Chance Encounter with a Standard Aero Project Manager

For a few years, I have worked as showroom manager, sales consultant, webmaster for a natural stone fabricator known as The Granite Guy on Dirksen Parkway on Springfield, Illinois’ far east side, what I call “the edge of the world.” I work there because I don’t own a car — though I did when I started there — and the owner lets me drive his old pickup truck which has begun to have a rumble in the transmission which the owner does not intend to repair.  <— That new issue will not be further addressed here except to say that if I lose the truck, I lose the employment and I lose AeroKnow Museum. This issue is still “young” and I expect to resolve it this week. Another reason I work there is because I often meet people who have news I can convert into articles written freelance for Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times, both of which have carried my  freelanced  byline for more than 10 years. Now that AeroKnow Museum is building presence at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, I also give museum brochures to anyone who mentions aviation in the course of dialogue about purchasing granite counter tops, bar tops, vanity tops, table tops . . . . you get the idea.  The subject of aviation does not come up frequently during these encounters, but when it does, I am ready with the brochures and business cards. It almost did not come up Saturday, September 3rd.

I had been making follow-up phone calls to customers who had visited the showroom and were known to be considering buying granite or marble from us. This had been going on all week, an effort to separate those who had changed their minds about doing business with us from those who were still interested. One person I had called earlier in the week (no names here; they haven’t written a check yet) visited our showroom early into Saturday afternoon, and engaged in happy patter about granite colors for the better part of 45 minutes, mostly in the blazing heat of the back lot. They were enthusiastic about the colors we offer, roamed this way and that among slabs, remnants and scrap samples,  and understood when I had to return to the showroom occasionally to see if any others had wandered in. Uncharacteristically, the owner was away; started his labor day holiday a few hours early after a morning of absolutely no visitors at all. The couple I chatted with Saturday afternoon was in no rush, and that was fine. The rapport was good. I appreciated their enthusiasm about us, and they appreciated my end of the conversation. We had found some small scraps of granite for them to take home, and being “the salesman who cares,” I had carried a few out to their car parked in front, while they carried a few more. The husband glanced at the back door to the cabin as I suggested, “What do you think? Shall we put these into the trunk?” and he altered his path for the back of the car.

When he opened the lid, I was surprised to see a small, ready-to-fly model airplane packaged, unopened, as though they had visited a hobby shop before their visit to the granite show room. I asked, “So, are you into aviation?” and he replied, “Yes, I work for Standard Aero at the airport.”

I said, “Oh yes. Great outfit with a great manager, Mike Menard; right?”

He nodded.

“I wrote a story about Standard Aero  for Springfield Business Journal soon after Mike came to town from Canada a few years go. Terrific fellow!”

Husband said, “I see him every day. I’m a project manager there.”

“You and he should know about my AeroKnow Museum that I’m putting together at the FBO off the main entrance (Standard Aero is in the north quadrant).” I really need some corporate support and volunteers who know a Falcon 2000 from a Piper Cub.”

He looked at me quizzically. “That’s YOUR museum?” and said he had seen it, but he had never met the fellow getting it together. (On this occasion, he was finally looking at him and talking with him.) He was clearly impressed with what he had seen peering into the office door window. He might have taken a short tour with FBO manager Rob Fisher who has a key and is welcome to show it to anyone who asks him for a closer look.

I explained it’s a not-for-profit corporation badly in need of some brain power and significant volunteer involvement. There was no time to return inside the show room to give him a brochure, but I did give him a business card from my handy wallet. I didn’t bore him with the details of the AeroKnow story  because his wife was clearly ready to get going.  So he hastened to the driver’s side of the car after closing the trunk, promising to visit the AeroKnow Museum web site and contact me about visiting soon. I said I’d be at the office or upstairs most of the Labor Day weekend.

As they drove away, I thought about this aviation professional, exactly the kind of person who — along with Standard Aero — could be a real asset to AeroKnow Museum, and how strange it must have been to meet the founder working as a glorified clerk (not that there’s anything wrong with glorified clerks) at a stone fabricator’s  show room on the edge of the earth. What a surprise.

There is only one person more surprised by the irony, the strange twist of circumstance he had shared.
That person returned to the show room and a few minutes later turned off the lights and locked the door, headed for the AeroKnow Museum where I would remain until returning home about 7:00 pm after a long and productive day.

Share the vision. Build the dream.

About Job Conger

I am a freelance aviation, business and tourism writer, poet, songwriter. My journalism appears regularly in Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times. I am author of Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing and available everywhere. As founder/director of AeroKnow Museum (AKM) and a volunteer with American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS), I created this blog to share news about AKM activity and aviation history.
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