Boomers: Minocqua couple shares love of motorcycling
Steve and Karen Zajicek love the freedom of the outdoors. In fact, the two thoroughly enjoy their life in Minocqua and they love to camp, fish and snowmobile. But when they’re not working at their full-time jobs, few things make them happier than packing up provisions in one of the small trailers they manufacture, revving up their motorcycle and hitting the open road.
Which begs the question: With full-time jobs that they don’t intend to leave anytime soon, why are the Zajiceks putting time and effort into manufacturing trailers?
“I’m looking for something after retirement,” says Steve, who’s worked as a police officer for 20 years. He’s standing inside a well-lit pole building just outside of Minocqua that clearly houses a light manufacturing operation. “That’s my main goal.”
He and Karen, who works for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, will be working at their regular jobs for some time yet, but they’re preparing now for what’s called an “encore career” after retirement. Their plan involves sharing their love of motorcycling with other like-minded souls and earning money in the process.
The Zajiceks are not alone.
The traditional concept of retirement has changed radically in recent years. Rather than opting for the model of retirement that entails quitting work altogether and “going fishing,” many people now envision their retirements as second careers, a chance to do meaningful work they want to do, on their own terms. Some people take on these encore careers out of financial necessity. Others plan to work after retiring from their “regular” jobs in new careers for the joy of it. For many people, it’s a combination of both scenarios.
According to the Small Business Association website, this is a growing trend among people ages 50 and older, and the Zajiceks are positioning themselves now to become part of this wave of encore entrepreneurs later.
Steve and Karen set up their small trailer manufacturing business, Gypsy Trailers of Wisconsin LLC, a couple of summers ago.
“It was an existing business out of Ottawa, Canada,” Steve explains. They had found a small, aerodynamic trailer they wanted to purchase for their motorcycle and began corresponding with the owner of the company that manufactured the trailer. “He said, ‘By the way, you’re getting my last trailer,’” Steve recalls. The owner, they learned, was getting out and selling his business.
Steve and Karen rode their motorcycle to Canada to pick up the trailer and on the way, they decided to ask the owner how much he wanted for the company.
Since purchasing and renaming the business, the Zajiceks have steadily built it while holding down their regular jobs. It’s a family-run enterprise, with daughter Janelle handling public relations and marketing, sons Jacob and Lucas helping out with constructing the pole building and manufacturing, and Steve and Karen both sharing all the other aspects of running the business. To save time, Steve and Karen contract with an aluminum fabricator to weld the trailers’ aluminum frames and an auto body shop to provide the fiberglass from which the trailers are constructed. The Zajiceks then assemble the trailer components.
The trailers come in two models: the Scarab, which offers approximately 18 cubic feet of storage, and the Roamster, which has about 12 cubic feet of space. Both models are aerodynamic and eye-catching.
Their use isn’t limited to motorcycles – these sleek little trailers can also be towed behind small cars. With the additional storage capacity the trailers offer, riders can take more necessities with them and they can enjoy the freedom of traveling longer distances.
“It’s like having a home away from home,” Karen says. “And the trailer is nice for when we travel and want to bring things back for the grandchildren.”
The attractive trailers generate a lot of interest when motorcyclists gather for events. “We rented a booth at SARA Park for the Tomahawk Fall Ride,” Steve says, adding that the trailers have gotten a great reception at that event. “I talked to a lot of people.”
In fact, when he and Karen brought their first trailer home from Canada, a Scarab model, he learned quickly that it made an impression on people who saw it. “I could have sold it twice on the way home,” he recalls.
Retirement is a way off for Steve and Karen, but they have already begun to carve a path that will allow them to continue enjoying a lifestyle they love, and to share that love with others.
“This is our venture together,” Karen says. “I like having the satisfaction that we’re making a quality product that other people will enjoy as much as we do.”
For more information, log on to gypsytrailerswi.com.