When is a hobby also a backup career option and, quite literally, a marketing vehicle? For remodeler Dale Ressler, the answer is every other weekend during the warm months. That's when he leaves behind D.E.R. Construction, Bainbridge, Pa., to pursue not one but three hobbies: ministering to drag racers, being a medic for drag racers, and driving a Super Comp Dragster as fast as 160 miles per hour in a quarter-mile run.
“It's like being shot out of a cannon,” says Ressler. “I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie.”
A paramedic before he became a remodeler 15 years ago, Ressler has been racing drag cars since the late '80s and became an ordained minister less than two years ago. He keeps each interest alive by working his remodeling crew four 10-hour days, freeing up long weekends for races as far as 8 hours away. There, when he's not actively racing, he rides with the emergency crew and holds chapel services through a nondenominational organization called Racers for Christ.
There are two marketing angles to Ressler's hobbies. First, his dragster is emblazoned with the name of D.E.R. Construction, along with its other sponsors. More significant is the fact that Ressler's hobbies build relationships. “As a remodeler, drag racer, medic, or minister, all of these have to have some people skills,” he says. “By necessity I have to listen to people and hear where their pain is,” whether it's physical, emotional, or spiritual.
He says that word-of-mouth is powerful in the relatively small circles of mid-Atlantic drag racing, adding that he has gotten several customers from his weekends at the track. “With remodeling, you want to know where their pain is, and you have to be able to discern how to take care of that pain. It all ties together for me.”