by Ellen C. Warren, photo by Vince Bushell
“Carpenter, Storm Screen Repairman, Handyman, resident old dude and all around good guy!” reads the Bliffert business card of Dana Cable. It is an apt description of the pleasant, personable retail service provider, although incomplete when one learns that the man behind the card loves to indulge in all aspects of design and building, earned a B.S. in Architecture from U.W.M. and studied at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Wisconsin and Arizona.
Dana is a junior. The senior Dana Cable, brought his company to our neighborhood in 1972. That is when Skip, as he is known in his family, began feeling “an affinity for Riverwest.” (RWC planned to write about both Dana Cable’s for this piece but the elder is quite reticent about being personally profiled. Look for an article about the intriguing business on Weil and Auer, Growing Systems, in the near future.)
In the early days of Growing Systems, Junior helped Senior get the business up and running. He swept floors. He manned a machine. He helped to build greenhouses.
As time went on he took a job as a project manager for Habitat for Humanity. There he had the opportunity to use his knowledge of design and found that he really enjoyed the hands-on work of renovating, rehabbing, and fixing things. He put those talents to use by helping his dad “get his real estate empire started a little bit.”
It seems that the philanthropic father raised a son with similarly humanitarian values. Both men took more interest in working toward affordable housing using the present stock of aging houses than in padding their own pockets with real estate development. Over time Dana Sr. bought a couple houses on Weil and a couple houses on Bremen. Dana Jr. did all the rehabbing of the houses for him. “I was doing work for dad, almost exclusively. I was sorta his guy, and I got used to it,” says Dana, adding, “That was the incubation of (my relationship with) Riverwest.”
It also led to the creation of his own company, DVCI Design and Construction, in the mid 1980’s. If you visit his website at www.facebook.com/DVCableInc you can see the sort of challenges Dana has taken on with restoring architecturally unique and/or antique doorways, arches, and windows among other projects. If you have an impossibly rare rehab situation, Dana is your guy. And he won’t gouge you on price.
So, as the business took off Dana was doing less work in the Riverwest area and more out in the other parts of town, but he still would generally start his day here. The Fuel Cafe was his hangout. “I work by myself…I never had a crew,” he says, “but it was a springboard, the Fuel. I met so many of the people who hang around there. I would do my designs, figure things out on paper, and then head out and go about my day.”
Dana can still be found in The Fuel as well as other Riverwest cafes and haunts. He knows lots of folks around here and lots of folks know him. “Lots of folks, yes. I know them well enough to say hello, to give them unsolicited hugs,” he reports drolly. His progressive politics and social consciousness keep the conversations going. He was a Bernie supporter and contributed to the Women’s March.
And for the last nine or ten years he has added his special abilities and sensibilities to the Bliffert Hardware crew. As Dana tells it, “I approached Eli Bliffert, or they approached me. I bought all my lumber from them when they were Northside Lumber. (Eli) said, ‘Dana, we’re looking for someone to fix windows and screens. Do you know how to do that?’ to which I said, ‘Duh…what man of the hands doesn’t know how to do that?”
If you are looking for him you are likely to find him at Bliffert’s where they have “shortened the leash” on him of late, making him put in his hours “standing around like a robot.” But he is most likely to be outside at the picnic table where he can accommodate you with his service… “I am very service-oriented,” he says…or one of those unsolicited hugs. (Sorry, dry sense of humor rubbing onto writer.)
The first week of July Dana heads to the Unitarian Church Camp as he has for many years. There he will join his two sons with their families. Nick, a Unitarian Minister, and his wife live in Columbus, Indiana. And to Dana’s delight, Chris and Sara will be bringing the new grandbaby, Ezra Jude, from Wheaton, IL.
Then it’s back to Riverwest until the next leg of the journey. “I want to go into farming. I like the vitality of neighborhoods but I’d like to be closer to nature. I don’t like noise. I don’t like ever increasing tax burdens of owning real estate. I feel better in the country,” he explains and then asks and answers his own question, “What am I going to farm? I’m going to raise sheep and grow American Chestnuts, which is a four-year crop.”
“In Australia they produce sheep dentures. Did you know that?”
Go find Dana. He will tell you why.