A hot week in August – one Hell of a time to replace a leaky flat roof on a music store.
This commercial building was in really bad shape. The old flat roof was rotten and had been leaking for some time. There were numerous roof repairs in the sagging roof which still leaked and ran down inside the walls and just destroyed them.
The heavy smell of musty mold permeated the air and left no doubt, this had to be fixed right away.
I’m quite familiar with this building as it belongs to my friend and best man, Bob.
We met when I moved from the bay area of California to the midwest of Illinois, way back in 1980.
We were a lot alike in many ways, very independent, rebellious of authority, we shared a love of music and pretty girls with blonde hair in summer dresses.
We lived in the same apartment building and became good friends, playing guitar, riding dirt bikes, skydiving, snow skiing trips, working on in his convertible GTO and partying with all of his friends.
When he sang and played guitar, he reminded me of Jackson Brown. Hell….he even looks a little like him.
He also introduced me to Lynn, one of his high school friends, now my wife of 32 years …which explains the “best man” part.
After working for his dad’s company and a few other jobs he decided to open a small music store.
The name would be The Music Source.
I had my own remodeling business so we worked together, sometimes late into the night, building the teaching rooms, making guitar display stands, painting the slat walls and installing the suspended ceiling.
We saved money by recycling used doors and windows for the studios from a previous job that I remodeled.
I made this custom guitar stand out of solid oak.
Within a year, he took over the space next door and we remodeled the music store again, adding eight teaching rooms and twice the show floor space. The improvements continued as the budget would allow such as new glass display cabinets and better lighting but the roof was patched and put off to the point where the damage could no longer be ignored.
We came up with a plan and a budget to remove and reframe the old roof which was actually 3 roofs, all in bad shape and tarred together. The only way to fix it was to start over, strip the 5 layers of torch down and gravel, replace the rafters to add pitch, and install new plywood decking and a rubber roof.
The only problem was, it’s a music store,
full of wooden instruments, guitar cases, amplifiers, expensive equipment and a guitar repair room in the back,
full of customer’s guitars …. and we’re about to rip the roof off and expose everything.
From the beginning, the plan was to apply for the permits, start boxing stuff up and moving it out of the store a month in advance. Maybe rent a big storage box in the back of the parking lot, take some of the inventory to bob’s house, put it in a moving truck…whatever. Get as much inventory out as possible.
The repair shop was supposed to be moved to the repair guy’s house including the client’s instruments and the store would remain open but, just barely.
Before: The guitar repair room
Five days before we started the demo, over $25,000.00 worth of wooden guitars and inventory showed up from UPS and filled the store to capacity. Not one guitar display spot was empty.
As an acoustic guitar lover it was a beautiful site but…Damn it Bob! What are you thinking?!!!!
We bumped heads about moving the stuff out but he would just say it was too hot to put guitars in a storage box and then forget about it. He didn’t want to spend any money to store anything or rent a moving truck.
He finally tells me….he invested ALL of his money – $25,000.00 on the new inventory…and needed to remain open at full speed and sell stuff to pay for everything else, like change orders, payouts, utilities, or a rental truck.
Bob had a business partner who also had $25,000.00 for his ½ of the remodeling costs which was understood from the beginning, but the whole arrangement just changed.
……Here we go.
Bob….my “best friend”, was an incredible guitar player and conversationalist.
You’d love to hear his stories or would be amused to watch him at the store when he talked to the waiting mothers of young students and make them blush with his kind smile and respectful playfulness,
....but he hated paperwork.
I learned the hard way the importance of a proper contract and a detailed specification sheet to avoid hearing:
“I thought that was included!” Our contract is a shortened Architectural standard format, …. it is abrupt, very specific and iron clad. But it’s worthless if it’s not signed.
He looked it over, agreed to the terms, we shook hands, he gave me the starting check, the permits were applied for and the materials were on the way. There were several small things to do inside while we were waiting for the permits to arrive. But he hadn’t actually signed the contract at this point, not yet.
The job was already off to a bad start.
The guitar repair man found out the day we started, he had to get out…Now. Nothing had been moved out or even boxed. The office was a covered with scattered paperwork and on top of the pile on the desk was my contract,
A week flies by and finally, I managed to catch Bob in his office, put the contract in front of him, hand him a pen and say, “Sign it, please.” He smirked and laughed about it and signed it as if it meant nothing…
”After all, our friendship was our contract.” It was as if he thought I was being too technical.
To me, it was just business as usual: Estimate job, sign contract, get check …. Ever watch People’s court?
With a signed contract in hand, I moved on with my mission to help my friend of 30 years and to “own” a huge project that needed a serious level of commitment. It’s not like we could just take our time.
It was full speed ahead …. Let’s do it.
The next day, the 40 yard dumpster arrived and my crew tore in to the roof like a pack of wolves on a deer carcass. The old tarred roof was 5 inches thick in some places and full of ants. The plywood decking was so rotten we had to watch where we stepped.
The demo and new framing went along without incident. Well, there was one thing….
Randy, my knucklehead apprentice was flirting with a girl in the back parking lot and walked right off the roof and almost landed on Bob!
