I started my May road trip from San Diego. I had been staying at the Loews Coronado Bay for the previous week as I attended the NationaLease Maintenance Managers Meeting, so it was a great opportunity for me to make the most of my proximity and visit our SoCal members. My first stop was just on the other side of the Coronado bridge in National City. I met with Mike Torti, Jr. of NationaLease of San Diego. We discussed his challenges in hiring enough qualified diesel technicians to keep up with their growing business. NationaLease’s partnership with Universal Technical Institute is one of the ways we are trying to help our members with this challenge. We also discussed the upcoming 73rd Annual Meeting, which will be held at the Hotel del Coronado in September, and the Sales Meeting, which will also be in San Diego in November. Besides hiring new employees, additional difficult tasks are onboarding and training them. I shared with Mike one of the new programs that NationaLease has started this year; the NationaLease Review. This program allows members to send employees to the NationaLease Home Office for a two-day orientation to all the programs and services available through NationaLease, giving them the opportunity to meet one-on-one with NationaLease executives and staff.
From San Diego, I drove north toward Los Angeles, where I would spend the rest of my time that week. I made it to Velocity Truck Rental and Leasing, a NationaLease Member, right around lunchtime. When they asked where I wanted to go for lunch, I gave them my standard answer—I really don’t care, as long as it is something I can’t get in Chicago. That was all the encouragement they needed to go directly to The Hat. The Hat is a Southern California fast-food restaurant chain specializing in pastrami dip sandwiches. This eatery has been offering its “World Famous Pastrami” to Southern California residents since 1951. They currently have 11 locations which are run by the Conzonire family. During the 1950s, Corky Conzonire and wife Marilyn used to meet at the original Alhambra location. The place held a special place in their hearts, and in 1981, when Corky heard that the store was marked for demolition, he bought the place with his brother Joe. The pastrami really is good enough to be world famous and the chili cheese fries should be world famous if they aren’t already. I was glad I had gone for a run that morning as the meal certainly wasn’t light, but well worth it. We went back to Velocity’s offices where I met with David Deon and Roseangeli Ayson to discuss a variety of topics, including our purchasing programs and our upcoming Sales Meeting.
After all that world-famous pastrami, I wasn’t too hungry, so I went back to my hotel and worked for a while. As I sat there, it occurred to me that I probably wasn’t too far away from the very first place I ever visited in California. I looked at the map and realized I was only about a 20-minute drive from Claremont, where I had taught summer courses at the Webb Schools when I was in college. That also meant I was just minutes away from the In-N-Out Burger location where I had my first Double Double Animal Style. I hopped in the car for a quick trip down memory lane, past the school, the foothill path where I overcame my fear of riding a bike straight down a mountain, and of course, my original In-N-Out. Pastrami or not, I couldn’t pass by the opportunity, so I stopped in to the walk-up-only counter and ate my burger in the car, just like old times.
The next morning, I met Oscar Toy at Enterprise Truck Rental, a NationaLease Member. I was joining him on a customer visit at “the studios.” What could be more Hollywood than going to “the studios?” Film making requires a lot of trucks, and our L.A. members are there to help. First, we stopped for breakfast at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, and of course, I had the signature dish. Then we were off to the studio tour, which was quite an experience! It is much like what you see in the movies, with huge warehouses that contain the sets where TV shows and movies are filmed and lots of activity happening all at once. Some of the smaller details were fascinating to me as well, like a pile of shrink-wrapped furniture with a hand-written sign that said “Jay and Gloria’s bedroom” (from Modern Family, in case you don’t watch TV) and all the “Reserved” parking spots for each of the cast members of the various productions currently underway on the lot. Once back at Enterprise’s facility, I met Joe Conzonire, Jr., whose dad, Joe is the owner of Enterprise. If you are a careful reader, you might recognize that name from earlier in this blog. That’s right, in addition to owning Enterprise Truck Rental, Joe also owns The Hat. I asked Joe Jr. to give his dad my compliments on the pastrami!
My next stop was TCI Leasing/Rentals, a NationaLease Member. I had the pleasure of joining Gerry and Ryan Flynn for lunch at a local Italian spot, where Gerry seemed to know everyone in the place. After lunch, we went back to their office where we were joined by Richard Roldan. We discussed some of the topics covered at the recent Maintenance Managers’ Meeting, including technician hiring and training and our regional breakout sessions which allowed members to share maintenance challenges and best practices specific to their region of the country. We reviewed our many vendor programs and looked at some ways our members can save money by utilizing these programs. I was happy to get Richard’s input on these programs, as our Maintenance Directors are some of the most knowledgable people in the industry regarding what products and services actually work in day-to-day operations. We also discussed TCI’s growing business, including leasing and rental, contract maintenance, dedicated transport services, truckload logistics, and intermodal. Back in my hotel that evening, I remembered that Roseangeli Ayson had earlier recommended a nearby Peruvian restaurant for dinner. It was an excellent recommendation, since not only was I able to order my favorite Peruvian meal, Aji de Gallina and Inca Kola, but it was within walking distance from the hotel.
My final day of my SoCal adventure took me to Suppose-U-Drive Truck Rental Service, a NationaLease Member, where I met with Justin Johnston. We had a great conversation about their growing business and the challenges that inevitably come with expansion. We also talked about our Capital Equipment and Supply Management programs. Justin shared a few ideas and suggestions for the upcoming Annual Meeting, which I always really appreciate. We plan our events hoping to benefit our members as much as possible so that they can go home with information and ideas that will improve their business. We were actually able to engage one of the speakers Justin suggested. Thanks, Justin! From there, it was on to LAX and on my way home.
I hope you’re not disappointed that I didn’t write about a single star sighting, not one gnarly wave, no high speed chases or getting stuck on the 405. I didn’t even use the words “Dude” or “Bro.” While the California Tourism Bureau wants us to think of it as “The Golden State” or declare that “California is for Dreamers,” and songwriters write about California Girls and how it never rains in Southern California, there is more to California than meets the eye. California certainly is a land of glitter and glamour, sunshine, beaches, and traffic, but it’s also a place where hard-working people run their businesses, serve their customers, and take care of their families. So enjoy the latest blockbuster or tune in to see the stars walk the red carpet or listen to the songs and dream about California; but just remember, the dream is impossible without the trucks that bring it all there and the hard-working people behind them, including some very gnarly NationaLease members.