Stu Watson
 
June 11, 2014 | Archive , Club Naked, Education, employee | Stu Watson

Naked co-founder Michalec to expand role, play 'designated hitter'

Some people go to school, pick a path and follow it forever.

Not Dave Michalec, one of three founding partners at Naked winery. He calls himself the “Naked negotiator,” a whimsical reference to the latest chapter in his own Shatner-esque “Star Trek.”

Like partners Dave and Jody Barringer, Michalec embraces variety and the notion of reinvention. He never set out to start and grow a winery, but now that he has, he couldn't be happier.

Just busier, at least on the Naked front, which is just what lies ahead. From years helping the winery from a positon of “quiet engagement,” Michalec is stepping up his game and involvement with Naked.

He says he'll be dedicating more of his energy to helping the national distribution effort, “ramping up the Outdoor Wino brand, and working as a designated hitter on other stuff.”

That will include help with trade shows, something he's done before. He also hopes to help expand Naked's … penetration … of the South Dakota market.

From past to present, Michalec has done a bit of almost everything.

Only briefly, however, did any of his pursuits have much of anything to do with his undergrad degree in electronics from the University of Central Missouri. Yes, before heading west from his hometown of Chicago, he did apply his studies to system support work in the telecom industry with MCI.

“There was a time when I had five jobs,” he says, of the years after windsurfing lured him in the late 1990s from real estate sales in Seattle to the Columbia River Gorge. He was …

  • the owner and operator of Stuffano's Pizza (Chicago style)
  • selling PC Safe software
  • selling real estate (including homes to Jody, her sister and parents, which led to conversations about what to do with wine grapes on their property and, well, you know the rest).
  • installing Trace Security software for banks
  • and “doing everything” with the Barringers in launching Naked Winery more than a decade ago.

“My main contribution, I was definitely a creative person,” he says. “I did a lot of label writing. I had a recorder by my bed to capture ideas that would come to me in the night.”

Ideas for T-shirts.

Ideas for risque wine names.

Ideas for securing new accounts, like “loading 20 cases of wine on the back of a truck and taking it door to door on the coast.”

Ask Michalec what gets his blood running these days, and he says nothing about the wind for which the Gorge is justly famous.

He mentions fishing.

A day chasing steelhead and salmon on the Klickitat River is about as good as it gets.

That passion is captured in the brand for his only other current business, Steelhead Insurance, which represents life, long-term care and disability insurance. He'll keep its web site running, “on a reactive basis,” as he steps up his duties with Naked.

“We're all here to win,” he says.

Or go fish.
 

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