I watched him in disbelief as he bounced off the concrete without a scratch. ”What tha hell are you doing?!”
Geez! That could have been a trip to the hospital and a lost day at the worst time possible. Like kids, I swear!
The plan was to take 2 days to replace the roof in two phases so the store was never unprotected. On the third day we would remove the tarps and the roofer would glue down a new rubber roof.
The Lake County Fair was going on across the street at the same time so the streets were full of cars and people. It was blistering hot and there were just a few clouds to give us a break from the sun.
We completed the framing late in the afternoon, right on schedule. We covered everything with tarps, nailing the edges and then we laid 10 ft. long 2×8s on top of the tarps to hold them down,.... just in case.
Just as we finished nailing the tarp edges to the outside of the building, the wind picked up dramatically.
We were all on the roof and in the process of bringing the tools down and securing the tarp. As we looked to the west, we could suddenly see a black wall coming at us, as if it just appeared. There were no warnings or weather reports about it. It was supposed to be clear weather all week. That was the plan!
The lake county fair was hit first and disappeared into a wall of rain right in front of us. We didn’t even have time to think about it as it raced across the street and was upon us as fast as it takes to lay down and hold on. The tarps ripped from the building as we fought to hold them down.
We were instantly soaked to the core. I couldn’t see. The wind had ripped my glasses off my face. The 10 foot 2×8s were tossed off the building as the wind grabbed the tarp like a parachute and ripped it to shreds.
Bob was next to me … we looked at each other as if to say, ”Can you believe this?” I yelled at him to go down and check the store and he disappeared in to the blur of 95 mph. wind driven rain.
Me and Randy stayed and rode the storm out …holding the useless tarp down… no matter what…. as if somehow it would make a difference.
What the hell were WE thinking? There was no time to think.
It came and went in what seemed like a minute.
What was left of the tarps and the 2×8s were all tangled together in the back parking lot. Somewhere in the middle of the pile were my glasses.
The inside of the store was destroyed. The rain came down in buckets which poured inside and soaked the insulation and collapsed the suspended ceiling on top of the new guitars.
There were ceiling lights and wires hanging down and the carpet was soaked with an inch of water.
We had argued about whether we needed plastic to cover everything but, I bought it anyway, just in case.
It was never used at his insistance, until it was too late.
He said, ”You can’t sell a guitar under plastic!”
All of the new guitars were wet. They were ruined.
At first, I looked around and everything seemed so surreal as if I was watching a movie. But then, this overwhelming flush of guilt swept through me and made me nauseous and dizzy.
How could I let this happen to my best friend? What have I done?
Then I thought, .... who is going to pay for this?
We made sure everyone was OK and quickly re-covered the roof with new tarps, not that it mattered much at this point. I found my glasses 80 ft. away, unbroken. We were numb and in shock over what just happened but as reality set in we realized the insurance company would have to be involved and therefore,
... we were temporarily out of a job.
One thing Bob had going for him was his unused, paid up to date, 30 yr. old property insurance policy.
They quickly came in like a Swat Team and paid to completely clean up, gut and remodel the whole inside of the store including a new handicap accessible restroom, upgraded furnace with AC, new light fixtures, new slat boards and display cabinets, new office equipment, ..... and lots of new shiny guitars.
Like Christmas at Santa’s house.
All hell breaks loose and he comes away with at least $250,000.00(?) in repairs and new inventory.
Meanwhile, we ended up finishing my “at cost -” contract and my roofing sub contractor installed the new rubber roof at cost, as planned. The insurance company had their own sub contractors for the interior damage and showed no interest in asking me for a bid on the new work.
I don’t know if my iron clad contract had anything to do with it but they never questioned me or indicated I was to blame, thank God. Or blame God, same thing.
It was really up to Bob. He did ask if I wanted to do the work but at this point, I’d had enough of this nightmare and my next “normal” job was waiting as scheduled. Time to move on.
The Music Source is doing well these days.
The new guitar repair room made the repair guy very happy.
Bob’s new office is nice but his desk is still a huge mess… Ha!
Bob now owns his building. The lake county Fair moved down the road and they are building a huge new shopping center across the street. They just finished paving a brand new 4 lane street in front of the store.
Talk about luck. He couldn’t possibly have ended up in a better location. Good for him.
The new store has a full parking lot now, with little guitar students strumming and blushing mothers waiting.
Funny how things work out.
It’s been over 5 years since the job ended. I’m surprised we haven’t run in to each other at the gas station or around town. It’s sad,….that we could let a bad storm come between a lifetime of friendship. After all the good times we’ve had, it seems like this would’ve made us stronger as friends. We made it through a difficult situation and finished the job as promised. In fact, it came out fantastic, all things considered.
We should be laughing about this by now.
They say you shouldn’t work for your friends…but I never listened. It’s just not my nature…..they’re my friends….who else is going to help them? I’d rather help and do the work for free!.....and I usually do.
I’m glad I was able to help my friend Bob in his time of need. I have no regrets as far as that goes.
But, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and sometimes, I wonder….what if I had said no and walked away from this job? Would we still be friends?....who knows for sure.
Maybe… I’ll stop in the store today and see if Bob is around.
After all…we were best friends.
-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.