and for speed, he and his wife have done a little traveling aboard a sailboat, most notably in the British Virgin Islands where they chartered sailboats on a few different occasions and went island hopping.
“We both like it. It’s laid back,” he said. “No worries, is their philosophy; if I don’t get it today I’ll get it tomorrow.”
Paul said he’d like to go back and that the phase of retirement that includes more travel is forthcoming. In the meantime, he and Lynn are enjoying the Boca Grande area for all it has to offer.
He had originally planned to retire to North Carolina.
“I always said, ‘Nah, I’m never going to retire to Florida – it’s too hot,’ ” Paul said. “Another teacher I worked with made a wager with me, so he went to North Carolina and visited the Hatteras area and I came down here and looked at Rotonda. Lynn and I fell in love with the area.”
He never said what the wager was, but no one chose North Carolina.
He bought some property in Rotonda and during a visit, they fell in love with a house his colleague’s wife had been taking care of. So they bought it in 2004, just before Hurricane Charley rolled through. The house came through it all right, though, and he and Lynn live there still.
In retrospect, he said, the decision to move to Florida seems like a no brainer. Not everyone took so long to figure it out, though. He remembers when Nerissa was going to FGCU and returned home for Thanksgiving. While driving to their home in Jersey she turned to him and said, “Why didn’t we move sooner?”
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