I Used to Be Somebody: (Un)Retirement Lessons Learned

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Dewey Forward Interview: Night Club Owner Pivots to Popcorn Shop

Diana Landau | December 04, 2023

Dewey ForwardCarl interviews music promoter/serial entrepreneur Dewey Forward this week. Just some of Dewey's accomplishments include organizing and promoting over 4,000 concerts, opening Peabody's Cafe and Peabody's DownUnder in Cleveland Flats and also developing the Sohio/BP RiverFest, (which was Ohio's largest festival in history with over 1,000,000 attendees). He has produced concerts for Spyro Gyra, Pearl Jam, Etta James, Wynton Marsalis, REM, Donovan, Bon Jovi, Bo Diddley and countless others. Dewey is also now the proud owner of an iconic popcorn shop in picturesque Chagrin Falls, OH.
 
Like Carl, Dewey grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. "It was a 'Leave it to Beaver' childhood, " he says. Enterprising even at the age of 9, Dewey started a "canteen" in his basement, selling refreshments and a place to hang out to the neighborhood kids. He also says he was a troublemaker in school and was on a first name-basis with the Principal.
 
After trying out three colleges, Dewey settled on Hartford where he says he didn't learn much in class but learned a lot about producing successful events. "I learned how to organize and promote concerts and events and how to create a crowd." He founded SAW--a student organization against the Vietnam War, organizing bus trips to Washington D.C. to protest.
 
Fun Fact: Dewey Forward is a "Jr.", his last name of English descent. "No one forgets my name!"
 
Carl notes that being a concert and event producer is a high-stress, high-risk career. "Yes, my parents were aghast but I didn't listen to them." In 1977 Dewey opened Peabody's Cafe and Peabody's DownUnder, two successful ventures in the up-and-coming Cleveland Flats neighborhood. His mother gave him the money to start both businesses. "I paid her back and I'll forever be grateful." By the time Dewey moved on, the area had grown from 5 restaurants and bars to 53. "When I look back on it, it was a blast but also so stressful."
 
Dewey retired for the first(!) time at age 50. Not one to sit still, he started a new business every five years. Now at 74, he's learning not to add more stress into his life. He does a lot of physical activity, including bike riding. "It clears my head and is good for my heart!" He and his girlfriend love to travel and he's building a second home on Lake Erie. His five words for the (un)retirement good life: "Keep moving and no stress!"
 
Dewey Forward's (un)retirement tips:
  • "Get rid of that negative voice in your head that tells you that you can't do things. We are a very capable generation!"
  • "Don't be too old to retire. What I mean is, do not keep working until your body is too old to do anything else."
  • "I'm not a planner. I just say, 'That looks fun!' and then I put blinders on and go for it!"Dewey Forward Interview
 

 

• More about: Dewey Forward and Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
• Sponsored by: Capital Advantage
• Sponsored by: How to Retire and Not Die
• I Used to be Somebody World Tour: First Stop Tuscany

 

Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the "I Used to be Somebody" blog.
 
Tags:    Blog   I Used To Be Somebody   Unretirement   Interview   Dewey Forward   Carl Landau   Night Club   Popcorn Shop   Pickleball Media  

Jed Smith Interview: Creative Marketing Exec Thrives in Italy as Artist

Diana Landau | October 10, 2023

Jed SmithThis month Carl chats with Jed Smith, a former top marketing exec who worked with brands all over the country, including Athleta, where he was the Senior Creative Director, before making his next big move 10 years ago--to Italy. Jed has embraced (un)retirement as a very accomplished artist and photographer. He is also the author of the recently released book "Under the Oak with Agnes.
 
Jed spent his growing up years in Columbia, South Carolina. His father was a nuclear engineer and his mother was an artist and art teacher. "She really brought out my love of art and expression......I am so grateful for that."  As a teen in Clemson, Jed says he didn't feel confident then and wasn't sure about his place in the world. Everything came together for him in college when he entered University of Georgia's School of Graphic Design.
 
