Driving Leadership; Kevin Crosley

 

On this episode of Driving Leadership, Bill Berthel interviews Kevin Crosley, CEO of Arc Herkimer. They explore the unique facilities and initiatives of the organization, which focuses on building community and diversifying revenue streams. They visit The Good Store, a retail outlet that started as a partnership with Goodwill Industries and has become a successful venture. They also tour a renovated building that houses various businesses, including a phone case manufacturing company and BOCES administrative offices. Additionally, they visit a golf course owned by Arc Herkimer, which provides job opportunities and recreational activities for the people they support. Crosley expresses his passion for his work and the excitement he feels about the organization’s growth and initiatives.


 

Prefer to read the transcript? *Note: The following text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors

 


 

Bill Berthel:

On this episode of Driving Leadership, we are with Kevin Crosley, CEO of the Arc of Herkimer. He’s going to take us for a ride through the community and show us just how unique this organization is and how they have really worked on building more community. Come on, let’s go.

Kevin Crosley:

Hey, Bill, it’s really nice to meet you,

Bill Berthel:

Kevin. Good to meet you. Thank you. Yeah,

Kevin Crosley:

Absolutely. Good to meet you.

Bill Berthel:

So this facility is just administrative offices and you’ve got some classrooms?

Kevin Crosley:

We’ve got some classrooms. It’s an old Catholic school. This is another one of our facilities. Oh, okay. We have about 35 facilities throughout the county, between our houses and all of our business enterprises and whatnot. So yeah, I tell you, it’s been a good run. Not being from the Mohawk Valley, I didn’t know a soul when I came here. And I have to say that was an advantage.

Bill Berthel:

How so?

Kevin Crosley:

That’s interesting. Yeah. I think when people live in an area for a long period of time, and especially in upstate New York where the economy hasn’t been that great and there’s been a lot of loss of jobs and people moved out of the area, they moved out of New York State and whatnot, people tend to become a little negative about the area that they live in. And when I came here, I literally came here with my eyes wide open about what the possibilities could be because I didn’t bring any negative baggage to the Mohawk Valley. I came out of Portland County, which is again in upstate New York, but it’s an hour and a half from here. And I had a neighbor that came up to me and said, Hey, Kevin, I hear you’re going to maybe Herkimer, huh? He said, yeah. I said, yeah. He said, you’re going to love the people of the Mohawk Valley. And I said, wait a minute. I said, we’re am I going that way? Yeah. Okay. We’re all upstate New Yorkers. And I said, how much different?

Bill Berthel:

Right out?

Kevin Crosley:

And he said, oh, they’re different. And I kind of chuckled and he was right. But it just kind of morphed after we got through the store that we’re about to see. Things just started happening and they just kept happening and they still are happening. And that’s what kind of floats my boat.

Bill Berthel:

So you’re going to show me the Store?

Kevin Crosley:

We’re going to see The Good Store. This was our first win, and it’s been a win for over 15 years now. And we just came off our two best years in our history, and it started as a partnership with Goodwill Industries for almost 10 years. And now we’ve been running it ourselves for over five years, and it’s really been the first big win we had. Let’s go see it. Alright, awesome. Let me get the door here and we’ll go inside.

Bill Berthel:

Okay. Thank you, sir. Oh wow. This is phenomenal.

Kevin Crosley:

So one of the things that I really was impressed upon when we started in the goods industry for the Good Store was that I didn’t want a thrift shop. I wanted a retail outlet, and I wanted to make sure when people walked in and they looked around and they just saw what you can see initially, that the reaction would be, oh wow, this is really cool. It’s interesting because the store is one thing and we want this to look great, where you really make the money and donated goods is in the back room. It’s the sorting, the hanging, the deciphering, what can go on the racks and what shouldn’t go on the racks. Some of the stuff you get can’t make to the store. You can’t use no holes, no stains, none of that. We want to make sure that the inventory is here and it is quality for people to come in and shop. And we have people that will shop here every day. So the one thing that is really critical in this industry is that you’re rotating the inventory every single day and every single week. And you would not come in here a month from now and see the same items that you see on rack that’s Important right now.

Bill Berthel:

So it feels fresh.

Kevin Crosley:

It’s very fresh. And that way the customers, and especially those that shop here on a regular basis, they see it every single day, the change occur. And you can see these racks that we’re rolling in. These are stuff from the back room that we’ve just put it in hang and absolutely got ’em ready to put on the racks.

Bill Berthel:

Well, this is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Kevin Crosley:

Yeah, absolutely. Where to next? Well, let’s head over to the business part. Awesome. All right.

Bill Berthel:

So how did you get that facility that was donated?

Kevin Crosley:

Yeah, I got a phone call in 2008 from the owner of the building who had been our previous landlord on our first location of The Good Store. And he knew that we were doing a lot of interesting things in the community. And he called me and he said, Kevin, I need you to come to my office right now. And I said, Jesse, I can’t come right now. I’m a little busy. I said, no, no, no, you got to come right now. So I said, all, give me 15 minutes, I’ll come over. So I went over, I went into this huge mammoth of a building and it was the only thing in the building was his office. And he brought me into his office and he said, what would you think if I gave you this building? And it just has really materialized into this amazing asset from really kind of being a big eyesore. And I’m not sure what the village would’ve done to the building if we hadn’t taken it on. It was just going to sit there and probably rot, like a lot of upstate New York manufacturing sites unfortunately had been left for dead.

