Melissa Walsh

The Gridiron Club’s mover and shaker

Grosse Pointe News | February 8th, 2018 | Pointer of Interest


POINTER OF INTEREST: The Gridiron Club’s mover and shaker By Melissa Walsh

John Steininger knows value and knows how to sell it. The 67-year-old life-long Pointer featured on American Pickers’ “Risks and Rewards” episode Dec. 26, 2016, collects historic treasures he showcases in the old, massive brick building he owns on Jefferson in Detroit.

Steininger, 67, contributed his sense of collecting and marketing value as a new member of Grosse Pointe South High School’s Gridiron Club in 2006, when his son John was a senior playing football for the school. When tasked with the assignment of selling ads in the football program book, Steininger knew a better way to solicit community support, using a special workforce to do it — South’s football players.

Laughing, Steininger recalled, “I told them (Gridiron Club board), ‘Basically that’s extortion.’ Because no one ever really benefits from an ad in the program book.

“‘You’ve got it all wrong,’” Steininger told the board. “‘The people in this room are the executive committee. The sales force is the football team.’”

That fall, Steininger went to work to launch the first Grosse Pointe South High School Blue Devils Coupon Book to benefit the school’s football program. Eleven years after the first 2006-07 book, sales raise between $60,000 to $80,000 a year.

Before the book, Steininger said, “They (Gridiron Club) were raising like $6,000 a year and they thought it was the end of the rainbow.”

Added Steininger, “I saw a need to create something the community could attach themselves to and give an object lesson to the kids. This establishes a direct relationship between their sales ability and the new equipment it will purchase.”

Though coupon book sales do not eliminate South football’s pay-to-play fees, sales revenue equips the players with high-quality gear and offers relief to families struggling to pay player fees.

“There are some kids who can’t afford pay to play, and the Gridiron Club will pick up their tab,” Steininger said. “We make it happen.”

Each spring, Steininger hits the pavement to sell coupon ads to local businesses for $40 each, allowing two per business. Some businesses that ran coupons during the book’s early “if-come” years are grandfathered for purchasing three ads each.

Each year the book includes 180 and 190 coupons, divided into several categories. Each coupon is redeemable for a full year, Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.

“What’s beautiful about this book is you can buy a coupon in the book for $40,” Steininger said. “So for $40, as a business person, you get 4,000 exposures in your target area. That’s a phenomenal rate.”

Steininger and Roger Basse, Gridiron coupon-book co-chairman, firm up sales and produce the ads to meet a June printer date. In August, South football players get their sales assignments — each required to sell 25 books. On “Blitz Day” in early fall, parent volunteers take the players around town in small groups to close sales. Some players do pre-sales, Steininger said.

“Entrepreneural types make this book happen. They really drive it,” he added.

The books also are stocked for purchase at The League Shop in The Village, Chemical Bank on The Hill, Maier Warner Salon, Irish Coffee Bar and Grill and Small Favors Gift Shop.

Steininger produces the books for $2.50 each. The players sell each for $25, generating $22.50 in profit.

This year the Grosse Pointe South High School choir began selling the book, earning $10 per book for their program and adding another $12.50 of profit per book sold to Gridiron Club fundraising revenue.

“A well-funded athletic program, and the extra-curriculars in general, attracts people to the community,” Steininger said.

A former Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education member 2008 through 2011, serving as president the last two years, Steininger knows attracting additional students to the district increases state district funding.

“The more students you bring in, the better it is not only for the school system, but for the community in general, property values, businesses,” Steininger said. “And that’s what makes this book so valuable, because it feeds all those hungry needs.”

Steininger, who lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, grew up on Hampton in Grosse Pointe Woods, graduating from Grosse Pointe High School in 1968.

Working his way through earning a degree in education at Wayne State University in 1974, Steininger performed several jobs as a young man, including moving furniture for Hudson’s Department Store, bartending at Diamond Lil’s Saloon and working as a banana inspector at Standard Steamship & Fruit Co.

Steininger started his business, Grosse Pointe Moving and Storage, with a pickup truck and an ad in the Grosse Pointe News, falling into the moving business by being called on by friends seeking help with moving.

He recalled, “People knew I had a pickup truck, so they just started asking me to move furniture for them. They were getting their first apartments. Little by little, more and more people kept calling me. It wasn’t just for beer and pizza anymore. They were willing to pay cash money.”

He bought the building on Jefferson in Detroit in 1984.

Steininger, who still specializes in moving pianos, said, “What’s good about the moving business is it keeps you in shape. You get a workout without having to pay for it.”

As much or more than his work and the historic collections he showcases in his building in Detroit, Steininger appreciates Grosse Pointe.

“This is a great community. I’m really thrilled to live here. It’s been really good to me,” he said.