Boulder Designs Inspired to Support Active Military and Veterans

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While growing up in Lake County, Florida, Butch Mogavero liked it when Uncle Claude came around because he was a positive influence. 

“He would tell me stories about his experiences in the Navy and Sheriff's department, which, to me, seemed filled with adventure and good deeds. Maybe that’s why I liked being around him.”

Uncle Claude, known around Lake County as Major Claude Allen Gnann, served as a flight navigator aboard the USS Independence in Vietnam. After a successful Navy career, he came back to Florida where he made a name for himself. In his obituary, published July 31, 2005 in the Orlando Sentinel, his friends described him as a homespun boy done good. During his 27 years at the Lake County Sheriff's Department, Gnann rose from jail administrator to second-in-command. He ran the first SWAT team in the county and would sleep in his truck to be closer to the action. He listened to his scanner and would show up at emergencies unexpected.  He would even change light bulbs for the elderly.

Gnann’s younger sister and Mogavero’s aunt, Candy Noblin, recalls him being bigger than life. “Everyone who knew Claude loved him. He was the calm when things got nasty and mean.”

Noblin remembers once when her brother was called to get a possum out of a home. “Claude caught it by the tail, got it out of the house, then let it go because he did not want to kill it.”

It was during his years at the Sheriff’s department that Mogavero would see Uncle Claude and his wife, Aunt Lyndia, four or five times a year. “When I picture him, he is wearing his flight jacket. I remember that jacket being very important to him,” says Mogavero. Gnann died in 2005 at the age of 55. He was buried with his beloved flight jacket.

Before his death, he once came to visit Mogavero with a football in hand, and during another visit, he taught Mogavero to shoot a double barrel gun. “I had so much respect for both Uncle Claude and Aunt Lyndia that when they came to visit, I did not want them to know about anything bad I’d been doing.” 

Mogavero wishes his uncle were alive today to see how the good things he’s doing. Mogavero owns Boulder Designs® and Border Magic® franchise companies. He purchased the companies in 2015 and relocated corporate headquarters to Waco, Texas from Rantoul, Illinois.

In a year's time, Mogavero built a team of experienced, franchise professionals who helped him transition the business from Illinois to Texas.  The team also negotiated licensing and partnership deals, began overhauling marketing and grew the Waco corporate team.  Most importantly, they supported existing owners including planning and executing the first annual Boulder Designs / Border Magic Franchise Reunion in Waco.  Remarkably, during that same timeframe, 50 new franchises were sold.

As the name implies, Border Magic franchisees provide property owners concrete edging to landscapes in a variety of shapes, patterns and colors. Boulder Designs franchise owners build customized, concrete boulders for commercial signage, in landscapes, pet memorials, fire pits and other applications.  

Veterans who are artistic, creative and enjoy working with their hands are especially attracted to the two franchise companies because of the originality of each project and because of the customer service opportunities the businesses provide. Veterans receive discounts off ongoing royalties as well as the franchise fee.

With his uncle’s influence etched in memory, Mogavero made a concerted commitment to active military and veterans since becoming a franchisor. 

In February 2016, as part of the International Franchise Association’s Franchising Gives Back, Boulder Designs designed, built and donated a 3,500-pound boulder that is used as the primary sign at the Warrior and Family Support Center at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Then in July 2016 to kick-off the 4th of July weekend, Boulder Designs designed, built and donated a 6,000-pound boulder anchored by two flag poles for the grand reopening of the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop’s new location in Waco, Texas. A first of its kind in the United States, the nonprofit organization provides veterans and their families a facility where a variety of fundamental services — legal, employment, counseling, for example — can be accessed at one location.

Mogavero was so impressed with Kevin Zimmerman, a veteran and inspirational speaker who delivered the keynote at the Veterans One Stop re-grand opening, Mogavero booked him for Border Magic and Boulder Designs’ Annual Franchise Reunion, which is slated for November 10-12.  Since Veterans Day is smack in the middle of the Reunion, it’s appropriate that Zimmerman will speak on November 11, which happens to be the day Gnann was born.

“It was not until recently that I learned Uncle Claude’s birthday was on Veterans Day,” said Mogavero. “The man keeps surprising me even in his death.”  

Mogavero says his uncle made a positive impact on many, many people. Three years after Gnann’s death, the Florida Legislature designated the section of State Highway 44 from County Road 46A east to the Volisia County line the “Major Claude A. Gnann Hwy" during the 2008 Legislative Session.

The influence Gnann had on Mogavero is stronger today than ever, says Mogavero. “It was a crap-shoot as to what kind of person I’d be — a hell-raiser or a successful entrepreneur. Uncle Claude showed me that I could not go wrong by doing what’s right. I give him a lot of credit for who I am today.”

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