Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 23, 2014

Pipe Dreams

TRAVERSE CITY — The mid-January morning, like many others this winter, started with below-normal temperatures.

But the frigid forecast didn’t prepare Traverse Bay Manufacturing President Mark Toteff for the shock he got when an employee went to the storage area to turn on a compressor and discovered a pipe had frozen and burst overnight.

“There were 8 inches of water on the floor,” said Toteff, whose Elk Rapids company manufactures outdoor clothing for the military and retailers including L.L. Bean, Patagonia and Cabela’s. “A lot of water, a lot of damage.”

That damage extended to more than 800 new shirts and long underwear sets that, once wet, couldn’t be sold. Also among the sodden: ear warmers and headbands. Altogether the stock had a retail value of $20,000 or more, he said.

Seeing the perfectly good clothes go to waste wasn’t an option for the community-minded businessman. So he set about trying to donate them to the local nonprofit The Father Fred Foundation, which provides clothing and other assistance to many of the region’s families in need,

There was just one problem: neither the agency nor Toteff’s company had the laundry facilities to wash and dry the garments.

Toteff, a volunteer for the Detroit Red Wings NHL Prospects Tournament and Training Camp, made several phone calls seeking help. Then he remembered Cambria Suites, which provides lodging for several hockey teams that come to Traverse City for the event.

The hotel readily agreed to launder the clothing and prepare it for delivery to Father Fred.

“We have a big commercial laundry that’s not running 24 hours a day,” said Ron Robinson, operations director for Summerside Properties, which includes Cambria Suites. “We are part of the community and when we can we like to help out the community because the community supports us. It’s not a lot of cost or trouble for us to do that, and the end result is really nice.”

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