tv Stossel FOX Business August 22, 2015 12:00am-1:01am EDT
inheritance" story you'd like to share with us? we'd love to hear it. send me an email or go to our website, "strange intertt now. see you tomorrow. >> at the edge of death valley. >> weird and unique. >> a man puts a dusty weigh station on the map, but the down and his legacy foul on hard times. >> i was hear from residence it was an ey eyesore. >> has he left his family a money pit. >> keep it in the family at all cost. >> or a monument. >> sometimes in life we don't appreciate things until they are gone.
jamie: i am jamie colby, i am driving through the mojave desert on the way to baker, california. it is half way between los angeles, and las vegas. a tiny dot on the map, 800 people. it am bodied weirdness of both those cities and largest attraction is tallest. as we com has become one familis rather "strange inheritance." >> i am lore a har guess, my father william haren set out to build the world's tallest thermometer. >> it is big. >> it is the world's tallest thermometer. jamie: if someone figured this roadside attract would get you to stop, it worked on me. >> how are you, i am jamie. >> today, they run a gift shop in the shadow of the tower.
they sell thermometer t-shirts, and hot sauce, and even thermometer, thermometers, this is really the world's tallest. it would be streufpblg enough to strange enough to inherit it in middle of desert. what is remarkable is the mission they took on after their father died in 2007. i tell her husband bill, i am ready for a challenge. >> i've been training to climb to the top, i'm going in. >> okay. jamie: why did you say it that way? >> i just bombed it this morning for the spiders. jamie: i am a girl of nature. >> they are little. >> >> reporter: block widow spiders. >> yep. >> you better close it up.
>> i draw the line. >> the story of this strange in4e"strangeinheritance" beginsg man who falls in love with california desert, in early 1950s after service in the air force and college, willis herron heads west from his home in kentucky to join his father in barstow, california, his dad is a restaurateur. >> he and his father had a couple of ref rests in barstow, and he was successful, my dad was personoonable. >> reporter: persononable. jamie: you may think of place known as the gateway to death valley, is a unlikely pot for -- spot for an eatery, but willis sees it differently. >> he knew people would need to stop between los angeles and las vegas. >> at a time when few cars have
air-conditions, baker is a perfect li-lly located oasis, at for gamblers to stop to get away from the heat. winners drive in to celebrate, and losers drown their sorrows in strawberry? >> fresh city berry pie is what it was known for, big breakfast, and also burgers, the specialty sandwiches. jamie: in 1971, willis falls in love with barbara stern, who comes with a house full of daughters. just the kind of workforce you need for a family restaurant. >> we all starte as busers we dd dishwashing and waitressing. >> the original burger was 3.95,
it came with cold law, -- coleslaw, and potatos. jamie: willis buys out his partner and becomes the biggest fish in the small pond. >> restaurants, and hotels, a gas station, and grocery store, all within a block. jamie: baker boomed in late '7s, willis buys a nice ho house in silver lake. a desert community 75 miles away, soon, business in baker sputters, the cars are all air-conditioned, drivers can drive-thru. willis needs a gimmick, something to grab their eye and wallet. he gets his inspiration in a unlikely spot, international falls, minnesota. >> they had world's tallest thermometer, it was 22 feet
high. and so, i think he saw this, and the wheels started spinning. jamie: 22 feet? pa shaw, his thermometer will mark highest temperature 134 degrees ever recorded in death valley, it will soar as high as baker is hot. >> my mom recalls saying, have you lost your mind. 100 dollar34 feet, my dad looke, and said, honey, come on, this will be fun. jamie: in 1990, willis cuts a deal with a las vegas company that builds and finances the big eye cashing signs. >> if you asked my moment, she would think he was crazy to spin $750,000 to build a thermometer.
jamie: 750,000? that may be puting it mildly, wit is puts down 150 k, they innocencfinance the other 600. by fall of 1991, it is going up, he bill its the great turn on. >> invitation went out. thanksgiving day he is out playing golf with his grandson, and he comes home, and my mom said, honey sit down i have something to tell you. >> that is next. >> our "strange inheritance" quiz question, what is the most visited tourist attraction in united states? times square, walt disney world or las vegas strip. the answer in a
134 foot thermometer. but a freak storm gathered over the mojave desert. >> thanksgiving day we got a devastating phone call that wind came through, and actually blown the thermometer over. over. >> was anyone hurt? >> nobody was hurt or killed. jamie: herron's dream for restoreing the economy of the tiny town of baker appears crushed. a bitter less know in the power of kwraeufp, that mighnature. >> it was insured we said put it back up. >> to keep it from having that problem again, we filled that center pipe with cement. >> 226 tons, in october 1992, herron flips switch. and the world's tallest thermomeet are lights up. >> it -- thermometer lights up.
