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Real Estate
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Tom Roach, sales manager of Gerstad Builders, says the builder’s Bailey Estates community in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, has been popular with area buyers.
Wisconsin foray successful for local builder
Posted Jan 9, 2016 1:00 AM
Three-quarters of the homes that Gerstad Builders of McHenry sells are ranches — many different styles of ranch — and they are selling the popular home plans to people of all ages, said Tom Roach, sales manager.The well-respected and long-tenured home building company is known for “building the best home for the money that we can, including high-quality products in every home and offering lots of customization options,” Roach said.Gerstad Builders has been building an average of 15 homes per year over the past decade or so, but it hopes to increase that number to between 20 and 25 homes in 2016, he said.It now has four single-family home communities underway. There is Liberty Trails in McHenry, Pheasant Ridge in Richmond, Dawson Creek in Poplar Grove and Bailey Estates in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Bailey Estates is Gerstad’s first foray into Wisconsin and Roach said sales there are going well.“Bailey Estates is attracting full-time residents, many of whom are leaving Illinois to avoid high property taxes. Wisconsin’s property taxes are half what the taxes are in Illinois and since so many people are working from home now, they don’t have to worry about a long commute,” he explained. Prices at Bailey Estates range from $239,990 to $320,990.Pheasant Ridge, where homes range in price from $176,990 to $269,990, is attracting a nice mix of ages. Dawson Creek is primarily attracting young families. The prices there range from $173,990 to $267,990. Liberty Trails in McHenry is most popular with empty-nesters and retirees and they are flocking there to build ranches in the $216,990 to $326,990 price range.All lots in its Illinois subdivisions range between a one-quarter to one-third of an acre while the lots at Bailey Estates in Wisconsin are larger — a half acre-plus. The homes themselves range from 1,400 to 3,100 square feet. Bailey Estates, however, has square footage minimums so the ranches must be at least 1,800 square feet and the two-story homes must be no smaller than 2,200 square feet.What is your background in the housing industry?“I started selling new homes for Residential Development Group (RDG) in 1974. Roger Gerstad (now owner and president of Gerstad Builders) was the president of that company and I worked there for about 20 years. Roger left and started Gerstad Builders in 1985, but I stayed with RDG until 1994, when I went to work for Kennedy Homes. I sold for Kennedy until 2007 when the market fell apart and then I went back to working for Roger at Gerstad and have been with him ever since.”What are the biggest changes you have seen in the building business over the years?“The energy efficiency of the homes we are building today is amazing. We include 96 percent-efficient furnaces, upgraded water heaters, insulated basements; low-E, double-paned windows; R-20 insulation in the exterior walls and R-38 insulation in the ceilings. We also caulk in all of our electrical plates so there is no air leakage. We do great on every blower test.”Besides energy efficiency, the biggest changes Roach has experienced during his many years in the homebuilding business are the vast selection of fixtures and other amenities buyers now have available to them.“Builders used to put things in with the philosophy that the owners could change them later. That is no longer the case. Buyers have a tremendous number of selections and options for what they can do with their new home.”What is the best part of being involved in the building business?“I love the look on buyers’ faces when they actually move into their new home. It is an unbelievable experience for people.”Where do you see Gerstad Builders in the next five years?
Entertainment
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“It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, is one of Frank Capra Sr.’s most beloved movies.