Jed studied art abroad during college in Cortona, Italy. "I wasn't prepared for how it blew me away!" Living in Italy ignited a hunger in him to one day live in a different country and culture. Through his career, Jed lived in 15 U.S. states. (He adds that his mother always said he was restless.)  Years ago, Jed was working on a photo shoot in Italy for Athleta and stayed longer for vacation. Soon he was touring properties with a real estate agent. He'd just sold his home in San Francisco and he decided to buy a home in Italy. 
 
Jed has embraced his (un)retirement life in Italy. In addition to becoming an author, Jed blogs regularly on his Italywise.com about making the transition to living in a new country and wants to help others with adapting to a new culture and language. He also recently launched a new standalone website, Jedsmithart.com for his incredible paintings and photography. "Wake up every day and remember that your ability to create is without limit," he says.
 
Now 67 and living on the Italian coast, Jed is on the move again--this time to Ragusa, Sicily. "With everything I've learned, it's important to surrender. Show up, do your best, tell the truth and then let go of the outcome!" 

 

Jed Smith's tips on making the leap to a new country and culture:
  • "Americans don't often understand the flipside of immigration. You can't just waltz into another country. Research and plan as you begin to navigate the process."
  • "Be careful how you balance the romantic side of your dream with the practical realities."
  • "Without a command of the language, your experience will be so limited."
  • "My pet peeve: Don't try to pack up your culture and move, only leaning into what's familiar."
  • "If you're not feeling a little nervous, you're not taking the committed leap! Demonstrate to the universe that you are serious about the step you're taking."
• More about Jed Smith
• Sponsored by Capital Advantage
• Sponsored by Mike Ownbey, COMPASS 
• Sponsored by How to Retire and Not Die
• I Used to be Somebody World Tour: First Stop -- Tuscany
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the "I Used to be Somebody" blog.

 

Tags:    Blog   Carl Landau   Jed Smith   Artist   Unretirement   I Used To Be Somebody   Italy   Marketing   Executive   passion  

Dat Truong Interview: High Tech Exec to Best Pho and "Grandma's Secret"

Diana Landau | September 07, 2023

Dat Truong
This week Carl interviews Dat Truong, a former Silicon Valley Techie who left the big paychecks behind in search of something new, something fun, something more meaningful. Dat, who currently owns Lela's Bistro and Grandma's Secret in Portland, OR, started his career on Wall Street, working with the likes of Wall Street Systems, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and others. He then pivoted to Silicon Valley where he contributed to several software start-ups that were later acquired. Now at age 53, Dat says he's living life on his own terms and is loving his new endeavors as an entrepreneur and restaurateur.
 
When Dat was 5 years old, his family immigrated from Vietnam to New York, just days before the fall of Saigon in 1975. He says his father, who he aspires to be like, was the most selfless, hard-working person he has ever known, working as an engineer while Dat's mother managed the family. After college in New York, Dat lived in Manhattan and worked on Wall Street.
 
Dat felt like the black sheep in his family. He was always very social and outgoing, as opposed to his studious siblings. These qualities served him well in his high-tech career in management. "You have to learn to work with people; communicate tactfully, be a good listener and know your audience." In 1997, ready to escape the hectic lifestyle of NYC, a friend encouraged Dat to move cross-country to Silicon Valley to join an internet security start-up. 
 
After 20 years in Silicon Valley high tech, Dat moved to Portland to leave the hustle and bustle of the bay area, searching again for something new, something more meaningful, something that would fit with his healthy lifestyle. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do next. "It was a real struggle contemplating different directions I could take." In Portland, he found Lela's Bistro and loved their Grandma’s beef pho so much he ended up going there 4-5 times a week. "Their food is so clean, so deeply flavorful." 
 
After several weeks, Lela's owner asked Dat if he had a job, because he was there so much. After telling her he was contemplating a new career that aligns with his healthy lifestyle, she told him to buy Lela’s and they'd work for him! Never owning a restaurant before, Dat's "Aha" moment came when he decided to take his own advice and embrace his sense of curiosity, of which running a healthy restaurant was one of them. And the rest is history. "It was one of the best decisions of my life. We provide honest wholesome meals, made from scratch by Grandma Chef, to a lovely community.” 
 
