His big hand had been toughened by years of hard work. He was in construction, and he'd seen his fair share of hard times. A homebuilder on the South Shore, he was hoping to sell off the furniture that had graced a model home in a development he'd started in 2007.
Back then, he had big ambitions. His houses were lavished with granite, marble and exotic woods. Like most everyone else in the boom years, his buyers were giddy on easy money. They borrowed big to buy, and his upscale community was abuzz with all the signs of new wealth. Landscapers tended tidy lawns, and driveways were filled with shiny SUVs.
Then came the crash.
Almost overnight, a number of homeowners lost their jobs - and their ability to make payments on those big mortgages. Realtors' signs popped up all over the development. Desperate, owners were selling their homes for less than they paid.
With the market in tatters, the builder walked away from the development. He finally sold the model home and stored its furniture in a half-empty office building he owned not far away.
Recovery starts with a glimmer of hope. Business is picking up for one of the tenants in his building, and the fellow wants to expand. So the furniture has to go to make room for the growing company, the builder explained to me.
We were happy to help. There were some nice pieces with nary a scratch on them. Even more encouraging is the thought that the economy may be inching out of the hole it's been in since 2009. Let's hope my new friend and his expanding tenant are leading indicators.