Sixty-something-year-olds David Hozza and Judy Peres could be working in cushy office jobs or enjoying retirement in a warm, sunny locale. Hozza used to be an investment banker in St. Paul and Peres was an editor with the Chicago Tribune. But they ditched their jobs and invested most of their retirement savings into the Old Globe Elevator project (a description is in Part 1). Now they wear work boots, buy from thrift stores, and live in a one-bedroom apartment in the northern hinterlands of Superior, Wis.
The two met through an online dating service when both were living in Chicago several years ago. Although Peres was outside of Hozza’s desired geographic range, she said she convinced him to meet her halfway. And the rest, as they say, is water under . . . the grain elevator. The two eventually mixed their professional lives and personal lives and took on the task of selling reclaimed wood from a 125-year-old grain elevator and grain storage buildings along the harbor in Superior.
But then the recession hit, bringing sales to a halt, despite some great local and regional media coverage. And now the pair is facing bankruptcy, but they are facing it head on. They have a fund raising effort to try and keep their operation afloat for another 6 months and have ramped up media efforts to national outlets. They even had a project party at a local pizza place that was standing-room only.
I had lunch with Peres and Hozza at a venerated local dive, the Anchor Bar. Over double-decker burgers and fries they shared some of the reasoning behind their adventure. They do it for the love of old wood and for the love of each other. Even though the project has brought a different kind of stress, the pair talked about how happy they are to live in the northland, where people are friendly. We talked about how fear keeps people from trying something different, and how people miss truly living by not following their dreams.
Plus there’s just something about old-growth timber. It’s dry and cracked with a natural character that can’t be manufactured. When you touch the wood it transports you back to the quiet forest it came from. Spending time with two people working together on a common project was inspiring. I wish them the best and hope this blog helps in some small way. These pieces of local history should not go up in smoke.
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June 27, 2013 Update: I am sorry to report that the project did get foreclosed on recently. Such a shame!