Dateline: 1961: Kennedy is president, the
U.S. breaks diplomatic ties with Cuba and the Berlin Wall is being erected...the
"Cold War" has begun. The Yankees win the World Series, Patsy
Cline releases "Crazy" and Ty Cobb and Chico Marx are laid to
rest. The Federal debt is 292.6 billion dollars, a first class postage stamp
costs four cents, and I'm born seven years after my older brother Terry,
and almost two years to the day before my younger brother Glenn. My dad
owns a Chevron service station on the South West side of Rochester, New
York and my mother works on the switchboard at Genesee Hospital.
Born and raised in Rochester New York's busy 19th ward, I spent my "formative"
years hanging around with my friends Kevin, Pete and the Piccolo brothers
in what was a typical 1960's inner-city neighborhood. We were pretty normal.
Beginning in kindergarten, we walked 10 blocks to John Walton Spencer Public
School #16. We played Battleship, Rock'em Sock'em Robots and street hockey.
We payed $1.25 to see Japanese monster movies at the Coronet Theater on
Saturdays, and snuck in our own ten cent cans of Blue Boy pop. We watched
the Flintstones, Mr. Ed, American Bandstand and F Troop . We built model
cars at Kevin's kitchen table. We filled those model cars with GulfLight
charcoal starter and fire crackers, set them on fire and sent them down
the slide at the playground.
Alright...so were weren't completely normal, but we survived it all.
My family moved to the nearly suburb of Irondequoit the year I started Junior
|Even as a baby, I had that funky
hair and pudgy fingers...|
| Those Fashionable Briskie Boys.|
| "A real full-blooded exodus erupted in the early
1960s with school busing and the unethical real-estate practice of block
busting, Race riots in the inner city in 1964 further diminished its reputation
as a safe place to raise a family. White flight began as thousands of families
found suburban living more appealing. Residents of the 19th Ward, formerly
accustomed to leaving doors unlocked and keys in cars, were now plagued
with robberies. Businesses that had served the neighborhood for generations
closed or relocated because of shoplifting and vandalism. Predatory gangs
roamed Thurston Road and Genesee Street. Drugs, violence and property neglect
brought home values down. Sadly, many citizens felt they could no longer
walk the once peaceful streets without feeling threatened." |
from Images of America: Rochester's 19th Ward
by Michael and Glenn Leavy
Yes...chrome studs on a denim shirt...
The long hair days...1977
Class of '79
The Summer of 1979
Irondeqouit was only a half hour North of Rochester, so I spent many
weekends staying in the city with my old friends, or likewise having them
come out to the 'burbs to stay with me.
Those relationships will never die. The guys from the neighborhood I grew
up in, Kevin (Doughboy), Pete, Keith...I still hang out with today.
But I made some great friends in Irondeqouit as well. Dave Schaertel, Rusty
Braund, another Keith (Armitage), Eric Rothfuss, Mark Gregory, James "Goona"
Montanus, Ramone Vorndran, Mike Boehm, John Driscoll, The Kucharski Brothers,
Paul Salamone, Pat Suss...we all hung out in pretty much the same way that
I had in my old neighborhood. What did change however, was street hockey
had surrendered to hot rods and keg parties. Hanging out on the Post Ave
Church fire escape evolved into all-night bonfires on Lake Ontario's Durand
Beach. We virtually lived on Lakeshore Blvd....a mile-long, four
lane strip that ran parallel to and overlooked the beach; and was a mecca
for fast cars, dusk-til-dawn parties, girls and great music. Lakeshore Boulevard
was the place to see people, and the place to be seen. More than 250 cars
, cruising a circuit that stretched from Charlotte Beach to Seabreeze Amusement
Park, with every radio tuned to WSAY until it signed off at midnight. After
that, it was a free-for-all of Blue Oyster Cult, Yardbirds, Rush and Rolling
Stones 8-track tapes. In hindsight...it was a charmed life. Most importantly,
I met my future wife at Irondequoit High School.
Fast-forward through four years of absolute fun, albeit a bit blurry,
at Irondequoit High School; and 1979 finds me graduating and getting ready
for what would be a brief, seven month long college career. In late 1980,
I jumped at the chance to work in a retail advertising office; hired originally
to paste up ads and provide illustrations, as a way to help build my fledgling
new graphic design business, Cocoanut Jam Studios.
I ran away from home at age 21.