Bill Berthel:

This is incredible.

Kevin Crosley:

Now what you see here, everything you see here, this was wide open. The whole thing was wide open. So there are wooden posts every 10 feet.

Bill Berthel:

This, oh my goodness, this is beautiful space.

Kevin Crosley:

Well, I said we were going to make the nicest Chamber of Commerce office in the Mohawk Valley, and that’s exactly what we did.

Bill Berthel:

You did? Oh my gosh. It’s a stunning space.

Kevin Crosley:

Yeah, yeah.

Bill Berthel:

The old brick and huge beams.

Kevin Crosley:

And this was such a key for us having an anchor tenant like the Chamber of Commerce.

Bill Berthel:

Absolutely.

Kevin Crosley:

So we created this and they of course can do pretty much anything out of here. And then we also created a conference room that they allow all of the chamber businesses to use with that row. It’s locked, which course you can walk in there and see what we created that

Bill Berthel:

Oh yeah, that’s great.

Kevin Crosley:

Any of the of the chamber members come, an entrance that goes right down to the parking lot from outside, so they can just go right in. There’s, they don’t have to interfere with the business that’s going on there. So yeah, I’ll just show you a couple of the other businesses down the hallway here. Okay, that’s great. Thank you. As we go. So let’s go up to the third floor where I’ll show you one of our facilities as well as BOCES administrative offices is up there.

Bill Berthel:

So does BOCES have any, it’s just offices here or are there classrooms and education happening here too?

Kevin Crosley:

Well now on the second floor, they have their adult ed programs operating. That’s where they just did a huge renovation of our second floor wing. We might be able to swing over there and see some of that too. So they’ve been in here for a number of years and this has really worked well for them. And again, these posts that you see, these were all, and it’s the whole building. All of the wings were just these posts.

Bill Berthel:

It was just open?

Kevin Crosley:

It was just wide open space, open space floors. And so as the different, either they’ve painted them or they’ve stripped and people are using it as all part of their refurbishment effort. And so they have about 7,800 square feet on this floor. And then they have about 15,000 square feet now on the second wing, on the other side for their adult ed program. And it’s really, it’s worked out very nicely.

Bill Berthel:

Oh, wow. Yeah, it’s great classroom space.

Kevin Crosley:

They can put on major conferences for all of their 10 schools in Perkier County in here. One of the first meetings they had in here had like 300 people. This is just their big conference room that they put up. And to me, if you could have seen this floor before, what you’re seeing now, it’s just, and while I’ll show you something that looks like it, it was, yeah, it once was, and I’ll walk you through here. This is just beautiful space.

Now, if you can just envision this with just everything with peeling paint. And I do tell this story about the fact that the day before we closed on the building, which again was a donation, it was November of 2009, and I was walking through the third floor and I was just looking at all the peeling paint and I was looking at, I could hear the drip, drip drip of stuff coming off of the roof. And I thought to myself that this was either going to be the coolest thing that ever happened to the agency or that I would be looking for a job. It was going to go one direction or the other. It’s go one way or the other. Fortunately, it went the way where I’m still here. This gives you a sense of what the building kind of was like. Now this is the group that I was telling you about, that twin brothers that they populate the back of phone cases. What does that mean, populate it? Well, somebody will take an art design and that’s what they want their back of the phone to look like. So they’ll take it and they’ll manufacture the whole thing. They have every single cover of any cell phone known demand that is available to them, and they have the technology to be able to, it’s amazing engraving, it’s sea rout or something, and I’m here to steal trade secrets.

You got any?

So this is 7,500 square feet from the brick wall to the brick wall, and then there’s another 7,500 square feet. And they have all of it, both for their warehousing and some of their offices that they have back there, as well as all this manufacturing space that they have. What they do is just remarkable. They came in here and they said they wanted to start in a little small square portion of it, which they did from this point over. And then from there they’ve morphed into 15,000 square feet. They have 15 full-time employees. It was just the three of ’em that started this business. And it’s just been absolutely incredible what they’ve done. And they are just So, remind me what this has to do with arc of herkimer? Nothing. This is so abstract. This is so abstract. What it has to do with ARC herkimer is that we’ve taken these spaces and we’ve turned them into these opportunities for businesses. And the revenue stream that we receive as a result of having those businesses in here helps provide services and supports for the people that we, that’s phenomenal in our organization. That is phenomenal. So it’s diversifying your revenue streams just like most businesses would try to do that. A lot of not-for-profits really don’t get into that type of thing.

That’s kind of where we cut our teeth and that’s why all the things that we’ve talked about and that you’ve seen so far today have to do with not only employing people, but also have to do with diversifying our revenues. Well,

Bill Berthel:

Kevin said you can get us a job. Just sign us up. Alright, awesome.

Kevin Crosley:

So this actually was originally a church that they renovated this entire space really. And then they left a few months ago, and so we decided to move off of Main Street and bring it into the building here because our group here works a lot with boces.

