Lone Star Ride distributes $150K to 3 AIDS services organizations during party at Salum

Allan Gould, Don Maison and Cece Cox
Allan Gould, Don Maison and Cece Cox accept a check from the Lone Star Ride. To see more photos from the wrap party on Sunday at Salum, go here.

On Sunday, Oct. 24, Lone Star Ride distributed $150,000 to AIDS Services of Dallas, the AIDS Outreach Center and Resource Center Dallas. AOC Executive Director Allan Gould, ASD President and CEO Don Maison and RCD Executive Director Cece Cox were on hand to accept the check.

At the party at Salum on Travis Street, Michael Veale was given an award for bringing in the most new donors.

Ralph Randall was the single biggest fundraiser. He attributed his success in collecting money to relentless behavior.

“You can’t be timid and raise money,” he said.

He didn’t allow the down economy to dissuade him from asking.

“This disease doesn’t have an economic cycle,” he said. “Always ask. All they can say is no. Don’t give up.”

He raised twice as much this year as he did last year. He said he did the ride in honor of a friend of his with HIV and he gave his plaque to him.

“I do a lot of these rides, ” said rider Allan Chernoff. “This is the best supported ride in Texas.”

“Absolutely!” said Eric Markinson about riding again next year. He is part of Team Blazing Saddles.

“I’m very proud of Team Dallas Voice,” said rider and Dallas Voice Publisher Robert Moore. “They worked very hard. They put the beneficiaries in sight on the road ahead.”

Team Dallas Voice raised more money than any other team in the history of the Lone Star Ride. The total topped $50,000 this year.

Shelly Morrow was a first-year rider from Glen Rose who is planning to participate again next year.

“The closing ceremonies really got to me,” she said.

The closing ceremonies held at base camp at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center near DFW Airport included a performance by the Turtle Creek Chorale and wheeling in the riderless bike. That bike symbolized all the people lost to AIDS. They retired the number of a rider who passed away since the previous ride.

“And next year, I’ll try not to take out anyone, especially a writer,” Morrow said.

Morrow and I collided about 18 miles into the ride. My back brakes failed as we were checking directions on the route. I went over my handlebars onto the street. Although we had been riding together for several miles, she didn’t realize that I wrote for Dallas Voice until she saw my write-up on this blog.

To see more photos from Sunday’s wrap party, go here.

—  David Taffet

Gay professionals find that necessity is mother of reinvention

Mark Shekter – When the recession hit his industry, Mark Shekter used his experience, talents to create new businesses

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

PASTRIES AND TAXES  |  Mark Shekter has reinvented himself during difficult economic times by recreating an old business and beginning new ones. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
PASTRIES AND TAXES | Mark Shekter has reinvented himself during difficult economic times by recreating an old business and beginning new ones. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Mark Shekter’s upscale residential design firm, Graphic+Design+Group, will celebrate 40 years in business in January. Surrealty, his real estate firm, has been selling homes in Oak Lawn and elsewhere for 25 years.

The award-winning home designer has had houses featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead lived in a house Shekter created. So does Nolan Ryan, and Shekter worked with Dave of Dave & Busters and the owner of the Houston Astros on their houses.

Shekter has designed many townhouses in Oak Lawn and he worked with a number of Turtle Creek high-rise condo owners to re-imagine their living spaces.

“They call me ‘The Space Doctor,’” he said. “But now builders can’t get financing and individuals are having a tough time qualifying.”
And, he said, there’s a glut of Oak Lawn townhouses on the market.

“In this down economy, you have to reinvent yourself, either with new ideas or bringing back some of the old ones,” Shekter said.
Developing new businesses is nothing new for Shekter. In the 1980s, during another downturn in the business cycle, he started a travel agency. He also created Lollapalooza, an event and party planning business.

“I love catering parties,” he said.

And so, to try and counteract the drop in the real estate market, Shekter decided to bring back Lollapalooza.

And since doing so, he has planned and catered everything from wedding and commitment ceremonies to Passover seders to dinner parties for two or four.

But Shekter explained that he does more than just cater parties.

“I approach the business like a contractor working with several subcontractors,” he said. “I go to hundreds of different sources to get the best of whatever you’re looking for.”

Along with Lollapalooza, Shekter also recently created Ruthie’s Rugaluch.

Rugaluch are a traditional eastern European European pastry. The name means “little royal twists” in Yiddish. They are thin, cream cheese pastry dough crescents filled with a combination of nuts, cinnamon, sugar, fruit preserves and raisins.

“It’s named after my mother,” Shekter said. “Everyone thinks it’s my mother’s recipe, but it wasn’t. She just liked to eat them.”

His partner in that business is an old friend who used to bake the pastries for the Neiman Marcus catalogue. Last year, he suggested they turn what had become just a hobby into a business.

Shekter said the rugaluch business is labor intensive and expensive.

To maintain his reputation for making his exquisite pastry, he spends quite a bit of money on fresh ingredients.

Minimum orders are $50 plus delivery charge. Orders over $100 include free delivery. The basic price is $19 for a baker’s dozen.

For large events, he said, they’re producing them by the hundreds.

And while catering and baking keep him quite busy, Shekter also created a third business. Two years ago, he helped a couple of his home design clients successfully challenge their property tax assessments.

“I was so successful, I decided this was another business,” he said.

So using his real estate and his design experience, Shekter reinvented himself in still another way: He became a real estate property tax consultant.

Using his knowledge of home design helped him judge whether an appraisal was fair and accurate. In a number of cases he even found inaccurate space measurements.

And his real estate experience helped Shekter access and judge comparative appraisal prices.

This year, Shekter has worked with 24 clients to challenge their tax appraisals. He said he got positive results for 20 of them.

He said that he charges a fee for his service, but only if he’s successful in lowering his client’s tax rate.

While the businesses may sound far-flung and disparate, Shekter said they are all closely related:

Many of his catering customers are people living in houses he designed.

His real estate customers have become his tax appraisal customers.

And his rugaluch customers have turned into kitchen redo clients and even new homebuyers.

“I’m always promoting and marketing,” Shekter said.

To order Ruthie’s Rugaluch, talk about a tax appraisal or design your next multi-million-dollar mansion, contact Mark Shekter at 214-520-8800.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas