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Breakfast with Herb & Mike




Trying something new is never easy. Strictly Business has been a consistent voice and format in business advocacy for 35 years. We dipped our toe in the water of “Breakfast with Herb & Mike” the past two months. Having received unexpected, great feedback from our readers, we bring it back to you this month. Our discussion today is about the early days of Herb’s business career.


Mike: When I was growing up you always had a business on the side. Where did your entrepreneurial spirit come from?


Herb: In my early years on the police department, I grossed $42 a week and from that I had to buy my uniforms, gun and ammunition. We needed extra money and so, at the suggestion of three local businessmen I knew, I started a Sunday newspaper delivery service. I talked my friend, Mike McNally, into working with me. We made fliers and went door-to-door in the west end of the city offering delivery of the New York, Albany, Syracuse, and Montreal papers. We did well, signing up nearly 200 customers. The first week — it was winter time — we started our deliveries near the college campus. At our first stop, Mike got out of the van, slipped on the ice, fell, and broke his leg. I got him to the hospital and then set out to make our deliveries. By the next weekend I had hired a fellow police officer and we were on the job.


Mike: How long did that business last?


Herb: For about two years and then I handed it off to the officer who had been working with me.


Mike: “What came next?”


Herb: “In those days it seemed like there was a gas station on nearly every corner and that provided an opportunity. On my off hours I would stop by a station, ask to use the bathroom, then talk to the owner/operator and offer to clean for them. Almost everyone I approached was happy to have me take over a job no one else wanted. Those bathrooms led me to other cleaning jobs. Restaurants came next. I hired off duty police officers and we were soon cleaning 15 restaurants, then churches, schools and doing fire restorations and plowing on the side.”


Mike: I remember when you had a red pickup truck. You would take me with you in the evenings and we would buff the floors in the gym at St. Peter’s School. Whatever happened to your cleaning company?


Herb: By the late 1960s I had more than 25 employees and the company had become successful enough to attract the attention of a competitor from Utica. That company offered to buy me out and asked me to stay on to estimate fire restoration work.

Mike: Let’s stop there for a minute. When you mentioned the men who suggested you start your newspaper delivery business, I recognized one of the names — Dave Morris. Before I came to work with you at The Northeast Group, I worked for a brokerage company on the Canadian border. While I was there, I got to know a man named Steve Segal, who lived in Montreal, but grew up in Plattsburgh. Steve was Dave’s son and is now the president of a large customs broker based in Montreal. Steve was instrumental in helping me get the fulfillment division of our company off the ground. It is interesting how small the world really is and how what we do when we are young can affect what we accomplish later on in life. Dave Morris inspired you and his son inspired me.

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