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A New Kind of East Side Entrepreneur

One kid fuses creativity and business savvy with Clear Curbs

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Spring is in the air, and it’s time to step out to your curb. Go on, it’s safe. No plow trucks zooming by, no cars kicking up rock salt. Chances are you’ll find a patch of crabgrass and a cement edge that probably survived our bitterly cold and offensively long winter.

Gaze upon that edge. It’s a lonely stretch of cement that needs something to place you in the universe. You could scrawl out a peace sign or the abbreviation for Finland (fi!), or you could set down your home address, in which case you need to reach out to the CEO of Clear Curbs. His name is Peder; tell him his mother says hello.

Here’s how it works: You call Peder’s – uh, my son’s – secretary and ask her to make an appointment to get your curb dolled up. He comes over with paint, a brush, stencils and his security detail. He thoroughly cleans the curb, then works his magic. The UPS truck will never get lost again.

I know what you’re thinking: lawlessness. Take a long walk around the block with Spot or your tinkling G&T to cool down. This is a legitimate business sanctioned by powers greater than I who shall remain nameless. Enough said about that. On to the particulars of a very cool idea from a kid with big dreams, and surely you can’t fault him for that.

Not long ago, Peder was sitting around our family homestead kneading bread and said he wanted to start a business. I thought that was a swell idea. I envisioned a landscape service but he wanted a project that required some thought, maybe even a “business plan.’’

“Let’s not get too complicated,’’ I said.
“I like complicated,’’ he replied. “Complicated is good.’’

The next thing you know a flier was sitting on the kitchen table: “Clear Curbs delivers reliable and useful curb number painting to the East Side. We provide a clear address so friends, emergency personnel and delivery people can quickly and easily find your home.’’

When I was a kid, a century or so ago, life was simpler. I made money babysitting and working as a soda jerk at Velvet Freeze, the neighborhood ice cream shop. I was 13, clearly underage, but back then everyone ignored child labor laws, especially Mr. Martin, the gruff owner who barked out my last name, “Rau,’’ when he put in an order for “scoop of peppermint – now!’’ I socked my earnings away in the bank and used the cash to buy peasant shirts and burgundy clogs.

Today kids are more entrepreneurial, mimicking what they see and hear in the media and on the street. Those heady TEDx conferences come to mind with the message that you can move mountains if you come up with a good idea and some capital from your great aunt in Buffalo. And let’s not forget the value of hard work.

The lousy economy weighs heavily on kids too. Think about it. They were running around in diapers when we lived in a bubble and renovated our kitchens every five seconds and now they see headlines about a sputtering economy that might never rebound. They have to rethink the world as we know it.

Kids all over the East Side are launching start-ups. The products and services are impressive: duct tape wallets, string bracelets, tailoring, errand boy, greeting cards, cookies, homemade bread, rice crispy treats, and, of course, old reliable – the lemonade stand. (The next time you stroll past one in the hood, drop a dime for a kid and cause.)

Customer service is the key to success in any business, and such is the case with Clear Curbs. Peder’s clients are satisfied, downright giddy: “You’re sick!’’ “Great colors!’’ “Thanks for the play-by-play on the Brown hockey game!’’ Peder is so conscientious he will return, free of charge, to his clients for touch ups.

Where are the profits going? Back into the business, of course. More paint, more brushes, more stencils, more fliers. Any good businesskid knows the only way to succeed in this country is to grow.