Mike Alcorn: A Helluva Guy

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There’s something about a fraternal bond that is indescribable. It’s like a secret sauce that forever bands brothers together. And I’m not talking “brothers” in the genetic sense. It’s more a sense of kindred, a fundamental commonality that goes back, way back. It goes so far back our conscious mind can’t explain, can’t predict it.

But we know without a doubt when it’s there.

Like many, I knew Mike Alcorn. For certain not as well as others, but I knew him as a fellow-traveler, like most parents with kids the same age know each other.

Perhaps a little more given our shared entrepreneurial experience.

I can’t remember when I first met Mike, but I’m almost certain it was well before we knew of each other’s kids.

It was during the heyday of the Honeoye Falls Chamber of Commerce. He had just started Custom Brewcrafters and I had just created Carosa Stanton Asset Management (as well as Bullfinch Fund, Inc.).

As entrepreneurs, we both had an interest not merely in the technical logistics of our products and services, but in the general business methods needed to make our businesses sustainable. That’s why we joined the local Chamber. That’s why we began our friendship. (Although, I must admit, it was Luanne who really first encouraged me to start up a conversation with Mike. She and I were both officers/directors for the Chamber. I had wild ideas, she wanted to (and did) get things done. Perhaps she recognized quite quickly that Mike and I had this allied enthusiasm.)

There’s something about talking to another business owner that isn’t in your business. You lose the nitty-gritty jargon and speak of the forest, not the trees. It’s high concept. It’s fun. It’s enlightening. And, if you’re lucky, it can prove useful to growing your business.

That both our businesses grew goes without saying. And I won’t say too much about that because I’d merely be echoing what many others have said. I want to speak from a different perspective. It’s a perspective I feel many of the readers of this page – those that knew Mike like me – will appreciate.

Mike possessed two traits that we all aspire to. They represent the bedrock (and the glue) that binds the community. He was down-to-Earth and, at the same time, fiercely loyal. And naturally good humored.

Make that three traits, Mike had three traits that we all aspire to: humility, loyalty, and a happy-go-lucky nature that endeared him to many (but not all, more on that in a moment).

It was through coaching youth sports that I really got to know Mike. We both served as assistant coaches on our sons’ football team. He was a year ahead of me (or, rather, his eldest son Javon was a year ahead of Peter), so he facilitated getting me acquainted with the surroundings.

As a newbie, I could have easily been shoved off to the outsider’s role. Mike made sure I was welcomed into the coaching staff. It helped that we already knew each other. We could comfortably share thoughts, meaning I could ask him if any of my (always) wild ideas were off base (they usually were).

I knew his “regular guy” persona could both protect me from the other coaches perceiving me as a little bit too radical. At the same time, I was happy whenever he offered to be the one to stick his neck out on behalf of one of my ideas.

Not only did Mike’s humility make him more approachable, but his loyalty gave it all the more credibility. No doubt you know of his loyalty to his family. Mike and Luanne were a strong business team. You know exactly what it meant when Luanne called Mike her “soulmate” in the Facebook post where she announced his passing. Yes, it breaks our collective heart, but a couple bound by such love can never truly be unbound.

Many of us saw first-hand the father in Mike. I saw it on the sports fields (and other venues) as he proudly supported his boys. As a father, Mike showed the kind of loyalty to his kids that is quite hard. He wasn’t the kind of parent that believed their kid could do no wrong. He was loyal enough to be honest. Again, it’s a kind of loyalty we all wish we could have.

It’s also the kind of loyalty that sticks. His youngest son Josh (who interned with The Sentinel) wrote this about his father on his Facebook page: “My first memory of him was when he carried me on his back from the car into our house for the first time after being adopted. What I remember most however was how I felt. So safe, so calm… Everything was going to be OK if I just kept holding on to my Dad.”

This is what honest loyalty inspires. This is the kind of loyalty that, when woven throughout the community, becomes a fabric of virtue.

And Mike did extend that loyalty to his community. Not just our community, but the entire Western New York community. His business served that community well, but he wanted to serve the community more. I have two stories to tell here.

First, and most recent, when I appeared at the Erie County Fair in August, I had the honor of performing in their kitchen studio. There I worked with the culinary director of the Fair who also had a small winery. When I told him I lived in Mendon, he asked me if I knew Mike. He had known Mike since the Papermill Street days. He wanted to know if I could convince Mike to bring his beer to the Erie County Fair. (I did and Mike was interested, but then CB’s closed…)

Mike and I would often talk about our love for Western New York. Yes, some of it was about my book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York as well as an idea I had for a book called Western New York a State? Why Not? (about what happened to Western New York immediately after the Revolutionary War). And, yes, we did talk about Western New York breaking off of New York State to become its own state.

A while back, Mike surprised me. He said, “Chris, you gotta see this new IPA we just came out with.”

That’s when I first laid my eyes on “West is Best Double IPA.” I was very pleasantly surprised and honored. One look at the label and my 50 Hidden Gems book cover and you can see why Mike wanted me to see it. Mike called it “our little inside joke.”

That was the humorist in Mike. He wasn’t afraid to pull a good prank and he wasn’t afraid to troll every now and then. Boy, would his trolling egg people on. It sure would irritate some people (but delight countless others). If they didn’t like it, “then that says more about them” would be Mike’s retort.

I was reminded of something this Christmas while watching a newly digitized version of our wedding video that the kids delighted us with. In it, my college friends were interviewed for posterity. These are the same college friends who, every summer, would come to my house for our annual party, which traditionally began with a Saturday morning beer tasting at CBs.

In that video, my roommate for 4 years said, “Chris and I just have this bond. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say, we don’t need to say things to each other because we know what it is.”

Mike Alcorn did a lot for all of us. More importantly, I wanted to say something that spoke of this comradery I (and undoubtedly others) felt with Mike. And I really wanted to write a piece that would express that. I’m not sure I did it as well as I wanted.

I’m sure Mike is saying, “you don’t need to say it. I know what it is.”

Classic Mike. A helluva guy.

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