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Frank Berenyi lives at Rivers Edge Golf Course in Shallotte. Like most retirees in this area, he is a busy, busy man.
Most men and women look forward to retirement after a hectic life in the trenches of the workforce. They’ve commuted by car, subway, or train every day. Some have had to fly here and abroad on business trips. That may sound glamorous, but traveling to several cities, states or even countries in a single week or month, can be totally exhausting.
We dream of retirement for years. We imagine turning off our alarm clocks, playing golf every day, going for long walks on the beach and reading all those best-sellers we never got to.
Doing nothing works for a few weeks or months, maybe even a year or two, but most of us find that we need something more to occupy our minds and our hearts. We need to feel energy and passion once more. We don’t want to work a 70-hour week, but we need to do something.
Frank Berenyi moved to Brunswick County eight years ago. As he played golf around the county, he saw a need for an inexpensive, easy-to-use holder for golf GPS systems and cellphones.
Thus was born the i-HANG-EZ Golf GPS Hanger.
Last Wednesday, Frank and I sat in the clubhouse at Rivers Edge and talked about his invention, his past life, his present dreams. There was enough material for several columns and a novella, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Here’s the condensed version:
“Nearly everyone today has a golf GPS system, either a separate unit or an app on their cellphone,” Frank said. “Most of the devices used to hold them on a golf cart are bulky and need to be attached by screws or clamps. They don’t easily fit into a golf bag or your pocket.
“I wanted to make something simple that would clip on to the windshield of the cart, provide easy access and not lose the satellite signal. Some golfers put their GPS devices in the cup holder, but then they were limited in putting their drinks in, too.
“So I got several coat hangers and played with them for a while, bending and taping and finally I came up with a prototype that would work.”
Inventing the GPS carrier was only the first step in a long process. First, Frank made a prototype. Then he got an engineer to put the exact measurements in a Computer Aided Design program so he could seek out potential manufacturers. CAD programs show designs in two and three dimensions.
“I incorporated my business and called it Mind to Mind LLC, then applied for a patent for my invention,” Frank said. “I needed to decide whether it should be made in plastic, metal or rubber, and for now, it’s in plastic. I found a manufacturer in China, but then I needed artwork for the holder. Various designs went back and forth and I ultimately decided on a holder with a few photos of the device and blurbs on how to use it. The name tells it all: i-HANG-EZ (I hang easy) Golf GPS Hanger.
“We now have a website and are taking orders,” Frank smiled. “I’m talking with various major golf stores and that looks promising, too. I’m having a blast.
Frank is a gregarious, fun-loving guy with a great sense of humor, but his past was difficult, to say the least.
“I was born in Belgium, and when I was 5 years old, my father was taken off to fight in World War II. I wound up in displaced persons camps for several years while they figured out what to do with us after the war. They lumped all the Poles together, the same with the Hungarians, the Belgians, all the ethnic groups. As we were moved from camp to camp, I got minimal schooling. They would ask what grade I was in, I would tell them I was in third grade, so I stayed in third grade until I was 11 years old.
“I finally landed here, and did not speak any English. After a while, I got drafted into the Army. They put me into Special Forces and I went to school to learn various things, including being a radio operator.”
When Frank got out of the Army, he wanted an education, so he took business correspondence courses.
“Then I got a job in the photo department of a chain of stores called Two Guys from Harrison. I became the assistant department head and traveled all over the world in that capacity.”
The chain is out of business now, but it was like a precursor to Kmart and Walmart.
Frank moved on to work for W.T. Grant and became a buyer of photo equipment and computers. From there, he started the company Color Craft Corporation. As director of retail sales overseas, he was stationed in Germany for three years and traveled much of the time to major markets overseas.
Then there was a stint with Kelly Film and Photo during 1984-2000. Again, more travel.
“After Kelly, I bought Berkey Photo, which was localized in the New York metropolitan area,” Frank said. “I was tired of all the traveling and wanted to be close to work. But, I soon realized that the time for photo stores was fast fading as computers and digital cameras came to the fore. I felt like the owner of a horse and buggy shop when he saw his first horseless carriage.”
Frank’s wife, Lois, has always loved horses and equestrienne sports. While living in New Jersey, they bought some land in Franklin Township, built barns and created a horse farm. Frank did most of the building himself and installed 3,200 feet of fencing. The farm had 12 horse stalls.
“My wife rode our horses and we leased stalls to other people,” Frank said. “For a while we even had some trotters and pacers and raced them at Freehold Raceway. We called our farm Middlebush Meadows and I was proud of it because we made something out of nothing.”
After many years of work in corporate America, after owning his own business, after building a horse farm, Frank decided he needed to retire and have a simpler life.
“We looked all over, from California to Maine and couldn’t decide,” Frank said. “My son is a pilot and one day, another pilot mentioned Shallotte, North Carolina, as a great place to live. We came down and checked it out and bought a place at Rivers Edge.”
Frank learned to play golf in the military, but confesses that he has not had much time to play golf in his lifetime.
“I’m just a hacker who played golf a handful of times a year,” he said. “I did shoot an 81 at Oyster Bay last week and that’s pretty good for me.”
A guy with Frank’s background probably would not be content to just play golf once in a while. Hence, the i-HANG-EZ golf GPS holder.
Right now, he orders them in batches of 1,000 and puts on the packaging himself while watching TV. If orders increase, the volume may dictate prepackaging, but for now, Frank is enjoying every minute of his new enterprise and doing some of the work at home. He would like to keep the retail price below $10.
“I’m just an old pushcart salesman,” he said. “I need to be selling something. I need to be busy.”
To check out his product, go to www.ihangez.com.
Golf Gab groaner
Barney opened up the paper one morning and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died.
He called his good friend and golfing buddy, Sid.
“Did you see the paper this morning?” he asked. “They say I died.”
“Yes, I saw the notice,” replied Sid. “Where are you calling from?”
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.