Roy Landesberg

Roy Landesberg was born in 1949 in New York City, where he lived until the family moved to Long Island. After college, Roy began working for his father’s exporting busi­ness. Later he married Lydia [nee Herzig], and they raised their four children in Katonah, New York. They now live in Waterford, from where Roy runs his business, ProTec Friction Group.

 
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I was born into a secular Jewish family. My mother’s family was Orthodox, but she left all of that behind. Because my father lost his entire family during the Holocaust, he also lost his faith in a benevolent God.
His father, my grandfather, was hanged by the Nazis in the public square of Lviv, Poland [now Ukraine]. Years later, in Yad Vashem—a museum in Israel devoted to preserving Holocaust memories—we learned the entire story about how he had sacrificed himself. As the head of the Jewish community in Lviv, he took the rap for the death of a German army officer to save others in the precinct.
My mother worked at the United Nations (UN). As a result, we resided in a UN apartment development in Queens, and I attended the UN School, a highly regarded private school. The UN’s junior high school was located in Manhattan. Rather than have me travel two hours by bus each day, my parents opted to have me finish junior high in Queens. Later, we moved to Long Island, where I attended Great Neck South Senior High School. That is where I met Lydia.
I was not really aware of world events until I attended Williams College and majored in Political Science. This was during the Vietnam era, and at a certain point I became involved in the anti-war move­ment. Eight of us were so frustrated about the apathy surrounding the war, we dropped out of Williams in protest. I finished my degree at New York University.
I started working for my father’s company in 1972. At the time, America was the world leader in heavy equipment production. My father had been the quarry master of the family business in Poland. Much of the equipment used in quarrying was similar to that used in road-building. My father’s intimate knowledge of both of those operations enabled him to become a successful exporter of a variety of quarrying, crushing, and earthmoving equipment
 
He lured me into his business when a friend of his in Rio de Janeiro needed help break­ing into the North American market. His firm manufactured a strong line of clutch, brake, and industrial parts. The skills I acquired during this time would eventually lead me to start Protec, a consort­ium of nine European, US, and South American manufacturers. Though all of them produce great products, they rely on us for marketing, as well as conventional sales and distribution. We now specialize in robotics, motor­sports, and industrial brake and clutch products. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was still working for my father when Lydia and I married and moved to Westchester County, where we eventually had our four children—two boys on top; two girls on the bottom. We lived on a dirt road in Katonah. When we moved there, it was a bohemian town where little kids got a free cookie at the bakery. It later became developed and gentrified.
Following the stock market crash of 2008, Lydia and I re-evaluated our situation and moved to Maine, saving a lot of money and improving the quality of our lives. Katonah was great, but after our children moved out, we saw no reason to stay in that big house.
I feel good about our move to Maine. We live in a beautiful and relatively safe environ­ment. I will admit that after falling on the ice and tearing my shoulder, I had my doubts about Maine; however, since I discovered crampons for walking on our icy driveway, my doubts about Maine have all but disap­peared.
I am especially enjoying my volunteer work as a member of the board at the Fare Share Food Cooperative. We are extremely fortunate to live in a small town with an independent, member-owned business that sells healthy, affordable food. And increasingly, the food is locally-sourced.
From a business perspective, moving up here appeared at first to be something of a compro­mise, but in the end, the simplicity and serenity here have helped me to grow. I have be­come tougher up here, smarter, and I think a better person.
Against all odds, ProTec has grown as well. The company is in the process of reinventing itself. We are building a sales group in Maine inspired by our son Stu’s expertise. His company, Grove Collaborative, markets and sells en­vir­on­­mentally sustainable household products. Though Grove is located in San Francisco, they just opened a sizable office on India Street in Portland.
Their focus on the ecology-based economy, fighting climate change, and avoiding toxic household products, has motivated us to attempt to shrink the carbon footprint of the transportation industry. One of the ways we are doing this is by positioning our Maine market­ing group as a seller of “green” braking systems, especially those massive drum brakes on tractor-trailer trucks.
We want people to realize that for each pound of steel or cast iron that is produced, 3.5 pounds of carbon are released into the atmosphere. Mechanics often attempt to convince their clients that they need new brake rotors when all they really need is a thorough cleaning of their existing rotors with com­pressed air.
I will be 70 in October, but I am just getting started. My business continues to improve, and that is definitely a plus. But the greatest source of my happiness stems from my relationship with Lydia and our four children, for whose love and support I am extremely grateful.
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