NBC Photo
Ron Onesti: A little ‘George Bailey’ in all of us
Posted Dec 28, 2015 5:06 PM
“Wizard Of Oz,” “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” “Gone With The Wind,” “The Godfather” … the exclusive list goes on with timeless classic films that have touched the hearts of generations of movie fans around the globe. And as “It’s A Wonderful Life” turns 70 this Christmas Day, I am looking back to an incredible lunch I had about ten years ago with Frank Capra Jr., the son of the film’s famed director, Frank Capra Sr.I was in Washington, D.C., for a consortium on “Legacies of Legends” that featured sons and daughters of some iconic Italian-American figures. At the time, I was managing Lena Prima, daughter of New Orleans’ own trumpeteer-showman Louis Prima, and Deana Martin, daughter of the “King of Cool,” Dean Martin. They were both invited to participate in this panel discussion.The captivating panel members shared perspectives on what it was like to have famous fathers and far-from-private lives growing up. “It was nothing to have Jimmy Durante over for dinner, or Sammy Davis Jr. over for lunch. They were ALL uncles to me,” Deana said.Frank Capra Jr. was also there, representing his father, a decorated director of the 1930s and 1940s who was responsible for many films, including 1934’s “It Happened One Night” (which became the first film to win the “Big Five” Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director), “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938) and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939).As each of these legacies were being interviewed, I found myself sitting with Capra while waiting for his turn to be questioned. We struck up a great conversation on Italian-American heritage and he invited me to lunch after his interview. We dined at a Georgetown staple, Filomena’s Restaurant, an incredibly authentic Italian restaurant complete with a stout female pasta maker dressed in all white chef’s attire hand-rolling gnocchi in the window facing the street.At the time, Frank Jr. was president of the largest film studio east of Hollywood, EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina. So he was carrying on the legacy of his legendary director-slash-dad. Frank Jr. sadly passed away of pancreatic cancer a short time after our get-together. But I can remember the day as if it were yesterday.He was extremely nice, soft-spoken and humble. He was also incredibly proud of his dad (I wrote an article on my experience just after it occurred, and quotes from that piece are replicated below).He talked about the magical relationship his father had with Jimmy Stewart. “My dad did three films with Jimmy, but they were friends for life,” he said. “As a matter of fact, RKO Films first owned the rights to the film and they had Cary Grant slated to play George Bailey. But the first thing my dad did right after purchasing the film’s rights from them was to replace Grant for his ‘intellectual favorite,’ Jimmy Stewart.”He went on to tell me the film was his family’s favorite, especially for his dad and Jimmy. The film never won an Academy Award, and was actually a box office failure.“My dad worked harder on that film than he did on any other. He was a perfectionist, even hiring a marksmen to shoot out the window as Mary (Donna Reed) threw that rock as she and George made that wish. It wasn’t needed, though. Donna Reed played baseball in school and knocked out the window herself on the first try!” he said.
Entertainment
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Mickey Rooney appears at the kickoff to an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences film festival at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.
Associated Press File Photo, 2012
Ron Onesti: My time with Andy Hardy
Posted Dec 18, 2015 12:00 AM
Flying as much as I do, it is really the only time I actually sit back and watch a movie. I recently watched a classic “Andy Hardy” film with Mickey Rooney on a flight to Las Vegas, and it reminded me of the time I got the privilege of spending time with the Hollywood icon.Being in awe my entire life of classic Hollywood and those legendary performers on the silver screen, it was no accident that I acquired a 1926 vaudeville theater, The Arcada in St. Charles, 10 years ago. And as the theater has enjoyed tremendous success evolving into a top live-music venue the past few years, it has also been host to some of the biggest, most recognizable names in show biz. From Debbie Reynolds to Shirley MacLaine, Don Rickles to Joan Rivers and Hugh Jackman to Kevin Costner, many A-listers have appeared on the historic stage once graced by Edgar Bergan & Charlie McCarthy, George Burns & Gracie Allen, the Little Rascals, the Three Stooges, Duke Ellington and so many more.But one figure stands out, who, ironically, was larger than life despite his famously small stature: Mickey Rooney.Up until just a few years before his passing last year, Rooney was doing a multimedia musical career retrospective show with his eighth wife, Jan. When the opportunity to host his show was offered to me, I think it was exactly 12 seconds later when I signed on the dotted line committing to the booking. This was going to be truly something special … talk about Hollywood royalty!What put the experience over the top was when his wife Jan called me and asked if she and Mickey could come in a few days earlier to do press. This guy was a true pro! Once the word got out that not only was he coming, but he was also taking requests from the press, it became complete craziness just managing the literally 200 interview requests from all over the world.He was a bit standoffish when we first met. But I went down on one knee as if to kiss his ring, and he warmed up pretty quickly. He had this warm, grandpa-ish demeanor, with a 24-carat smile. Once in a while he would kind of venture off in another direction with either his conversation or his attention span, be he came back pretty quickly.So we visited television studios, phoned into radio stations and lunched with journalists. It was a press junket frenzy! He was tired, but was tireless when it came to giving the people what they wanted.“I never want to disappoint people. I’ve been in more major motion pictures than anyone else in history — the only actor to have appeared in at least one film for eight straight decades, and that doesn’t happen if you disappoint the fans,” he proudly belted out.“We were making a movie a month sometimes, especially during the Andy Hardy years” he said. “We were all exhausted, but we just kept going. We (young actors) were taught to stick it out and that stayed with me my whole life. So let’s get going!”After a while, I let my bold side take over and during dinner, I thought the time was right to cautiously bring up Judy Garland.“The biggest loss of my life, of all of our lives,” he said. “Such a tragedy. She really was the most marvelous entertainer in the history of show business.”I asked why she wasn’t one of the eight women he ultimately married. “She was the sister I never had,” Rooney said as he glanced up to the sky. “She had this major insecurity that frankly, endeared me to her. It was tough on all of us. I tried to be there for her as much as I could. But those early years were especially tough on her. We worked countless hours a week and slept when we could. Ya know, we barely made $5,000 each for most of our films! And we were the biggest stars of our time!”
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