Get rich quick

By Bert Stratton

(Editor’s note: 

Toby Stratton was a developer and Jordan Rose and Court Rich’s grandfather. His son is the author of this article of advice on real estate.)

Theodore “Toby” StrattonToby Stratton was a developer and Jordan Rose and Court Rich’s grandfather. His son is the author of this article of advice on real estate.)My father dabbled in get-rich-quick schemes even when he was rich.

He invested several thousand dollars in mounted TVs at Kroger checkout lines.  The TVs didn’t catch on.  Nobody wanted to watch TV in a grocery store.

Toby said, “I’ve had some screwy ideas in my day, son.  I can’t help but think about Mr. Coffee. That’s a Cleveland company started by a Jew and an Italian. They’ve made a fortune on automatic-drip coffeemakers.  Mr. Coffee has six percent of the market. That doesn’t seem like at lot, but it is.”

Toby said he was going to invent another kitchen gizmo, a la Mr. Coffee.  Toby’s idea was a low-cal toaster that reduced bread calories while toasting.

I thought, Dad, did you major in chemistry or astrology?  (My dad was a Phi Beta Kappa chemistry graduate from Ohio State.)

Toby said, “I’ll pay a couple engineers a few thousand to look into this.  Mr. Coffee hired Westinghouse engineers.  Maybe there are some professors in Kansas who know about bread.”

Nothing came of it.

My dad’s next idea: write a book on real estate.  His working title was What Crystal Ball Do I Have?


Toby had no crystal ball, but he had guts and smarts, and a love of leverage.  He wrote, “Never put down more than 10 to 15 percent . . . A second mortgage should not put the fear of a calamity in your heart . . . Don’t get married to the bricks.”  That meant sell the building if you get a decent offer.

My mother threw out Toby’s real estate manuscript when he died.  She even threw out my dad’s letters to her from the Army.   My mom didn’t like clutter.

Here are some quotes from my dad’s manuscript:

1. “Don’t let the numbers — operating expenses — put the fear of God of into you.”

2.”You’ll have a sword hanging over your throat if you take out too many mortgages.”

My dad’s last idea was to write a book about death.  I didn’t approve. Don’t waste your time, Dad.  You’re no Sherman Nuland.

Toby said, “I can use my records from the hospital and my thoughts. Would you mind?”

“Mind what?”  I said.

“Do you think you and your sister and the grandkids would mind?”

“When the grandkids were born, they knew this was part of the deal — you are born, you die.  You want to write about death, go ahead.”

“Don’t give me wiseguy kind of answers,” Toby said.

I was just leveling with him. My dad appreciated that –- if he was the one doing the leveling.

He didn’t write the death book. He just died.

Possible working title: I Stared the Grim Reaper in the Eye.

I wish my dad had hung around longer and written the lousy book.  I play gigs at nursing homes and see alter kockers — friends of my parents — in their nineties, and wonder, Why?

Low-cal toaster.  That’s the secret.

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