>> it flashes, you can hear my mom crying in the background, saying thank god. jamie: you were only 2 years old when it was built. >> yes, there are cute pictures of us as kids. jamie: to his grandson, had establishs willis as a legendary figure. >> i am sure that money it took up to put up the thermometer was paid back 10 times. >> the brain storm helped make him a rich man. >> it brought business to baker, and people visits and stopping. jamie: willis owns two restaurants, his flagship, fun i do, and a coffee shop, two motels, a gas station and country store, he is his wife barbara are practically lord and lady from baker. >> any time anybody needed
anything in the family it was the understands talk to my grandfather, he would help you out,. jamie: willis knows the good times cannot go on foreiveer. >> in 2000 his he'l health was declining it was time to sell it off. >> my mom did not want him to sell it but he did not want her to worry about it. jamie: he puts it alla the markets. he finds a buyer who wants it all, willis takes back mortgages on the property and his other businesses, beis expecting a -- is expecting a nice income stream into the future, for 18 mops, new owner makes regular payments and wills enjoys his retirement. but then things get complicated. new owner is struggling. he wants out.
in 2006, to protect his investment, willis finds another buyer, but the new owner needs a bank loan and will not get it unless willis puts up the thermometer property as collateral, if the loan is not paid off, the bank can take it. then in july, 2007. willis herron dies at the age of 82. >> little did he know that the economic downturn would hit in 2009. >> after dropping 1,000 points. >> that dream of his that mom would not have to worry, changed when people did not pay the bills. >> as restaurant business fails, the new owner cuts back on main maintenance of the thermometer then stops making payment police, soon. the spire that willis erected
advertises only baker's economic distress. >> it was vandalizeed. i was hearing it was an eyesore. >> some people wanted it torn down. jamie: the family is shockd. >> my mom saw it a couple of year aopbgs ago, she was defense tateed. a couple was in front of it taking a picture, she started to apologize for the way that the thermometer or looked. jamie: she how is on the that day to have it restored and brought back to its glory. >> barbara has inherited a mortgage on the property, hardly enough to make good on her vow, will she be better off cutting her losses. >> sometimes in life we don't appreciate things until they are gone. jamie: that is next. >> here is another quiz question. what is america's oldest roadside attraction? a 6 story tall elephant, a
>> what is america's oldest roadside attraction? lucy the elephant has been stopping traffic in margaysince 18881. >> tell me about motel. >> well, my grandpa owned a lot here in baker. >> dan is reminisceing about his grangrandfather's small town business empire in baker, california. before his death in 2007, willis thought he unloaded it all. including his roadside attraction, the world's tallest thermometer. but, years later, the businesses are shuttered. the business loan is in default, and thermometer is a wreck, residents want to torn down.
>> it is a weird thing, that probably did you not make sense. but, it matters to some people, to a lot of people, more than we thought. >> >> reporter: jamie: barbara lives 90 miles away is in no position to deal with layers of deeds, mortgages and notes and leases that her husband attached to the holdings he left her. her daughters jump in to help this business stuff is not their bag. >> i look through the pages of the transactions for this, i am wondering how complicated is it now? >> we're not going to win business women of the year award. on this transition. jamie: you might not. >> they know this, if their mom wants to rest back control, she
will have to fund a bailout. >> she took it out of her savings. jamie: in her 70s. >> was that the right decision? >> it was. i think so. >> a got to wonder, barbara wants to redeem a pile of bad debt to distressed properties, including that thermometer, and a town whose best days may be in the rearview mirror. >> this was done for the heart. >> we wanted to bridged to briny dad's legacy. jamie: step one, the company agrees to white off its debt, and relinquish any claim on it and barbara forecloses on the thermometer property, and she pays off the bank that still has the lien. willis' pride and joy is back in the family. free and clear. step 4, maybe the hardest, geting it working again.
