George Schillinger

For most of us, running a company with 30 employees would be kind of a big deal with more than a little stress involved. But apparently everything is relative and so for George Schillinger managing his new woodworking company, Millwood Manufacturing, is light duty compared to the work load he shouldered at Black Rock Development where he was vice president of operations and responsible for more than 20 companies with 300 plus employees.
Pretty much anyone who keeps up with the news in Spokane has heard of Black Rock Development. They are the guys that had the Spokesman Review’s head reeling last year with their Kendall Yards project in downtown Spokane that involved a massive clean up effort of a contaminated 70-acre railroad yard, controversial growth-related stress on the existing infrastructure and an audaciously ambitious plan featuring hundreds of high rise condo units and several thousand square feet of retail and office space.
They started  rocking the local scene and getting press coverage back in 2001, with their upscale golf course development called The Club at Black Rock near Rockford Bay on Coeur D’Alene Lake and then moving on to other high end developments such as Rivers’s Edge near downtown Coeur D’Alene and Legacy Ridge above Liberty Lake.  With something like seven developments at present, it is safe to say they are the big fish in our little pond.
It would be very hard to overstate the magnitude of what Black Rock has accomplished in such a short amount of time- their golf course was awarded “New Golf Course of the Year” by Golf Digest, their clean up efforts at Kendall Yards received the prestigious Pheonix award, their successes have been featured in USA Today and the New York Times. It would also be hard to overstate the importance of George Schillinger’s role in helping his grade school buddy, Marshall Chesrown, owner of Black Rock, accomplish all that he has in our area and Colorado over the past 15 years.
After graduating from University High School in 1976, the two friends went their separate ways. Marshall went down to San Diegoand sold cars on his uncle’s car lot and wound up making millions buying broken car lots. He eventually landed in Denver with several new and used car dealerships and the Colorado National Speedway. George went into sales and rose among the ranks with Parker Hannifin, a global conglomerate. In his traveling, George would often layover in Denver and hangout with his old buddy who eventually asked George to come help run his businesses.

“I said ‘what do I know about the racing business and car business?’,” George said during a recent interview, explaining that Marshall went on to ask, “Did I understand people and business?’ and I had to answer yes and he said then you’ll do great.”

And so George signed on as Marshall’s right hand man helping run the dealerships, the Nascar racing track and racing team, transitioning from sales to management. Then around the year 1998, Marshall sold out to Auto Nation and considered retirement at age 39 on property he owned on Couer D’Alene Lake.

“We came up here and rode around on the Pring property on 4-wheelers and Marshall told me he wanted to fence it and build a ranch and retire there,” George said. “We went a little further and I said, ‘ you know this was Grandpa Pring’s property and he had it platted for 650 homes and a golfcourse.’ He looked at me and said, ‘ you’ve got half a million dollars to see if you can get it done’.”

“You know, I don’t know if  he really thought we could do it,” George said. But George saw his opportunity to move home and he never went back to Denver. His wife Tracie sold the house and moved their two kids back to Spokane while he pushed the project through all the hoops with the $500,000 and got Black Rock Development under way.

To demonstrate their total commitment to the project, they began by building the world class golf course and 30,000 square foot clubhouse before selling any lots. They also bought and updated  a nearby marina and Shooter’s Bar and Grill to ensure residents at Black Rock would have access to luxury lake life at it’s finest.

“I was the get-it-done guy,” George said, adding that on top of everything else he was in charge of construction, which soon included building condos and what they called “The Cabins.” These were million dollar getaway homes that came available with everything –furnishings, linen, groceries- waiting for their owners to simply unpack their luggage and enjoy the Northwest.

“I could not have accomplished what we did in such a short amount of time if not for the sub contractors and the other people I worked with,” he said. It was a combination of lofty vision, big money and synergy with George mentoring, nurturing and leading the team of hundreds that made Marshall’s ambitions reality.

“The contractor we hired said he could only build four units a year, but we needed ten,” George said, explaining that helping people reach their potential has always been important to him. “I told him that he could meet our goals, he just needed to learn how to build more. Well, we got our ten units. Being a part of that kind of thing was really gratifying to me.”

Another person George encouraged to rise to the Black Rock challenge was finish carpenter Mike Pirelo, owner of Architectural Woodwork and Design, a small four-man company that specialized in fine woodworking.

“Mike ended up doing all of our work,” George said. “I told him at the very beginning that if he would just take care of business that he would make a tremendous living and gain a tremendous amount of exposure for his company just at Black Rock.” Pirelo ended up building his business to more than $5 million in annual sales with 22 employees by following George’s advice.

Unfortunately, not everyone’s word and money is as good as Black Rock’s and Pirelo ran into hard times after getting burned for several thousands of dollars by two contractors and was faced with filing bankruptcy in 2007.

Ironically, George and Marshall had recently gone separate ways, leaving George with an uncertain future but a past filled with success and experience. “I probably could have retired, but why go there? I felt I had a lot to offer with all I had learned,” George said, adding that when he found out about Pirelo’s plight, he bought the company’s assets and hired Pirelo and nearly all of his employees.

“I was always very impressed with Mike’s work,” George said as he explained that he sees himself as more of a coach and supporter to a group of skilled craftsmen that benefit from his business and sales background. “It’s all about the employees. I want to see them grow as we grow this business.”

In spite of the economy, George is again building a new company with plenty of orders to keep his 30-man shop busy doing high-end woodwork including molding, doors and cabinetry. With such tools as their $250,000 CNC router, which can build solid core doors complete with all hinges and holes bored and dapped as well as any intricate carving a customer can envision, George’s new company is working a high end niche in the building trade. Most importantly, perhaps, George finds running just one company almost relaxing.

“I’m a different man today compared to who I was 8 years ago. There was a lot of stress for me at Black Rock. Running one company is a lot easier than running 20,” he said, adding that while he and Marshall are lifelong friends, he does not miss the pressure of running a $300 million company.

“ I’ve done the big league thing,” he said. “ Now I just want to help my people succeed. I learned a long time ago that you can’t spend ego.”

Chesrown & Schillinger – Grade School Sticker Business that was Pee Chee Keen

Back in the 60’s when George Schillinger and Marshall Chesrown were going to grade school together at South Pines, “STP” stickers were the rage and George had a line on them.
“My Dad owned Spokane Diesel and was a distributor for STP and so i would go there on Saturdays and load up with stickers,” he said, adding that he and Marshall sold the large ones for $1.50 and the small ones for 50 cents.
Unfortunately their first business venture was too successful and they were called into the principal’s office. ” His name was Morgan A. Morgan and he told us that our entrepreneurial endeavor was at an end. He said parents had been calling him complaining that their kids were spending their lunch money buying STP stickers to put on  their Pee Chees.”

 

 

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