Year End Report – Good Riddance 2023

I am generally a man in good spirits – and that is true today, too, but this year has been one pain-in-the-ass after another.  Most of these have been in the “real world” and not modeling related, but they have bled over and have affected and continue to affect my business.

Today, I turned off access to, and sales of, the Superior Props Old Timer props.  I have limited stock-on-hand and no idea of when I can have them available again.  I do have a supply of basic freewheelers, but as that diminishes, that category will also be disabled.

The backstory:  10 years ago, I visited Bob Gourdon in Louisiana and decided to purchase the Superior Props business.  I had a plan.  While I was still employed full time, my father would do the machining of the props as I needed them.  He had careers in carpentry, cabinet making, as a machinist, and finally a toolmaker.  He had retired 10 years prior and a new opportunity in woodworking and light machining gave him a new and enjoyable project in his retirement.  My plan was to eventually take over the prop shop myself – but that was in my wild-eyed youth and before I had grown Volare Products into what it is today.  Maybe both of us knew that plan would never come, I don’t know.

Regardless, after my mother died in 2020, his focus in life changed.  Now, at 84 years old, he has been spending 30-40% of his time in the Netherlands.  Again, I have plans.  But these plans are the slowest moving plans I have ever had.  A modeling friend of mine here in Michigan volunteered to take over the operations and we went down this spring for training.  One thing after another has prevented us from moving the shop north (my dad’s house is in Ohio).  At this particular point in time, I do not know when the move will happen, nor when Superior Props will be back in operation.

But that’s not all.  I am backlogged in my little shop and that dates back to early summer.  I’ve been trying and trying to catch up, but there have been events that have just kept punching at me and which have been preventing me from doing more than treading water.

The future looked bright in the spring of 2023, but there were clouds on the horizon.  My wife and I tend to take a summer vacation every couple of years and we schedule that in August as that month is usually light on contests.  We checked the calendar and adjusted appropriately.

In preparation,we had to consider my aging dog, Marcus.  He was 14, and getting weaker.  We had gone somewhere for a couple of days earlier in the year and when we brought him home from the kennel, he could barely walk.  It was a hard decision, but in early June we decided to put him down since a) he was suffering daily and b) it would be a terrible existence for him in a kennel for two weeks.  Anyone who has had a close pet understands – he was my daily companion since the day we rescued him from the pound.  He was there for months (as a puppy) – no one wanted him because he was deaf.  Anyway, that hit me hard.

Right on top of that, my sister-in-law told the family that they needed to get to Alabama to visit my brother.  He had been battling pancreatic cancer for a year and a half, declared cancer-free, and then hit with a recurrence – all in a year and a half.  We all decided to visit and I went down a day earlier than my father and other brother.  It is a good thing I did.  I spent the day with him and he passed away that night – before my family could visit.

One good thing that happened (but still took time) was the wedding of my younger son.  This happened at the end of June and was a wonderful event, and stands as a highlight of 2023.

July came fast after that. Bang-bang-bang:  A week in Geneseo for the FAC contest, the next week in Muncie for the AMA contest.  And then two weeks in Scotland and Italy.  We get home from that vacation and both of us are diagnosed with COVID.  More downtime.

I spent August and early September preparing 50 Scale glider kits for the FAC Outdoor Champs and got them ready.  The weekend before leaving for Muncie, I was “attacked” by a kidney stone.  Not only did I miss the contest, but I was diagnosed with an associated infection and had not one, but two stents (one after another) installed between my kidney and bladder.  This turned a week of periodic intense agony into a month of intermediate-grade discomfort and pain.  Now we are into October.

My father announced to us that he will be moving to the Netherlands and wants to sell the house and its contents by this coming springtime.  At one time, he and my mother were authorities in Early American Pattern Glass and wrote dozens of books and monographs on the subject – and the large house was jam-packed with all types of glassware.  They were antique dealers and collectors.  As my mother was declining, they disposed of most of their collection, but the house is still full of a great variety of antique furniture and family artifacts and history.  My brother and I are struggling to figure out what to do with it all in what is turning into a very short period of time.  Oh, and the Prop Shop is at my dad’s house still.

This has been hitting me harder than I expected.  All of my childhood memories and artifacts are being dragged to the surface.  What do I keep?  What do I let slip out of my life?  Where do I put everything I want to keep and pass on to my sons?  Of course, this also highlights my own mortality.  Oh, the anxiety.

So, I have turned off some of the Superior Props.  I am slowly doing analysis on my entire product line.  I am flooded with orders and struggling to make progress and eliminate this blockage of backorders.  By eliminating items which are a hassle to produce and package, maybe I can ease some of my future work.  The part I enjoy is kit production.  Well, let me clarify:  I like designing and developing kits; I don’t particularly care for packing and shipping kits!  But there are parts of the business I like even less than packaging kits, so those items will slowly disappear.  This is easy – I just won’t restock the times and I will remove them from the online catalog.  For example, why am I stocking glue stick when anyone can go down to the local supermarket and buy the exact same product off the shelf?

Anyway, 2023 had been one of the more challenging years in my life and I will be happy to turn the illusionary corner that is New Years and get on with something new.

Have the happiest holidays that you can manage.  I hope to see you at the next contest.

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