Editor’s Note: This month’s “Diaries” column has been hijacked. It is written by none other than Pete Schopen’s wife, Tami (or as Pete calls her, “The Queen”).
I should have known early on that life with Pete Schopen would be nothing short of an adventure. After graduating college and taking a radio job in Nebraska, Pete called me in Chicago, Ill., and said he would not be able to make our February wedding because of a basketball tournament.
After a few tears that may have caused the animals to walk down my street in pairs, I knew I had to figure it out. A few phone calls, a few pulled strings and a few lost deposits later, the wedding was set for Dec. 28. It was a gorgeous winter wedding.
Eighteen months after I joined him in Nebraska, I went back to Chicago to be my best friend’s matron of honor. When I didn’t return after the expected week — I wasn’t in a hurry to return to the goats and cows — Pete showed up and said he accepted a radio job in Cape Girardeau, Mo. I loved living in the Cape, and I still miss eating my lunch on the banks of the Mississippi.
A year later, Pete asked if we could visit Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Why not? When the interview was over, Pete was the new play-by-play man and I had a full scholarship for my master’s degree. Nicely done.
During the next year, I was too busy studying to let the small town, the moldy roofs, the gigantic cockroaches or our termite-infested house get me down. Pete was enjoying covering college and high school sports, so it was a shock when he told me he accepted a position with the Carolina Mudcats in Raleigh, N.C. I was six months away from getting my degree. We decided Pete would go to North Carolina and I would follow after graduation.
After a couple of years, we started looking for a house because I found out we were expecting our first son, Trey. All seemed well until the sudden death of my father, who had come to Raleigh with my mom to help me with the baby. After a lot of soul searching, Pete suggested we move back to Chicago. He didn’t like being on the road and my mom really needed us. Being a teacher, I knew I could get a job, but what would Pete do? “I’ll figure it out,” he said.
Working with his dad and brothers in pest control seemed like the perfect solution, but it didn’t take long before Pete caught the business bug and decided to strike out on his own. “Of course,” I said, but what I was thinking was: “How the heck are we going to figure this one out?”
It wasn’t smooth sailing. You’ve read about the pitfalls he’s encountered. I remember hosting 22 people for Christmas Eve the first year he started his business. Just before our guests arrived, a frantic housewife, also hosting, called and told Pete she saw a mouse. Could he please come now?! Of course he went.
I’m also terrified when he does bed bug work. On the days he has a bed bug job, I make sure there is a complete change of clothes in the garage. I then remind him by email, text and voicemail to leave everything outside.
Early on, when our boys were young, Pete’s long hours got to me sometimes. He would come home to full-on “Towanda” (It wouldn’t be a Start-Up Diary column without a movie reference, would it?).
On the grow
As the company started to grow and I began waking up to technicians in my breakfast room, I told Pete to figure something else out. So his fifth year in business, my hubby moved into his first office, in Lakemoor, Ill. That solved the men-in-the-kitchen problem and afforded us room to hire more technicians and continue to grow.
One morning, as I watched him fumble with wadded-up checks from the previous day’s service calls, I took the whole mess from him and told him I knew how to fill out a deposit slip. It was then I decided to leave my job as a college professor, and Schopen Pest Solutions’ Billing Department was born.
Ever since our beginning, I never let myself get too comfortable. There was always the possibility Pete was going to come up with “one more thing.” For example, one day he came into my office flushed and breathless like our kids on Christmas morning. “Guess what? I bought the old Mexican grocery store on Route 31. We’re going to renovate it and move the business!”
Funny, I could have sworn I heard: “Guess what? I sold the business and bought you a cabin in the North Carolina mountains!” Someday.
Now Wendy has taken over the billing department from me, but I still have my office. On some days, if Pete doesn’t need my help with something, I’ll slip on my tiara and mop the floors of our beautiful building. Pete will undoubtedly come up with something else, but it’s all turned out pretty well so far. Whatever the next thing is, we’ll figure it out. What’s life without a little adventure?
SCHOPEN is co-owner of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email her via email@example.com and reach Pete via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.
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