Dat learned to hire genuine, kind -hearted people. "If you surround yourself with good people, a good team, good things will happen," he says. Grandma, (Co Ngan, who makes the amazing beef pho), told Dat she used to sneak out in her 20's to underground bars in Saigon to satisfy her curiosity and sense of adventure. Another "Aha" moment came for Dat. He wanted to celebrate Grandma’s younger years. He created this wonderful subterranean mid-century cocktail bar, reminiscent of a French Colonial bar in Saigon, with vintage glassware, black and white photos of a young Grandma, soft music and conviviality. At Grandma's Secret, a blue light shines when they're open but there's no sign, relying on bringing in patrons by word of mouth. It's no surprise that the bar has already been featured in Eater Portland.
 
Dat says two things have helped him in his new endeavors. "I've let go of my ego and I stopped caring how others judge me. Removing those two aspects of who I am has been liberating. I can just be myself!" We think that's great life advice too.
 
Dat Truong's (un)retirement advice:
  • Pursue your curiosity. What drives you inside? Stop saying "What if?" and try it!
  • Pursue aspects of your lifestyle that are important to you. I love healthy eating and meeting new people. Lela's and Grandma's Secret are part of that.
  • Surround yourself with good-hearted souls. This is important in work and in life.
  • Have genuine intentions. It's a reflection of you!
   
• More about Dat Truong
Lela's Bistro
• Sponsored by How to Retire and Not Die
• Sponsored by Capital Advantage
• Sponsored by Mike Ownbey, COMPASS
• I Used to be Somebody World Tour: First Stop -- Tuscany
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the "I Used to be Somebody" blog.

 

Tags:    Blog   Dat Truong   Interview   (Un)Retirement   I Used To Be Somebody   Pho   Business Owner   Bistro   Grandma's Secret   Carl Landau  

Steve Israel Interview: Eight Term US Congressman Now Cool Bookstore Owner

Diana Landau | August 09, 2023

Steve Israel
Carl has interviewed CEO’s, entrepreneurs, artists, and athletes, but this is his first interview with a U.S. Congressman. In this episode he talks with former U.S. Representative Steve Israel of New York. After leaving office in 2017, Steve has been a political commentator on CNN, MSNBC, HBO and more, is a frequent author for many media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post and The Atlantic. He is also Director of the nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. In addition, he has written two books, (Big Guns and The Global War on Morris.) Then in 2021, he became an entrepreneur and launched a new dream job—as the owner of an independent bookstore, Theodore’s Books, in Oyster Bay, NY. “Independent bookstores have always been my sanctuary. They make me feel good, safe and optimistic.”
 
Steve was born in Brooklyn and raised in Levittown on Long Island. He had the classic, middle-class family. “I took those valuable lessons with me to Congress,” Steve says. “It was tough to meet bills but there were plenty who struggled more than we did.” He started writing as a boy. (Does anyone else remember typing away on a Smith-Corona?) In high school, he worked for the student newspaper. “It put me on the path to being able to communicate.” He eventually became very interested in news and politics and knew even then that he wanted to work to make a difference in the world.
 
Carl asks Steve what it felt like to walk into Congress that first day in 2001. “It was the most extraordinary and surreal experience of my life. When I raised my right hand for the oath, I felt goosebumps—still do!” Steve ran for office 8 times and won 8 times. Carl asks him what most of our listeners would be surprised to know about Congress. “Congress is a far more civil and tranquil place than you see on television. There are people working together on both sides to create solutions. The news media is conflict entertainment, but there’s another story to be told.”  
 
The scoop: You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear Carl and Steve talk about Steve’s successor George Santos, the huge void of local, investigative journalism, voter complacency, plus big disaster relief antics from Florida Governor Ron De Santis.
 
Steve started thinking he was ready to move on from public service but got some good advice from a mentor to postpone his retirement for two years, in order to make sure he was making the right decision. "Best advice!" Steve says. When he did retire in 2017 at the age of 59, he began political and media consulting, teaching at Cornell University, wrote two books,  and more. "I think one mistake I made at first was to take on a bit too much." Since 2021, Steve is passionate about his bookstore. "It's hard, it's a challenge and I love it." In addition to running Theodore’s, Steve still does ALL the other things he does and is now working on his third book.
 
