Upcoming Event: Poetry reading with Amy Sexauer at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Ohio

Recon Rings: Strong, Kinetic & Connected

I’ve been in the car for the better part of a day and I hoped to arrive with some daylight left but it’s after 5:00 PM mid-November and the sun is long gone. I receive a text from our host requesting an estimated time of arrival. I reply with a screenshot of my iPhone’s GPS, which indicates we are less than 30 minutes out.

“Shit. I’ll put some pants on. My driveway sucks, take a right between the garbage cans and mailbox. Don’t go down the other one, you’ll end up in the woods and possibly shot. Drive past the first house and we’re around back.”

Tyler and I make our way toward one of two bridges that serve as the only path to our final destination; the first one was closed. The roads of Palmyra, New York wind through acres of farmland and I find myself scanning the sides of the roads for deer harder than before. As we turn on to the driveway marked with trash receptacles full of drywall and scrap wood (the landmark indicated by our host.) After passing a barn with an American flag draped over the front and a wooden sign that says “ALMOST THERE” we park in front of a farmhouse where we’re greeted by two brown labs and Tommy Tartaglia.Untitled_design_1_2048x2048

Tommy is a stocky guy with broad shoulders, a bold jaw line and a high fade with just enough grey hair to let me know he has one or two years on me. His assertiveness and firm handshake reassure me that he is a Marine while his accent reminds me that I am certainly in or around Rochester, New York.  After getting a tour of the house, we leave for dinner and drinks. The car ride is filled with conversation about our ambitions as well as our frustrations of what the current veteran community is turning into. When asked what it's like to be the owner of two successful veteran owned businesses, Tommy says a bunch of stuff I can’t remember and then utters the phrase “I don’t want to be known for what I’ve done, I want to be known for what I’m going to do.” In short, he doesn’t care as much about running a “veteran owned business” as he does providing for his family and developing a product they can be proud to put their name on.

Although he tries not to limit himself to the veteran owned business mold, Tommy maintains a vast network of veteran owned businesses including a handful that operate in and around the Rochester area. I’m surprised to find out how many veterans are running small businesses in his area. After a couple rounds of drinks, the dialogue really starts flowing and I’m not surprised by what I hear but I do find it refreshing. Tommy’s business partner, Stephen Burke, is a marketing specialist and never served in the military but has been working in the military non-profit sector for some time. Like Tommy, Stephen is a big guy with an even bigger jaw line than Tommy.

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Tommy and Stephen discuss how they were happy with the growth of their existing projects (Tango Charlie Apparel and Lt Michael Murphy Navy Seal Museum, to name a few) and decided to jump feet first into the silicone ring industry. Their active lifestyles and personal connections to military and first responders drew them to the product while their entrepreneurial backgrounds enabled them to see the potential in such a simple product.26993700_1779040755479965_6507526552010267302_n

 

Tommy and Steve are creating great (better than their competitors) products at a competitive (lower) price and using portions of their profits and time to give back to their brothers and sisters in arms as well as their community. My hat goes off to anyone with the courage to pour money into a startup but these are the kind of veteran owned businesses our country needs more of. Our time ends in New York with an authentic Rochester Garbage Plate before getting back on the road.  The heap of greasy food is difficult to process at once, much like our evening with the owners of Recon Rings. The discussion was refreshing and gave us hope for the growing number of veteran owned businesses in Rochester as well as the rest of the United States.

 


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