Who that was there can ever forget the little 54-booth Show at Circus Circus in 1998 that was planned for 500 and 2,000 showed up? I remember Jay Windfelder, then Avonite CEO and chief sponsor of the show, taking me aside. "Enjoy it, Mike," he said. "There may be better shows to come, but there will never be another first show."
This issue marks the end of a long association with SolidSurface magazine, and an even longer one with the solid surface industry. As I move on to become an attorney, no one is more surprised at the twists of my professional life than I. The past years have been difficult, but as I found some 11 years ago when diagnosed with a virulent cancer that told me I would not live to see Christmas, each day is really all any of us have. Reducing life to what I can or can't do today has been a gift and a technique that has never failed me when changes seemed overwhelming. And they always do.
That was actually the true reason I founded the magazine. When diagnosed, I knew that businesses with dead owners don't fetch much money, so I sold my shop in record time. But as fate, surgery and trips to specialists in New York would have it, I kept on breathing. Given the sorry state of industry communication back then, the idea of a magazine for fabricators seemed like a natural. What can I say? My entrepreneurial and risk-taking juices were flowing, I felt I might actually have a future, and the first issues just seemed to explode.
And ISSFA? As we grew in size to more than 1,100 member companies in 26 countries in just five years, I became involved in other people's lives on a scale I never could have imagined. To watch two-man shops grow to large businesses; to watch an entire industry come into its own; to be a part of the pride and enthusiasm and watch it solidify into an institution that will be there for years to come — I see now that I received a humbling gift that doesn't come to all. The beginning was an unmitigated joy and the ending just the opposite. I bear malice toward no one for events that strike me now as mostly silly.
For 18 months I drove a taxicab in Las Vegas, a job so fun that I hated to leave it. It's just as well that that book probably won't get written since any sane publisher would discard it as a pack of lies.
So goodbye solid surface. I still remember my first seam and my first faceful of white dust. After years of fighting with oak, poplar, maple and the occasional black walnut, all I knew was that here was something pretty neat that didn't warp, shrink, split or drive me nuts trying to get it to take a uniform finish. And pushing an ungodly huge router down a glued up edge and watching the top of a 3-in. bullnose appear — these are great memories to take with me, even though I wouldn't work that hard today even on a bet.
About the author:
Mike Duggan owned a solid surface fabrication business for nine years, is the founder of SolidSurface magazine and is the co-founder of ISSFA. He wrote for SSM for 11 years, and will be sorely missed. We wish him the best of luck in his quest to become a lawyer and hope he will continue to remember his time with this magazine and industry as a pleasant one.