Steve Israel’s (Un)retirement Advice:
  • “The transition to (un)retirement wasn't easy, it took a little time to get used to it. Opening my own bookstore gave me a sense of empowerment in a different way than before. Try to take that risk, focus on the one thing that will be fulfilling.”
  • (On filling up the daily schedules) “I’ve had to struggle with the discipline of saying, "No.” I’m still working on it.”
  • “Accept the fact that we're not put on this earth to do one thing forever. Try something new and be courageous. You can do other things with your life—you can pursue different passions!”
 
• More about Steve Israel
• Sponsored by Mike Ownbey, COMPASS 
• Sponsored by How to Retire and Not Die
• Sponsored by Capital Advantage
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.
 
Tags:    Blog   Interview   Steve Israel   Carl Landau   Pickleball   I Used To Be Somebody   (Un)Retirement   US Congressman   Bookstore Owner  

Maxine Clark Interview: Build-A-Bear Mega Founder Turns to Social Entrepreneurship

Diana Landau | July 07, 2023

Maxine Clark Interview: Build-A-Bear Mega Founder Turns to Social EntrepreneurshipCarl interviews Maxine Clark, a true catalyst and inspirator. After a two-decade career as a successful executive in retail, Maxine pivoted at age 48 and founded Build-A-Bear Workshops, which has sold nearly 250 million stuffed animals worldwide. In 2004, Maxine orchestrated the company's highly successful $170 million IPO, the first St. Louis woman to do so. Maxine, a woman of boundless energy and enthusiasm, continues to be a driving force for positive change in the world.
 
Maxine grew up in Coral Gables, FLA. Her father was an electrician and her mother had quite a remarkable career in the non for profit realm. Maxine tells us her mother graduated high school at 14 and went to work as a secretary for Eleanor Roosevelt. Fun fact: Roosevelt urged the women who worked for her to go out in the world and advocate for positive change. Her mother did so, first as a big fundraiser in the community and then started a school for children with Down's Syndrome. Maxine tells us, "My mother was very creative. No problem can't be solved. I like that."
 
Although she first thought she wanted to go into law, after college she began an illustrious career in retail, working her way up the ranks of the May Company. She became President of Payless ShoeSource in 1992. In 1996 at the age of 48, she moved to St, Louis and started thinking about a new business. Sparked by the idea of creating personalized teddy bears, she tried to buy a couple companies, which didn't work out. Everyone told her she was crazy.
 
But you guessed it--only nine months later the first Build-A-Bear Workshop opened in St, Louis. Carl asks Maxine how she could go from creating a concept to opening a store in record time. "I'm pretty good at planning and execution. I had experience and resources. But I also had a vision." As Founder and CEO, Maxine led her Build-A-Bear team to the pinnacle of growth and success just seven years after start up. She was the first woman to bring an IPO to Wall Street, managing critical relationships for the company to be publicly traded on the NYSE.
 
After 17 years with Build-A-Bear, Maxine wanted to pivot again, but this time in the not for profit world. In 2015, she launched a ground-breaking project to create positive change in her community. The "Delmar Divide" was an area in St. Louis historically known for segregating poor black neighborhoods from white neighborhoods. Maxine's team bought the old St. Luke's Hospital and is developing an innovative hub and collaborative space dedicated to helping not for profit creatives to work together, to improve the lives of children and families in the metropolitan St. Louis area. This once-neglected dividing line in St Louis is now being transformed into The Delmar DivINE. Maxine says, "This is joyful work. Dream the dream-- supreme!"
 
Maxine Clark's Inspirations:
  • "Your experience is so valuable to somebody else. There's always something you can do to strengthen your community."
  • "Look around at what interests you, whether its non-profit or volunteering and just meet people around it. Network!"
  • "I like to bring experts to the table, and I also sit at the table, to make sure we find solutions and continue to move forward."
 
• More about Maxine Clark
• Sponsor by Capital Advantage
• Sponsor by Mike Ownbey, COMPASS
• Sponsor by How to Retire and Not Die
 

Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” blog.

 

Tags:    Blog   Social   Entrepreneur   Pickleball   Maxine   Clark   Build-A-Bear   CEO   Interview   How To Retire and Not Die   Carl Landau   UnRetirement   I Used To Be Somebody  

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