Steelers' Okobi, ex-hockey player team up on car washes, strip mall
Pittsburgh Business Times - April 27, 2007by Dan Reynolds
A former NCAA Division III hockey star and a Pittsburgh Steelers center are expanding their local business holdings.
Daniel White, a New York State native who, while playing for Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., once won the NCAA Division III scoring crown, has partnered with Chukky Okobi, a center for the past six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through their Monroeville-based holding company, Prodigy Group Inc., the pair has purchased two local car washes, and this spring expects to close on two more commercial properties in Monroeville and the South Hills.
White, who played three seasons of professional hockey in Belgium before starting his business career, said the company plans to turn both parcels into a strip mall s adding a full-service car wash to one of them as well. Each property will have approximately 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet of commercial space.
White didn't want to disclose the exact location of the parcels for competitive reasons. But he said the Monroeville location is along Business Route 22 and the South Hills location is near state Route 51.
LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL
Okobi, a Squirrel Hill native who now lives in Wexford, said he plans to grow and expand his business interests in Pittsburgh after his playing days are done. He currently is battling newly acquired free agent Sean Mahan for the starter's job and says he has to look to his future.
"Playing football is something you can't do forever," Okobi said. "Even if you play for 10 or 15 years, it is not a long time in terms of a working life."
John Clark, an assistant professor of sports management at Robert Morris University, said as an offensive lineman, Okobi can't get as much play out of his name as former Steelers running back standout Jerome Bettis.
But by having been a good citizen and a Steeler, he said Okobi is in a good position to build a business career here.
"I'm a Steeler; I'm a good guy, and I do have some business acumen. Let's start something," is the angle Okobi would do well by playing, Clark said.
Okobi, a Purdue graduate, said his business career began in 2001, when as a rookie with the Steelers he happened upon a copy of "Rich Dad's Retire Young, Retire Rich," by popular investing author Robert Kiyosaki.
"It was a little bit of an inspiration. I just kept learning until I had enough money to do what I wanted to do," Okobi said.
To date, White said, Prodigy has invested about $15 million in the region.
The company bought the Auto Bathhouse in Monroeville in 2004 and, in March, closed on the Unique Autowash on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. White said both car washes have revenue of more than $1 million a year.
In another recent move, Prodigy bought into P&W Foreign Cars of Shadyside in January. The Baum Boulevard store is a BMW, Mini Cooper and Audi dealer.
Outside Pittsburgh, Prodigy is a partner with former Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson in Woodson Motor Sports, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based seller of BMW, Kawasaki and Suzuki motorcycles. The company also is the developer of a 20-unit townhome community in Nanuet, N.Y., and is a $3 million investor in the $250 million Ritz-Carlton Co. LLC condominium project in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
White said the company plans to acquire or build one or two car washes a year in the Pittsburgh market for the next three or four years. Eventually, Okobi and White said they would like to invest in a professional sports team and are interested in bringing arena football back to Pittsburgh.
"We could use another team around here," Okobi said, "something to tide us over until the Steelers come around."