Pandemic slams brakes on Goode
NASHUA – Jon Goode was making his way back to the area from Manchester late the night of March 11, after watching the Bishop Guertin High School boys hockey team bow to Bedford in the semis.
He was on the phone with one of his clients, and then got a text that told him the NBA had just suspended its season.
“I was silent, and they were like, ‘What’s wrong?’ ” Goode said. “And I said, ‘This is it. I’m done.’ ”
Goode knew. He knew the coronavirus pandemic would be poison to his business which was just peaking. The former Nashua Silver Knights VP who really helped found the franchise is the owner of KBK Sports, which basically raises money for charities and organizations at their events through the sale and auctioning of sports memorabilia.
Except now there are no events.
“That’s when it hit me,” Goode said, adding he told the client, “Things are going to change – and not change for the good. I told him, ‘You’re not going to have any work for the next month at least.’ He said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Yes, start getting things in order. … Trust me. We need to start preparing now.’ And things just snowballed from there.”
And Goode, like everyone else, was caught completely off guard.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever, ever envision anything like this at all,” Goode said. “I’m pretty much a regular at a lot of high school events, and it’s weird to think of all the events that literally evaporated in the blink of an eye.”
The business loss for Goode has been astronomical. His company worked and helped 100-150 events per month on average. “And we’ll do maybe 30 to 40 on a weekend, or big weekends.
“We went to having a really big March and April for events we planned to help to not one. It literally happened in a blink of an eye. We usually try to make sure we have enough staff for all the events we help, the charities we help, the organizations we help.
“How do I even keep my full time staff? We went from making money to literally like zero money in over a two-day span. It was pretty crazy.”
There were a couple of weekend events that still went on in the middle of the month but after that there was nothing. We went from having to zero revenue in the blink of an eye.”
And Goode is thus one of the many economic victims of the pandemic. His business is located in downtown Nashua, but his landlord approached him about giving him a rent break for now, and he’s spent all of last week filling out loan papers, hoping to rehire the full time staff of four that he had to furlough, not to mention about 40-50 part-timers who just work events.
“It was hard,” he said of his staff. “They’re younger kids, and I care about them immensely. They look to me for leadership and to learn, and I kind of felt like a failure to them. They understood, and deep down I know this isn’t my fault,
Trying to do the right thing for them. I told them I could try to keep you on, try to burn through my line of credit, but I told them my biggest fear for them would be if things did turn around for us I would’ve burned through everything that I had left and then I’d have to lay you guys off when everyone’s coming back.”
So in Goode’s mind, better his staff could collect unemployment, he can hold on to the business and when restrictions are lifted there would be jobs and a company for them to return to.
“They’re an amazing staff and I’m lucky to have them,” he said. “They’re all bright, all innovative. I’m big on loyalty and hard work and all four of them have loyalty and hard work.
“I’m really lucky to have them but at the same time it was kind of a helpless feeling. I’ve always said I’ll stand by them and help them out and for me to put them on furlough was really a hard thing for me.”
It’s certainly a familiar story, as businesses in every community across the area, the region, and the country have suffered. But Goode says his is a forgotten industry in some respects.
“What’s even harder is I think the event industry has become kind of lost in all this,” he said, “because we were the first ones hit and we’ll probably be the last ones back.
“We’ll fully be back when the NFL is back (or starts up) and the NHL is back, concerts are back,” Goode said. “You’ll see restaurants come back before the events do, you’ll see jobs come back.
“But conventions, we do a lot of conferences, conventions, concerts, big sporting events, along with a charity. Those are going to be the last things to come back. And we were the first ones hit, too. The events just dropped off.”
Goode knows that he’s not alone, and there are others that are even more impacted.
“I could look at this selfishly,” he said, “I can get frustrated and annoyed and angered, but at the same time, I do have friends who are nurses and doctors, and I do know someone who is in the hospital right now with COVID-19 and fighting (for their life).”
Borne from passion
Goode founded KBK Sports – named after his kids Kylen, Brayden and Kenzley – back in 2008, when he was VP with the Lowell Spinners. He saw the Ted Williams Museum raising money at Fenway Park with auctions and he said, “Whoa, raising money for charity and sports? Those are my two huge passions.
“I kind of learned it and had some fun with it on the side. It wasn’t my major business obviously, my priorities were with the Spinners and Silver Knights at the time. It was a fun way to make a little bit of extra money.”
But a few years ago then Spinners and Silver Knights owner Drew Weber put both teams up for sale, and Goode knew it was a perfect time to build his side business up to something full time.
“It completely took off at that point,” he said.
Goode spends over half a million dollars in memorabilia purchases, and then sets up auction for charities, getting a profit split, or the items are lent to organizations who run their own events and KBK will get only a percentage if they are sold at auction.
His most popular items have always been , by far, he says, Patriots and Bruins items. “Not even close,” he said. “And we’re also seeing an increase in popularity in women’s sports items. But it’s definitely Patriots and Bruins.”
His biggest seller has been, believe it or not, an autographed photo of former Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers’ mask, which those who are old enough remember his mask was unique with all the notches in it.
Goode’s business was actually hitting its peak at the time of the shutdown. The company worked hockey star Jack Eichel’s clinic this year and Bruin Charlie McAvoy’s the year before and was negotiating to work another Bruin’s event, Brandon Carlo. Eichel, from Chelmsford, plays for the Buffalo Sabres and Goode was set to do a future event for him in Buffalo. Another event Goode was set to do was a huge fundraise for New England Pop Warner Football at Gillette Stadium.
“We’ve grown and grown and grown,” he said, “But now I almost feel like we’re hitting the reset button.”
Goode also has a girls All-Star Hockey event he organized scheduled for June 20 at Tri-Town Arena for It involves high school, prep school and junior players that live in New Hampshire, but he wonders if it can still take place. It’s two games, a freshmen-sophomore game and a junior-senior game.
“We wanted to put something together that recognizes the top high school (age) girls hockey players from New Hampshire,” Goode said. “Whether it’s public, private, juniors, whatever it is, we’ll match them all together in one setting.”
And the nervous part for Goode about this event is if there’s a crowd restriction, it may not even cover the event expenses.
“If we try to raise money for a non-profit, it would be nearly impossible,” he said. “Not only will we lose sponsorships leading in because businesses don’t have it, but if we’re restricted on attendance, then. … We’re still planning on it. We haven’t canceled it.”
Hitting the web
There is one silver lining. About a week before the crash, Goode had started to delve into the on-line auction world. He’s currently doing some of that out of his office alone.
“It’s not ready to go full speed, and it’s not bringing in the money, no where close to the revenue on a given week, but you know, we’ve been able to auction off three or four things a week. Four items a week instead of 30 events.
“But kind of our game plan now is auction off three four four things a week, learn the software, and when things start rolling out we’ll be able to go back to the staffed auctions and start lending items out, but I’ll have another service of on-line auctions. So there’ll be something positive in this as well.”
But Goode knows that “I’m not going to come out of it until the major sports teams are back. I’ve been watching that closely. And not when teams come back and play with no fans. We’ll be back when teams are playing in front of full stadiums.
“That’s the part that makes me a little nervous.”
Goode knows that the recovery for everyone won’t be a quick fix.
“When we come out of it, it’s not like we’re going to wake up on a Monday and everything’s going to be back to normal,” he said. “It’s going to be a step by step process and I don’t know where those steps are going to be. …
“For the better good, I know I need to make this sacrifice, but it’s just trying to make the sacrifice and when things do come back I can keep pushing forward.
“Surviving is all it really is.”