for that, it is back to yes co. >> we put new computer, driver, software, and new led lighting. >> how much did it cost to fix it? >> about $150,000. jamie: family members, most of whom live a couple of hours away take rotating shifts in bakeer to protect the you toe tower fr. >> this is where we've been the last 4 months. jamie: what? you have been liveing in this? >> it is. jamie: his grandson, taking a break from job hunting to help set up the gift shop. >> i painted everything from fixed dry wall, and all kinds of stuff. jamie: family members don't get paid, profits from the shop barely cover the electric bill for the therlo thermometer, bara
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>> >> we take cash be mackie and i are caught up in the excitement with the world's tallest thermometer. as they celebrate their stranger and hard-won inheritance. despite health problems comes to baker in the style. today is the rededication of the world's tallest thermometer decades after there first came across the mojave desert. >> over 40 years ago he had a dream. >> my mom kept her promise
and spent her savings to repair the thermometer to get back to where it should be. >> dedicated this saturday 2014 to the rich owners and founders of the world's tallest a thermometer. [applause] >> i watched your face sanders mile. it said everything. >> i am proud. i have three girls and they did a very good job. jamie: making sure their kids understand the importance of the monument to the memory of the man that they loved. >> remember this day. we will be gone one day and we want you to keep it in the family at all cost.
>> it feels like giving back to my grandfather who was so generous to us all our lives than to say thank you. >> no doubt to the crazy thermometer to motels he was a classic american success story. but there is one he missed. in the 1950's he ran into a man and then convention named colonel harlan sanders who wanted to let him in on the ground floor of his own new enterprise kentucky fried chicken. but he turned him down. fried chicken? that will never catch along. he has always told that story with a laugh. i am jamie colby.
. jamie: i'm jamie colby and today i'm driving along the jersey shore on a sliver of barrier island that took a beating from superstorm sandy in 2012. here to meet a family rebuilding from the disaster, and their "strange inheritance" may end up being their lifesaver. >> i'm rick wenzel, family business has been here in new jersey for generations. i found something in the attic that's going to help us save our business. jamie: the wenzel family is a fixture in the beach community, a restaurant called salty's, like so much of the jersey shore that got pummeled by sandy. salty's was not the average neighborhood ice cream parlor. >> we were the largest bulk ice cream distributor for hershey's
ice cream, they would give us a golden scoop. 200,000 gallons of ice cream every summer. >> what was the traffic like on a good day? >> salty's was the place to come. >> there would be a line out the door. sometime around the block. it was a nice spot for an evening out. it could be music, it could be hermit crab races. always a surprise. jamie: why is it important that salty's come back? >> it's an anchor for our whole community and the people who come to the jersey shore.. jamie: the story of salty's and the "strange inheritance" begins far from the boardwalk with rick's grandfather guftaf wenzel, he opens a bowling alley during the great depression in garwood, new jersey. gustav sells comic books, may have been his own best customer. >> he was an avid comic book
collector. all different genres, it wasn't just superheroes, there were western comic book, comic books about baseball players. jamie: gustav's son bob inherits his dad's love of comic books, bob's favorite chronicles the adventures of a space explorer he will name his son after. explorer that he will name his son after. >> he was a comic book character named brick. jamie: i see it. >> in 1962, he moves to the beach and opened this gift shop. and over the years it evolved into an ice cream shop and restaurant. but he is determined to strike out on his own. >> by the time i was 14 years of age, i had started my own the company.
>> i had a passion for it and the commercial fishing industry was extremely profitable. >> this is my first fishery experienced. >> we are going to put you right to work. >> would you like me where these? >> yes, i do. >> okay, orange is the new black. >> while i'm doing a wardrobe change, let's keep this on eyes. it is a stormy day in 1997. >> northeast, 20 to 30 miles per hour. >> a childhood friend notices that this fishing boat has come loose from the dock. >> i was waitressing in the west on. >> it wasn't tied up, it was tied up perfectly, not everyone knows how to do this properly during a major nor'easter. >> we had known each other since childhood. >> one impressive nautical not and the next thing that you
know, brick and britta tied the proverbial one. in 1997 when his advertisers committee hands the business over to the kids. >> when there's no tourist around, the fishing income kept us going. >> okay. cue the girl and the waiter. jamie: now that i got this, what am i going to do? >> we have the bluefish and we are going to get them ready to ship them out. >> you have to turn around to. >> escamilla have to get them swimming downstream as they go through. jamie: okay, i'm getting them out. >> you have to swim the right way. >> goodbye, see you later. >> okay comment now we have to put him in the box over here.
