Strong Principles and Parking Spaces

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Strong Principles and Parking Spaces

The Fridge Family Story 

 

The parking management industry’s global market reached nearly $4.6 billion in 2023 and is projected to grow to $10.1 billion by 2030, with the United States comprising 35% of the market share, according to a recent report from Grand View Research, Inc. But behind these numbers are the people who play essential roles within the industry’s growth story. These people have stories of their own, marked by their unique approaches to overcoming challenges and struggles. In some cases, family members work together to make their way in the parking industry, and family stories are the legacies that link generations. 

 

What is a legacy? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” It is the touch of a great-grandmother’s love baked into a recipe handed down generation after generation. It is a family’s good reputation, which fathers and mothers pass to their children to uphold as history carries on. It is the vestiges of life, fond memories, and invisible fingerprints that leave evidence of a person’s mark on the world. 

 

This is the story of the late David Fridge, the founder of the Chicago-based parking management company Parking Spaces, Inc. (PSI), and the legacy that he left his family. In honor of this legacy, the Fridge family has continued operating PSI in accordance with the values of integrity and decency on which David founded the business. 

 

The Beginning 

Building on his varied background that included architecture, hotel management, and parking, David Fridge, shown here in 1997, founded Parking Spaces, Inc. (PSI), in 2006.

David Fridge began his parking career in a roundabout way. In 1981, he graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering with a degree in architectural engineering. Aspiring to become an architect, he landed an entry-level position working at a design firm in Chicago. However, instead of spending hours designing skyscrapers and drafting blueprints, he spent his days in a little room drawing parking lots for those buildings. Little did he know, these mundane tasks of his early career would significantly influence his future.

 

Leaving that first position, David accepted a role at the Chicago Westin Hotel as the night manager, a job that drew upon his introductory experience in the parking industry. His background gave him an edge in his work, particularly as he was required to oversee the valet and parking departments at the hotel. He went on to work for other Chicago hotels, developing a unique professional skillset that landed him a managerial position at the McCormick Hotel. 

 

When the McCormick Hotel closed in 1993, its contracted parking company hired David as an account executive. There he learned the ins and outs of parking in detail. Applying his strong people skills to the industry, he attracted the attention of the Valet Parking Company. In 1998, they offered David the position of Vice President of Marketing and Development to help attract new business. With this advantageous relationship, many new doors were opened for valet parking in the downtown Chicago area, including the addition of valet parking at the State Street Macy’s building. 

 

Following David Fridge’s death in 2020, his wife Venus Fridge took the helm of the family-owned parking company, which operates in Chicago.

New Horizons

David valued relationships. He dedicated time and effort to develop a strong network of people in and out of the parking industry – business owners, managers, and many others. Because of that, he was able to leverage that network to generate potential win-win deals and partnerships with the Valet Parking Company. Many businesses in the South Loop and downtown area of Chicago were introduced to the systems of valet parking because of David’s influence. 

 

That was probably when the idea of starting his own business came,” remembered Venus Fridge, David’s wife. He was developing relationships and getting quite a bit of business while working with the valet company.” 

 

From there, David founded PSI in 2006. A parking management company, PSI manages commercial and residential parking facilities and offers valet services. In its early days, the company designed, built, and completely staffed parking operations for various businesses in Chicago’s North Side, South Side, and downtown. It was a smooth transition for David, and he relied on his many years of parking experience to sustain the new venture. 

 

Since the beginning, PSI has been a family business. David instilled the same core values into his business that he instilled into his family – diligence, faithfulness, integrity, and kindness, among many others. A living example, he was committed to leading his business ethically, and made sure its operations clearly reflected what was most important. Venus followed that example as she partnered with her husband and took on an administrative role within the business. Their two boys, Alexander and Andrew, did the same and worked as ticketing agents during their teenage years. 

 

Family Matters 

David’s entrepreneurial spirit was soon adopted by his sons. Encouraging their aspirations, he empowered them to become entrepreneurs themselves. David helped them start A & D Media Group, a full-service audio-visual media production company. He walked them through the licensing and legitimizing processes, giving them the tangible tools they needed for success. Their profitable operation continues to grow today. 

 

With such a solid foundation, David sought every opportunity to expand the company. He was known for being a visionary – always looking into the future, recognizing potential needs, and making decisions accordingly. Although he was focused on growth, the opportunities to build solid relationships with his employees and colleagues never escaped him. 

 

He always did the right thing at the right time,” Venus recalled. Our employees loved David. He treated them well, gave them skills, and showed them how to be profitable even beyond the job. He taught them a lot of things. They regarded him highly!”  

 

In 2018, the core values upon which David built his family and business became the glue that held everything together. Diagnosed that year with terminal prostate cancer, David persevered. Despite doctors’ visits and cancer treatments, David never missed a day of work, skipped a week at church, or suspended a single commitment. Though PSI’s active expansion paused, business continued as usual. In 2020, two weeks before the beginning of the COVID pandemic, David passed away. His absence left a gap no one else could fill. 

 

His high regard for the parking industry inspired his family to keep running PSI. It truly became a family business. Left to run the company, Venus kept her familiar administrative responsibilities, but also stretched herself into an unfamiliar executive role as well. When I first started, it was overwhelming,” she said. I used to say, ‘I don’t even know what I don’t know.’ Every day, I’ve had to pray a lot for wisdom and knowledge and understanding.” 

 

That wisdom, knowledge, and understanding developed daily as Venus learned how to manage the business and continued to build upon the foundation her husband had laid. Deepening her experience, she now has a fresh perspective of the parking industry and is fully committed to its growth. 

 

The Future and Beyond 

Even in the face of a global emergency, Venus leaned on the principles and guidelines David exemplified. Despite being a vital industry, parking and valet were not left unaffected by the COVID pandemic. As a result of restrictions and clients’ hesitations, PSI had to downsize its operations. The company has been able to keep its remaining contracts while still operating valet services occasionally. Now on the other side of the pandemic, the Fridge family’s ambitions to continue expanding have not waned. The family is determined to keep PSI relevant and see it advance confidently into the future. 

 

With Venus at the helm, her sons have become more involved in the day-to-day business operations and are taking on more active roles within the company. Having inherited their father’s visionary gene, they have risen to the occasion; the brothers have been brainstorming innovative ideas and are preparing to advance PSI to the next level. Both Alexander and Andrew are committed to keeping their father’s legacy alive. 

 

The Fridge family expects the upcoming years to bring them success, growth, and new opportunities. As they seek new client relationships, they wholeheartedly work to cultivate the seeds David planted as patriarch and proprietor, doing so in such a way that his legacy is recognized today, tomorrow, and in the days to come. 

 

Hannah Morrow is a writer based in Milwaukee, Wis., who has a great passion for storytelling and enjoys uncovering stories that reflect real lives. Currently, she is working on a children’s book, with a film she co-wrote scheduled to be released during summer 2024. She can be reached at hannahm@yh3e.com. 

 

Featured Image: The staff of Parking Spaces, Inc.: (l to r) Alex Fridge, Vice President of Sales and Development; John Woodbury, Parking Attendant; Venus Fridge, CEO & President; Andrew Fridge, Office Manager; and Phillip Weaver, Parking Attendant.
Photos courtesy of A&D Media Group, Inc.
Article contributed by:
Hannah Morrow
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