For Twin Cities residents who have missed seeing Dick Enrico’s pudgy frame and curly, defiantly black hair, he’s back.
After nearly 60 years as a serial entrepreneur, he’s just opened his newest “scam,” as he jokingly calls it. It’s a patio furniture superstore in Minnetonka called 2nd Shade and he’s come up with a slogan — “The Home of the Shady Deal” — and a gangster marketing motif around it.
Enrico is starting the store at age 77 and just a year and a half after selling 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment, a chain of fitness machine stores. He is using some of the ideas from 2nd Wind, which peaked at a 103-unit chain over two decades, for the new venture. 2nd Shade will sell new and used items, offer rentals, make trades, have a repair service and a place for consumers and small businesses to store their furniture when it’s out of season.
Enrico became a household figure in 2nd Wind markets with his TV commercials. For years, he ended them by asking, “Why buy new when slightly used will do?” When he starting selling new equipment, he added, “Except when the deals are this good.”
He’s not sure how successful the patio furniture superstore will be, let alone sprawl across 11 states as 2nd Wind does.
“I’m humble,” said Enrico, who gave away bobblehead dolls of himself at the exercise store. “If it fails, I’ll pick up my marbles and go another way.”
His longtime banker, Brad Krohn, now retired from Business Bank in Minnetonka, said Enrico is a true entrepreneur. “He always did what he said he was going to do,” Krohn said. “He comes across as a gangster, but he’s extremely honorable.”
Enrico calls himself an “occupational opportunist” and founded more than 20 wildly different enterprises throughout his turbulent career, including door-to-door sales of pots and pans, storage sheds with thatched roofs, water beds, parking lot striping services and vending machines.
Most of the businesses failed, but Enrico struck gold in 1992 with 2nd Wind, a venture he initially funded by selling his 1986 Corvette for $15,000. In 2015, he sold the company to Johnson Health Tech, a Taiwanese firm that has its U.S. headquarters in Cottage Grove, Wis.
For several months after the sale, Enrico stayed on as a consultant, but he says he was soon “bored to death.”
“I get fired up for something I find challenging,” he said. Eighteen months ago, he asked a couple of business associates what they thought about marketing patio furniture with a gangster theme.
“Both of them rejected me,” he said. “But I do what the other guy isn’t willing to do.”
John Stavig, director of the Gary Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management jokes that Enrico has an entrepreneurial disease. “He’s not one who pushes things on the consumer. He solves a problem and that’s how he builds his business and that’s why he’s successful.”
With his short, round frame and Ned Flanders mustache, Enrico can appear a bit cartoonish. Steve Schussler, creator and founder of multiple concepts on Disney properties, including Rainforest Cafe, says Enrico has the flair of the infamous circus promoter P.T. Barnum. “He’s a bit carnivallike. He’s a barker who leaves you with a good feeling,” he said.
Coming up with a memorable slogan has long been an Enrico trademark. For Aqua Knight water beds, a water bed store, Enrico’s slogan was “A knight on water is a night to remember.” For 2nd Shade’s seasonal storage business, Enrico is modifying a slogan he created for Handi Hut, a seller of backyard storage units. “The storage solution for garage pollution” has been updated to “a storage solution for patio pollution.”
“He’s such a natural salesperson that he immediately latches onto a slogan that latches on to the problem,” Stavig said.
Enrico is self-deprecating but not shy about exploiting his stereotypically Italian look. After giving away tens of thousands of bobble head dolls in his image at 2nd Wind, he’s put a life-size animatronic figure of himself and several Mafioso figures under a patio umbrella at 2nd Shade.
Enrico envisions customers taking selfies with the group and posting them on Facebook. To increase the free publicity, he’s placed an old camera tripod nearby as a cue.
With 20,000 square feet of showroom space and 20,000 more being added next month, Enrico designed 2nd Shade to be a destination.
“People don’t have to have patio furniture,” Enrico said, “so I put a Disney-like spin in the showroom.”
Each section offers a new way to keep people entertained. A skeleton reclines in a dentist’s chair with a sign saying, “Free root canal with purchase.” There are also free massages in Fujimi massage chairs and a car made from 350 Matchbox-sized cars, all designed to create a fantasy outdoor living showroom.
Amid the hundreds of patio tables, chairs, umbrellas and loungers, he’s also placed grills, firepits, patio rugs and artificial palm trees. He’s also hoping homeowners, restaurants, golf clubs and other small businesses will want to store their patio furniture in a 70,000-square-foot warehouse in New Hope.
After opening 2nd Shade a month ago, Enrico’s already tweaking the showroom. Originally, he put pricey sets from Lloyd Flanders and Gloster at the front. Greeting customers and then observing their reactions, he noticed some sticker shock, so he’s moving more moderately priced new and used sets to the entrance.
Schussler said Enrico isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. “You’d see him in the 2nd Wind ads lifting weights or running a step or two on the treadmill, but you took one look at him and knew he wasn’t serious about it,” Schussler said.
He is serious about drawing people into the new store and thinks it will be another retail attraction in a metro area with a growing list of them.
“I’m not on the level of Ikea,” Enrico said. “But people will drive down from Brainerd.”