Monday, March 23, 2009


I've written about this job before, and a mention of it to Rundeep recently made me think of it again.

Gotta be 5 years ago or so, I got a phone call from a guy named Adam. Seems prudent to not mention his last name. Adam was an old customer whose house I'd worked on when I was in my 20s, back when I actually did this stuff rather than paying people to do this stuff.

Adam's house back then, late 70s-early80s-ish, was located in one of the most expensive suburbs of Chicago, Winnetka. North Shore. I seem to recall it's also one of the most affluent suburbs in the US. Everything in Winnetka costs a million bucks. A 3 bedroom ranch costs a million bucks up there.

Anyway, Adam was gone for 20 years, but I remembered him, because I remembered his fancy house on Lake Michigan. I'd installed French storm doors, double doors, on his bedroom balconies overlooking the lake. (yes balconies, plural)

Adam called to tell me he needs doors again. More doors.

"I thought we did your doors already Adam."

"You did Mike, but we've moved."

"I love when you folks move. More work for me! Where'd you move to Adam?"

"Outer Drive and Irving Park."

"Downtown? Oh boy, that's trouble Adam."


"Parking, traffic, the Lincoln Park Pirates, the alderman, permits, gotta make two trips, one to measure, one to install....oh, it is a major project doing anything downtown Adam."

"I'll take care of all that. I'll have a parking spot for you, the Pirates won't tow you, don't worry about the permits."

"What floor are you on?"

"The 17th."

"Freight elevator?"

"Yep. It's all yours."

"How many doors?"

"Nine...oh and we don't need glass, just screens. The wind would pull the doors off if they had glass in them."


"Yeah, there's three sets of double doors on two balconies, a single off of the kitchen balcony, and two singles out by the BBQ balcony."


"Oh,....and the singles by the BBQ....they aren't square on top. They aren't round either, they're just kind of curved."

"That's called a segment top. That's totally custom Adam. I have to bring big pieces of cardboard and make templates for those. Then I UPS the cardboard templates to the door manufacturer, and they hand build your doors. Ridiculously expensive, just so ya know. Oh and they take like 12 weeks to get."

"No problem,....When can you measure the job so we can get started?"

"Tomorrow. 10:30AM."

"The doorman will be expecting you. Thanks Mike."

"Oh no, thank you."

So I went to Adam's building, and sure enough the doorman was expecting me. One parking spot by the driveway, actually on the front lawn of the building, where delivery trucks and mail trucks sit idling, only today it was mine!!

"Hi I'm here to measure Adam's doors. He told me he's on the 17th floor, but I forgot to ask him which unit."

"It is the 17th floor sir. The elevator's right there, just push the top button."


So that's Adam's building in the middle there, and those balconies that he was talking about are those set-backs at the top of the building. The one in the picture is facing south towards the Loop. that's the BBQ balcony, ....there's the exact same balcony facing north on the other side, and another facing west in the back of the building.

The entire upper floor, plus the part that sticks up above that, is his house. The big window at the crown of the building is at the foot of his bed, looking out at Lake Michigan.

Not a bad view.

Anyway, I got to the penthouse, and sure enough he had segment top doors, 2 of them on his "BBQ Balcony." (That's the balcony visible in the picture facing south. )

So I got out my cardboard, and made my templates. Very careful on this one, because you don't want to buy segment tops twice. Measure once, cut twice I always say....or something like that.

And while I was up there with my camera, I figured I'd take a few extra pictures from the job for my company website.

That's the view looking north up the Outer Drive. Chicago Muni golf course and Montrose Harbor.

Not a bad view.

That's looking west. In between the nighboring building and the building in the distance, you can just make out Wrigley Field. Adam's house is one of the houses you see in the background when looking out from home plate at Wrigley.

About 3 months later, we went back and installed Adam's screen doors. Without a doubt the most expensive job, proportionally speaking, that I've ever done. I think his doors were something like $7000, and they're just screens. Really friggin' custom screens, professionally installed on the 17th floor, but still.....7 Gs for 9 screen doors.

Professionally built and installed segment tops. Some of us know what we're doing.

I went back to take my "after" pictures, and bumped into a guy on the elevator who told me Adam was completely gutting the entire place, and the doors were the first thing on the list. He said, ..."They bought the place for $2.1 million, and now they're going to spend another million fixing it up. Unreal! These people must be made of money."

Curiosity piqued, I did some research 5 years ago on my old customer Adam. Well I'll be damned. Chief financial officer for Chicago's largest hedge fund, which controls over $40billion in assets.

I thought of Adam again recently, when Vanity Fair did a fantastic piece on hedge funds. Turns out Adam's fund has lost 55% of its peak value.


And what's worse than that, is that Adam's fund isn't doing as badly as some others. I think the other shoe is about to drop folks. When the hedge fund numbers start coming in from the first quarter of 2009, people are going to freak out all over again. Hope I'm wrong.


artandsoul said...

I went to college (Stetson University) with a guy named Adam Wrigley from Chicago.

He was related to the gum family.

Keifus said...

I imagine it was a nice ride while it lasted. On the other hand, how nice do you really need your doors to be?


Schmutzie said...

The "I don't care how much it costs" vibe was strong with Adam. That dude was making so much money that I'm sure a stupid little expense like this meant nothing to him.

Just like Sam Zell throwing down all that cash to hold the annual Limo Races.

I wonder if they wish they could undo some of their free-spending ways, or if they just consider it part of being rich.

Thomas Paine said...

I was recently talking to one of the two brothers who own the company my wife works for -- his father owns one of the larger, very private hedge funds around. He mentioned casually that his family (consisting of his father, step-mother, plus his brother) has lost over a billion of net worth in the last year, but that it really wasn't a big deal and they were using the current situation as a good opportunity to pick up a couple more private jets at a good price -- and maybe another vacation residence....

Guess the very rich really are quite different from the rest of us.

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