Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The World's A Changing... but "never, never, give up."..

Back about 34 years ago when I started up my first incorporated business "Mechanics Inc." (an auto service centre) I was playing around with developing some real estate on Harvard Street in Summerside to house this new venture… I was a bit naive at the time and thought that if I could find a nice piece of land that I would just waltz into the Bank and they would fork over the money to spring for a new building.... so in the pursuit to find a location I came across a suitable piece on Harvard St. just above the railway track which was properly zoned and on checking it out found that it belonged to the Irving's and this is where my real naivety came in... as I went about to try and "buy" it from them... so I headed off to the local Summerside Irving Oil branch office... who in turn sent me to the Charlottetown branch office... who sent me to the Saint John head office... who told me that I had to go back to the Summerside office and have the local manager bring it forward... and you guessed it... he had to bring it forward to a host of supervisors (who I had to keep chasing for an answer) before they finally brought it back to the Saint John's Head Office... word finally came back that they didn't think they wanted to sell it... so not about to give up I decided to visit the Head Office in Saint John to see if I could talk some "sense" into Mr. Irving as everyone keep telling me that they "might want to put a Irving station there someday" which in my little brain seemed highly unlikely... I made my way to Saint John on a "cold call" and got as far as a meeting in a small cubical where an older gentlemen was quite polite and told me that "although he didn't think the Irving's would sell he would have Mr. Irving visit the site and look at it one more time" a polite brush off... I left Saint John and heading back to Summerside I decided that maybe I should look for another site… I subsequently settled on a piece of land across the street that I ended up renting (the bank wasn't as giving with their money as I had imagined) and we finally opened the business about 6 months later... and it was not too long after the opening that I got a phone call from the local Irving manager and he said "Mr. Irving was in Town" to look at the land parcel on Harvard Street…. and sure enough I headed out to the property and there was a small delegation of "suits" and they walked around and asked me a few questions including whether I'd be prepared to sign a "covenant not to sell oil, gas or lubes from the site unless they were Irving products" so I agreed there on the spot not even knowing what a covenant was… I was taken aside and told that Mr. Irving was going to think about it and get back to me... I'm glad I didn't hold my breath but "true to their word" someone called me about six months later to say they decided "not to sell at this time but if they ever did they would get back to me".... well the world's changing because yesterday word came out that the Irving’s have put up 170,000 acres of timberland in Southwest Nova Scotia (about a fifth of the size of PEI) “up for sale” and have listed LandVest a Portland Maine company as the brokering agent... now I'm pretty sure J K Irving is rolling over in his grave somewhere but the reality is that things change and there are a lot of lessons to be learned here... one of which is my own philosophy "that everything is for sale except the wife and the kids" as I don’t like holding people up on their dreams… and the good news is I might be getting a call about that parcel on Harvard Street.... and to coin an old Churchill phase “never, never, give up…”

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