Bill Berthel:

That makes a lot of sense.

Kevin Crosley:

It really worked out great and it’s gorgeous space, so we’re thrilled with how it turned out. So there’s a variety of things even in the lower level, which I didn’t ever envision that we would do anything in the basement, but we built a beautiful wine room in there where we have some conferences and different events and whatnot, and it’s interesting, but I mean if you look at the, this is what it was back in, it’s

Bill Berthel:

A little less finished.

Kevin Crosley:

Yeah, a little less. So that’s kind of the gist of

Bill Berthel:

This is awesome.

Kevin Crosley:

Thank you Business, mark.

Bill Berthel:

It’s an exaggeration, but I feel like you own half of ware’s. Like all of a sudden all the arc signs are popping up into my awareness.

Kevin Crosley:

Like, some of my exec friends do make fun of me. They make that same statement. You guys own all, what else do you need? It’s not quite true.

Bill Berthel:

No, no, no, no. But it’s impressive. Like you said, many other agencies kind of blend into the fabric and arc of Herkimer really stands out

Kevin Crosley:

The story behind this, because this was a donation as well, and it was the same gentleman that owned the business park

And his family that owned the golf course, and we had talked about it for a number of years leading into the ultimate acquisition of it. Timing was right for him and for us. I guess the interesting thing though is that we acquired it on April 1st, 2022 weeks into the pandemic. Oh my goodness. But we kind of chuckle about it, but one of the things that you could do during the pandemic was actually play golf. And so it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for the timing for us to required it. And we were able to expand our membership significantly, not because of the pandemic as much, as much as it was that I think people were just looking at a new fresh start for the golf course. And we had a lot of followers for the organization, and so we were able to pretty much quadruple our membership. Wow. 300 members in that first year that we opened it up and it’s backed off a little bit since, because now that the world opened up again, people were doing more than just golfing. We’ve been able to maintain the vast majority of that in terms of our membership. So this is the first tee box that we’re standing on right now. Yeah. If you want to tee it up, we can see if I got one of the sticks in your vehicle.

Bill Berthel:

I don’t golf, but my game wouldn’t be any worse today than it would be in the middle of the summer, so I think we could do it.

Kevin Crosley:

Well, this is a hundred, the course is on 161 acres, and we acquired an additional 13 acres out that way, which we are in the process of developing the opportunity to put a permanent event center out there. Oh wow. That’s phenomen for our weddings and class reunions and whatnot. And we have all the architectural work done and all the planning done. Now we’re just working with the town of Little Falls to get approval to start it in the spring. Wow. We’re that far along and feeling real good about that opportunity. The uniqueness of an organization like ours to own a golf course is very different. But I will tell you this, one of the things about it is it offers, if you think about trying to maintain 161 acres and having with a restaurant and a bar and everything that goes with it, think of the jobs that are available for people that we support to be able to be a part of this.

And if it’s not a job, we also can bring people up here and operate a day program for them. And so we do that as often as we can. And I have to tell you, the people we support love it up here. I bet. So, I bet outside just in the middle of the golf season, and it’s just so great. They can go around, they can take the trash up on all the holes, they can take up sticks and debris, they can pick up the driving range from, and that’s just scratching the surface in terms of the opportunities that are available for people by having a facility like this. Absolutely. But it’s a seasonal thing, obviously. We do have some stuff that we can do with the snowmobile trails. Right. Cross country ski. We have the ridge runners cross country skiing. Last year we had a freeze fest that we did, which was a huge hit. We had kids sledding down this hill and families coming out and we had big bonfires and we had pumpkin painting. Just a whole variety of things. There are some seasonal events, there are some seasonal events that we can do up here, and we’ll look to do more of that in the future. It was a big hit.

Bill Berthel:

Well, it goes back to building communities.

Kevin Crosley:

Exactly. Right. You got it. That’s what this does. That’s the tagline. And that’s what we try to do. And a place like this really can attract that because there’s so many people that would come here for so many different reasons.

Bill Berthel:

I don’t golf and it’s beautiful. It’s inspiring.

Kevin Crosley:

Yeah. Well, thanks. Really. Well, we got to get some sticks in your hand.

Bill Berthel:

Well, I’ve done it before, But that’s it.

Kevin Crosley:

Well, I love what I do. Yeah. Honestly, just the growth. It’s just exciting. I love coming to work every day. I mean, I really do. And I feel so fortunate that I feel that way.

Bill Berthel:

Absolutely. Because many people,

Kevin Crosley:

I love it. I look forward to seeing the staff. I look forward to being there. I look forward to the initiatives and all the things that we do, and just trying to find that next win. It just is so fun.

Bill Berthel:

Really, Kevin, thank you for this. This has been a phenomenal afternoon.

Kevin Crosley:

No, I appreciate the fact that you guys are wanting to do it here in Herkimer County.

Bill Berthel:

Oh, absolutely.

1 Comment

  1. Anthony Pompo on January 25, 2024 at 9:35 am

    Great episode. It’s incredible how much good can be realized through people with big hearts and big vision. Congrats. Way to go…

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