If perfection were an Olympic event, Stephen Grisanti would claim the gold
This is a story of a man who has made perfection his life credo. He came “from nothing,” as he puts it, and has achieved everything he ever dreamed of.
At 52, he still has the body of an athlete – he’s written a book on fitness – and at the end of the day, his suit is still immaculately creaseless. He has run four successful businesses. He modestly owns an immodest collection of Porsches. He has restored a couple of beautiful Flicka boats and sailed two oceans in them, before selling them for seven times the original price. His life partner is simply gorgeous, and his house is a reproduction of a 17th century Colonial (but for the oversized, climate-controlled garage, in which he keeps his babies).
Did we mention he’s been a professional drummer? One who marches to his own beat.
As Stephen Grisanti likes to describe his achievements, he does not have a lot, but everything he owns is first-rate. You wonder if the watch on his wrist is an Omega, and the drink in his glass, a Vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred.” But although Grisanti shares some of his habits with Ian Fleming’s character, the Somers resident is driven by a completely different passion.
‘I was only 8 when I got my first job at Local Dietetic Shop in Mount Vernon. I would come there twice a week, and take all the vitamin bottles and honey jars from the shelves, wipe the shelves clean and line up all the jars back in place. Everybody who knows me still jokes, what a perfect job for Grisanti. And they are absolutely right. I am beyond organized. I love to keep things clean. I love to make things shine.”
The first business Grisanti founded in Greenwich when he was still in his early 20s, and which is still prosperous today, is the car-cleaning company Classic Shine. Legend has it that Grisanti was so detail-oriented, at some point he would polish cars manually with a toothbrush. As you can imagine, his clientele grew rapidly and the business was a huge success.
His other business, Greenwich Metal, which was a big factory, also had a reputation for the almost surgical cleanliness. Need more on that? Grisanti swears that you can come to his house at any hour of the day or night and it will be spotless. He remembers that even when he was a little boy, he would be the one responsible for his self-imposed chore of cleaning the house after parties. Was he raised like that? Not at all, he says, adding, “Knowing me, you’d be surprised to know where I come from.”
Born in Mount Vernon, Grisanti learned what it meant to have nothing much earlier than anything else. His father, who had a disability, never worked and went bankrupt three times while Stephen was still a child. Stephen was a tough kid. He used to fight a lot and often got into trouble. All he wanted was another life, cleaner and better. He went to work at 8 and at 17 left home and never looked back.
“Everybody has talents, and mine is running businesses. I don’t know how I do it. I have never gone to college. But I am just good at that. I am great with people. I don’t like to make enemies. I have never been fired. This is who I am and this is who I like to be.’
Early on, he realized his own strength – the incredible discipline that would allow him to transform his passions into lifetime achievements. When he was still working at Local Dietetic, he fell in love with the owner’s car, a petite red Beetle. Day and night, he dreamed of owning it one day. These days he proudly displays his personal Porsche collection to the select few, and although it’s not a big stable, who would question it’s 100 percent proof – a Golden Green 1968 912 coupe, an Adriatic Blue 1970 914-6 and a 2004 Limited Edition Boxster 550S. All in all, Grisanti has owned about 40 automobiles, each one a unique example of ultimate car craftsmanship.
Grisanti admits he loves his cars unconditionally. He likes to spend time in them, even when he is not on the road. Just to sit in his garage with a book or a glass of wine, to scent the leathery interior or cast an eye on the cool polish of the surfaces – to imagine, how they were assembled back in the day. He cherishes the black-and-white photo of his Golden Mint beauty snapped on the day when it left the factory. You won’t see his Porsches at car shows, because they are not about displaying vanity. They are about satisfying his urge for beauty.
And it is this urge for perfection that still wakes him at 5.30 a.m. and drives him out of his home to a gym, where he works out six days a week with his two favorite women – wife Brigitte and daughter, Hope.
His workout philosophy goes hand in hand with his life motto. In “Industry of Illusions,” the book he wrote on the health and fitness business, Grisanti emphasizes that staying in shape is just a matter of consistency. You just need to get in the habit of keeping the only body you have clean and shiny. (If only it were so simple for some of us not so perfectly able to follow this good advice.)
And a final nod to perfectionism: When we were walking to the elevator from his Manhattan office, Grisanti saw an intruder, a thread lying idly on the floor. Without hesitation, he picked it up and cast it away in the trash bin.
No wonder we saw a look of adoration in the eyes of the cleaning lady.