National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Jane Clark: On the Road – August 2019

Summer in the Adirondacks conjures up visions of extravagant pre-Depression “camps” owned by icons of American society like the Vanderbilts, replete with boathouses, horseback rides, and formal dances.  In the 50s and 60s, the resorts of the Catskills were a summer vacation hot spot, as portrayed in the movie “Dirty Dancing.”  I was excited to take an August road trip through upstate New York including the Adirondacks and Catskills to see what summertime adventures might be in store for me.


I landed in Rochester and drove directly to DeCarolis Truck Rental, Inc., a NationaLease Member. Paul DeCarolis, Mary Grace Callipare, John DeCarolis, and Mark Williams took me to a local hot spot called Trata.  We sat on the rooftop and enjoyed a very sunny day along with our sandwiches and salads.  The building that housed the restaurant is a former National Guard Armory. It was constructed in 1916 as home to the 121st Cavalry Division stables, training ground, parade grounds and drill hall.  Halfway through lunch, Paul leaned over to me and pointed out the area where he and the other cadets had performed military exercises, long before it became a parking lot.  After lunch, I went back to DeCarolis’ offices and met with several other team members including Ryan Johnson and Joe Cialini to discuss the various programs that NationaLease provides to support our members.


I headed out from Rochester to Syracuse to find my hotel and the restaurant that Mary Grace had recommended.  She said they had the best Italian Wedding Soup, and being the fabulous cook that she is, I knew I could trust her recommendation.  I found Francesca’s Cucina in the heart of Little Italy, and walked in to a completely packed waiting area.  The hostess suggested I find a spot at the bar, since the wait was already well over an hour.  As I stood hovering near the bar waiting for someone to leave, the hostess quietly walked over and whispered “follow me.”  She seated me at a small table near the kitchen, which was perfect for people-watching, and a delightful waiter made sure I had everything I needed.  The Italian Wedding Soup was every bit as good as advertised, as was the homemade bread and the flavorful NY Strip.  Full and happy, I arrived at my hotel and turned in for the night.


The next morning, I stopped by Conway Beam NationaLease to meet with Marc Schmidt.  We discussed their business and the growth they are experiencing and reviewed some of the NationaLease offerings, including our excellent point of sale rental insurance program that allows rental customers to purchase coverage at the rental counter rather than waiting for their company to produce a certificate of insurance for them.  We also talked about the recent and upcoming NationaLease events. NationaLease holds meetings throughout the year for our member companies to learn and network with others in their roles, whether owners, maintenance directors, HR leaders, financial officers, or sales leaders.  We even have events for our up and coming leaders through our NationaLease Young Executives Club.


If you drive straight north from Syracuse, it takes about two hours to reach the Canadian border.  It is a beautiful drive, and crossing the St. Lawrence River into Canada takes you through the area called Thousand Islands.  In the early 1900s, this was another well-known resort getaway.  In fact, Thousand Island dressing allegedly originated here and was made famous when one of the vacationers, who happened to be the proprietor of New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, put it on the hotel’s menu.  Shortly after crossing through customs at the Canadian border, I arrived in Prescott, ON to visit Kriska NationaLease.  I met with Marcel Boisvenue and we discussed NationaLease’s supply management programs.  NationaLease has great partnerships with a number of top suppliers to provide our members and their customers with the finest products and service at the best price in order to maintain their vehicles and keep costs down. 


From Prescott, I headed back across the border, toward Albany, NY.  This route took me directly through the Adirondack Mountains, which were at their summertime peak.  The clear blue of the sky and the many lakes and rivers contrasted with the lush green that covered the mountains.  It was easy to imagine the New York elite escaping the heat of the city for the calming breezes of the mountains.  I didn’t have a chance to go yachting or horseback riding, but it certainly was a lovely drive. I started the following morning with a visit to Albany NationaLease where I met with Jay Hill and Timmothy Harper.  We discussed the growth and changes in their business and the various ways NationaLease can support them.  I updated them on some of the initiatives of our National Accounts team, who coordinate and consolidate the efforts of our members so that customers can get the best of both worlds: unmatched, customized local service, within a network across North America that has more service locations than any of our competitors.  We also discussed the upcoming NationaLease Sales Meeting where our members’ sales professionals can network and take part in sales training and industry updates.