By 1984, I've worked my way up, but eventually out of the advertising department,
and am struggling to make a living doing freelance design work, lettering
race cars and doing airbrush and pinstriping work. I work as a service writer
and parts person at a local Western Auto service center four nights a week
to make ends meet, and by 1986, I'm engaged to Paulette Palumbo. We assume
a 20 year mortgage on a house down by the beach in '86 and get married in
Hit that fast-forward button again, and get past the years of eating macaroni
and cheese, and standing my ground on pricing and standards in both our
sign shop and our custom paint business, AutoGraph Customs. For a few years
in the early 90's, I partner up with four friends, form the Motorsports
Exhibition Group, Inc, and start producing what were unquestionably the
best indoor custom car shows in Western New York. The novelty of losing
money on such a grand scale wears off after a few years however, and MEG
disbands. All the while, Paulette and I are running our sign and graphics
business, the paint shop, and are still able to sneak in at least one, 4-day
weekend of fishing up in the 1,000 Islands region of New York each month
from May to November. By the late '90s, Paulette and I have outgrown
our home. Not just in size, as the businesses grew and took more space;
but in our mindset...the novelty of being down by the water, and five minutes
from the beach was outweighed by the nuisance of the never-ending parade
of hot rods and motorcycles that were beach bound from 7 PM on...and coming
back past our place at 2 AM when the bars closed. It was time to move.
|The young entreprenuer|
| Engaged at 24 |
| On the road together|
Uprooting our personal lives, not to mention two businesses, required
a lot of planning and patience. We looked at well over 200 houses, mostly
in outlying areas, for over a year; before finding the right place. The
right place came in the form of a 3,800 square foot raised ranch with a
walk-out basement, attached 2.5 car garage on about an acre of property
in Adams Basin, New York. It was only 20 miles West of Rochester, so we
could maintain most of our clientel base; and had more than enough space
in the lower level of the house for the businesses. Adams Basin is a quiet,
historic, post card-like hamlet on the Erie Canal, and our property backed
up to Salmon Creek. It was perfect.
1998 was a tumultuous year. We took a month off from work, and in 30
days we spent $30,000 turning the lower level of our home into our dream
shop in Adams Basin. '98 also found me securing my first paying gig endorsing
a product, SignGold; and started working at sign and graphics trade shows
on their behalf. The chaos hasn't stopped since. Now, I travel eight to
ten weeks out of the year. Paulette and I still run the sign and custom
paint shops, we launched an online clip art company (www.CustomClipArt.net)
in 2004, and founded a marketing and promotions firm, Promotional Genius,
Together, Paulette and I have created quite the little empire. All four
businesses under one roof - and all under the collective name Brian The
Brush World Headquarters. I'm presently enjoying being a regular columnist
to a leading trade publication, AutoArt Magazine, and am proud to be a board
member of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. I eventually stopped
providing any services to SignGold, due to ethical differences; however
we've added companies as prominent and prestigious as Spraylat's 1 Shot
Paints division to our marketing portfolio and continue to try and release
a new clip art collection every 60 days or so.
Now we have to start working on getting back up to the Islands for some
We suddenly and unexpectedly lost my father in May of 2008, on
the day that he and my mother were permanently moving back to New York after
14 years in Florida. I can't even begin to explain what an influence my
parents have been on my life, both personally and professionally. My work
ethic, my sense of justice, my sense of humor and even my bluntness were
"Briskie" traights. My dad was a car guy, and I'm a car guy. My
dad was a collector of things, and I am an avid collector. My dad was a
great storyteller...which is most likely the origin of my own journalistic
endevours. My father taught me to treat customers and clients with respect,
as they are my "bosses" at that point in time; but to never forget
that we're adversaries. My dad also taught me that you're born with
one last name and if you take good care of it, it still has some value when
Now, I find myself in my 50's.(Paulette stopped aging at 29)Together
we still maintain our 12-13 hour days running our busy sign shop, busier
custom paint service, a rapidly growing online clip art company and providing
marketing, promotional and advertising services to about 150 clients annually.
We still enjoy the custom bike and car shows, but I've scaled back my
travel schedule and on-the-road teaching and speaking engagements.That's
a young man's lifestyle
I'm not slowing down...I'mchanging directions again.
|Mom and Dad||
|Brother Terry, his wife Sharon & Jazz|
|My brother Glenn and his daughter Sidnie|