>> that is a big one. >> i still have time, i made a reservation. [laughter] >> 100 pounds, bluefish. jamie: today is total catch of fish is worth $280,000. >> i'm going to see you later. >> okay, sounds good. >> fishermen are always starting, but the eat well. brick and britta one a way to turn the family seasonal businesses into an enterprise with year-round cash flow. and real estate in this community is always a good bet. so they purchase new properties and renovate this one. when the grandmother dies they remodel her house as well. >> after my grandmother passed away we had to demolish the building.
but when we took out one of the laws, there were comic books up in the walls like insulation. we had a feeling they were worth something am a but we really didn't know much about it because i'm not a comic book collector. >> so they put the comic books away and they didn't think about them. and along the way they rolled the dice. >> we dropped insurance. it was because the insurance payments have gone so high. >> we were looking at over 30,000 dollars in insurance annually. so we decided to take that money and invest it, some in the stock market, some in other pieces of property. >> a decade and a half those i and the gamble seems to be paying off. and then in the fall of 2012, the wenzels prepare to celebrate salty's five decades on the boardwalk. on october 22, a tropical storm
becomes hurricane sandy and the jersey shore is in its crosshairs. >> we have seen what happens when a storm hits the jersey shore but it was the first time that we ever saw a storm of this magnitude. >> that is coming up next. >> first, here is our quiz question, which jersey artist has the most number one hit single. bruce springsteen, frank sonata, or whitney
♪ ♪ >> which jersey artist has the most number one hit singles? it's whitney houston, who hit the billboard number one singles spot 11 times. >> october of 2012 herriot brick and britta are planning a celebration for salty's, the jersey shore ice cream parlor that has been in the family for half a century. >> this morning i formally declare it a state of emergency in anticipation of hurricane sandy. >> they get off the island. this is a jersey shore are perfect storm that amplifies by a full moon.
>> rushing down washington avenue, you really can't thrive on these things right now. >> two weeks later, brick and britta return home but nothing can prepare them for what they are about to see. >> it was overwhelming emotionally to absorb the damage that had been done. the roadway itself had big holes in it and telephone poles down. and then all of the ice cream cases were also flipped, the display cases, a giant pile of broken glass. >> for the last 15 years they have gone without flood insurance. now, their luck has run out. they estimate that rebuilding their home and their other businesses is going to run seven figures and they scramble for loans and learned that there's
no quick fix and lots of red tape. >> this is one project in building that we are working on. >> all of this just to get it one of your properties in order? >> yes. >> we needed cash right away to start. at least to start demolition and after the storm, cash was king because people would not work for anything but cash. >> so we started working my way slowly through family belongings. and the liquidating what we can. >> as he is rummaging through the house looking or anything that could be sold coming he used stumbles across the one that goes all the way back to his grandfather's. >> one of the things which my father left for me, was comic books. we had them up in the attic.
>> which was the first comic book hero to get his own movie? it's the captain marvel saturday serials launched in 1941 followed to the silver screen. >> and 2013, brick and britta wenzel are scrambling to rebuild their family enterprise after superstorm sandy including salty's, the jersey shore ice cream parlor that has been in the family for half a century. and as they do, brick rediscovers a long forgotten collection of vintage common books. going back now.