I had some time before my next appointment, and I had a little work to catch up on, so I looked for a coffee shop on the map and ended up in nearby Troy, NY.  Troy is a town with a rich history, dating back to the 17th century.  It claims to be the home of Uncle Sam.  As the legend goes, military supplies for the War of 1812 were shipped through Troy by a local butcher and meat-packer named Samuel Wilson.  The “U.S.” stamped on the barrels was jokingly referred to by the troops to stand for “Uncle Sam” meaning Wilson, and Uncle Sam was born.  More recently, Troy was a hub for the steel industry, and shipping, but lost its prosperity with the downturn of the iron and steel industries.  It has retained its fabulous Victorian architecture, including a large number of Tiffany stained glass windows.  In downtown Troy, I found the coffee shop I was looking for, Superior Merchandise Company.  It is a delightful little place filled with plants, sunlight, and of course, coffee.  I got a table there, and worked until lunchtime.  I considered just having one of their scrumptious-looking pastries for lunch, but decided to take a walk and see what was nearby.  Right around the corner, I stumbled upon Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen, a local farm-to-table restaurant serving Korean specialties like the bulgogi I savored, while sitting in the warm and inviting dining room.

My next stop was Leroy Holding Company, Inc., a NationaLease Member, where I met with Will Carson.  We discussed a variety of topics, including the  webinars NationaLease hosts for our members, our breakdown service, NationaLease Road Rescue, which offers 24/7/365 breakdown assistance for our members, and our Introduction to Full Service Leasing class, which we offer to our members to help them in training their employees. We also talked about our supply management and capital equipment programs, and the resources we have available at the NationaLease Home Office to help our members take full advantage of these programs in order to maximize their savings.  We chatted a bit about the other members in the area that I had already visited.  They all know each other well (some of the relationships go back generations) and work together regularly to serve their mutual customers in the area.


I continued south from Albany, and into the Catskill Mountains.  The road follows the Hudson River, so I could look to the right and see the verdant mountains, or look to the left to see the river and its lush valley.  I stopped for the night in Fishkill, checked into my hotel, and looked around for a spot for dinner.  The nearby Red Line Diner was everything you could expect in an upstate New York diner—50s décor, huge portions, breakfast served all day, lots of red vinyl, chrome, and neon, and a very chatty waitress.  I sat at the counter and was happy to chat as I enjoyed a heaping plate of stir fry, recommended by the waitress, of course.  After a good night’s sleep, I drove the short distance to Cortlandt Manor, and met with the folks at Hudson Valley NationaLease.  I sat down with Bill Reed and the whole team there to review our purchasing programs, and was able to do a quick demo for them on our website about how to access all the information they need to take full advantage of our offerings.


From Cortlandt Manor, I drove toward Binghamton, which took me around the southern edge of the Catskills, and past the place where Grossinger’s, the most glamorous of the Catskill resorts and the inspiration for the resort in “Dirty Dancing,” once stood.  When I reached Binghamton, I met with Mike Venuti and Joe Carey at NEC NationaLease.  It was great to learn more about their unique business model, as well as to see their sprawling and ever-growing facility in Binghamton.  We discussed upcoming meetings, as well as the NationaLeaseReview that Joe had recently attended.  Once a quarter, we open up the NationaLease Home Office in Downers Grove, IL to any members who want to come.  They get a chance to spend time with the NationaLease staff and review all the programs NationaLease offers.  We love to meet with the members and get to know them better when they come to visit us!


I headed out on the last leg of my journey back to Rochester, where I would be flying out the next morning.  Before I headed home, Mike Margarone from DeCarolis Truck Rental, Inc., a NationaLease Member, met me for breakfast, even though he was technically on vacation.  We had a chance to chat and catch up, as well as share greetings from other members along my trip.  It was a lovely way to end my summer adventure in upstate New York.


While I didn’t end up horseback riding, yachting, or breaking into a dance routine, the Adironacks and Catskills were all I hoped for and more.  The scenery was breathtaking, the shops and restaurants were charming, and the sun shining brilliantly on the trees and reflecting off the water was invigorating.   It is no wonder that the wealthiest people chose to spend their leisure time here.  But for me, the true joy was in seeing old friends.  Traveling around this area made it even more clearl to me that NationaLease is all about relationships.  The members know each other and help each other, whether with a bit of good advice, serving a shared customer, or repairing each other’s trucks when they have a problem.  Through generations, the relationships with customers and fellow members remain and grow stronger.  It’s no wonder we are celebrating 75 years…and counting.  The journey continues…


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