jamie: where there wasn't water in the attic to . >> correct. >> how many comic books are we talking about a max. >> we had over 1100 comic books. jamie: that is amazing. >> anywhere else, and hurricane sandy would wash them away. and what is more, he realizes that he kept the comics and christine shape. >> there were not a lot of been pages, it was set aside, and that someday they may be worth something. >> possibly the goldmine that brick has been searching for. he. >> i took the first comic book out. i looked it up and it said $1200 and i screamed and i took the next one and that one was 2000 and than 3,004,000. and i was screaming like a giddy schoolgirl. >> he researched further and learned that the biggest place to deal comics are comic
conventions like comic-con where fans dress up, celebrity signed autographs and we're buying and selling comic books is big business. >> you can imagine people walking around in costumes, i would rather be wearing rubber slickers. >> in march of 2013, the jersey shore fisherman casts his net at a comic show expo in new jersey where one convention passes his i. >> there's one young man in a sharp style suit making out a check and i went over and i took a peek and it was for a million dollars. >> are you exaggerating? >> no and i said, that is who we want to go speak with. >> the bigshot broker is this guy. the co-owner of metropolis collectibles in manhattan. jamie: it's time for me to head downtown for a little visit. jamie: wow, this is
unbelievable. you must be a kid in a candy store everyday at work. >> everyday i am the happiest kid in the world. jamie: and it's even much more lucrative. >> my company purchased the most expensive comic book. it is the holy grail of comic books, the first appearance started. >> they sold the most expensive comic book in history. they are the one with the gentle and we wanted to go bring it. jamie: when he sees the sample of collections, he is definitely intrigued. >> what was great about the collection of brick, during the wartime, superman was beating this not out of killer. jamie: so what happens when you have more? >> you could tell the honest expression that he didn't
believe them. it was closer to 1200 altogether. jamie: vincent has to go there to see the whole collection with his own eyes. >> it was definitely worth the trip. >> it wasn't just a typical superhero collection, it had horror, war and romance as well. >> here is why i like comics. he disappears before your eyes. >> how do i know when the comic is valuable? >> there's a variety of different things are going to the value of a comic book and the first one is usually appearance is and then there's the condition that plays an integral part in trying to figure out the value of a specific comic. you are looking for an accumulation of effects, whichever one has more defects is the lower, pending the best one, you are looking for creases and bends and tears. >> i'm going to test you.
>> he hands me a comic look and ask me to smell it. >> okay. >> ocean? >> that is actually really good. that was stored in the collection that was by the ocean. when you smell something come it takes you back to a time in your life in these kinds of things can really affect someone and then you say, i want that comic book. >> it was stored by the this area and marinated in whatever wafted up into their attic. >> it would take me back. >> in the end, did your superhero comic save the super day enact.
or a million sleepless nights. whether it's building the world's most advanced satellite, the space station, or the next leap in unmanned systems. at boeing, one thing never changes. our passion to make it real. ♪ announcer: that to "strange inheritance." jamie: superstorm sandy thrashing the jersey shore in october 2012. three years later salty's ice cream parlor, a 50-year-old icon owned by brick and britta remains out of commission. >> it has been hard for us to look out the window and see little kid who run up the block and get here in real life.
>> in the spring at 2013, they are pinning their hopes on 1200 comics that he inherited from his father. and he discovered them in his attic after the storm. >> they don't expect to get nearly enough to fix everything, but they hope for enough to tide them over. jamie: they open online bidding for his comic books on his website. >> we start them at 1 dollar star prices with no reserve. >> they sell over a thousand comic books. and lots of them go for 10 or 20
or $30. some of them go for a lot more. $850. a marvel mistry sells for more than 1200. and batman number three is 2000. and finally, the superman clobbering hitler gets $3000. >> how to brick and trans transt you? >> we were able to update by about three to 4%. >> over all they got $300,000. >> to the save the day? >> it was money for the process of rebuilding from hurricane sandy. >> i am inspired by them and this small-town determination to
rebuild from hurricane sandy. ♪ ♪ jamie: another box of grampus comics was just discovered and the wenzel family is planning to auction them off. there is one heirloom that brick did not sell, the scrapbooks of vintage comic strips dedicated to his father before he was born. some of the comics are nearly 100 years old and he doesn't know how much they are worth, but given the growing market for comics come and he says that he may hold onto them for another rainy day or just keep them with
the memory of the grandfather whose comic book collection came to the family's rescue. i am jamie colby for "strange inheritance" and thank you for watching. rememb kheryl in for neil cavuto thank you for watching. >> deep in the swamps of central florida. >> we have a couple,000 alligators. -- a couple hundred crocodiles. >> lurks one "strange inheritance." >> my ideal all along was that i could build something that i could pass down to my family. >> always in the back of your mind? >> always. jamie: can we name this one jamie? >> absolutely. >> passing down an enterprise like this can be trecherrous. >> we might have to hit the road. >> it might be soldout from under us. >> it is risky business. >> what happened to your finger? >> a correct deal bit it off -- crocodile bit it
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