Food for the Soul

Chicago’s Art Potash built a supermarket business by meeting high expectations, making him a demanding shopper himself.

One way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but supermarket mogul Art Potash finds love often takes a more nautical route.

Snugged along Chicago’s southern shore, Art’s elegantly long-lined Sea Ray 500 Sundancer proves his perfect match. Its Arctic White gel coat glows with a warm personality. Art, a Chicago businessman who has owned a deep roster of Sea Rays over the years, is just as friendly and inviting as the plush and gleaming vessel.

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The Potash’s 500 Sundancer—appropriately named “Peace of Art”—provides a perfect outlet for family and friends to spend countless afternoons taking in the summer sun, good food and the offshore views of Chicago.

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Art has been the proud owner of a 250 Express as well as 340 and 440 Sundancers. But his latest steed is special for at least a couple of reasons. First, the 51-foot sport yacht’s state-of-the-art Zeus propulsion system opens up a whole new world for its owner. “I was a capable captain with the throttle but I wasn’t that confident,” Art says. “Zeus changed everything for me and I wouldn’t buy another boat without it. I really wouldn’t.”

The Potash family name is well known in Chicago, particularly in some of its toniest neighborhoods. In 1950 brothers Herb, Dave and Mel Potash opened a grocery, then known as Pleezing Foods, on the northwest corner of Clark and Schiller Streets. Their father, Max, and sister, Marian, also came to work at the store, which prided itself on providing personalized service and home deliveries to the affluent neighborhood customers. The family soon expanded its reach, adding Sandburg Supermart and, in 1962, Potash Bros Food and Liquor. Today the chain numbers three locations, which all bear the name Potash Bros. Markets. Art joined the family business, too, and today works alongside his father, Mel, and his aunt and uncle.

In the highly competitive supermarket business, the Potash Bros. Markets have built their reputation on customer satisfaction. So as you might expect, Art is particularly sensitive to product quality and performance. That he’s been so thoroughly won over by Zeus speaks volumes about the technology.

The collaborative effort between Cummins and MerCruiser, Zeus takes the captain’s intuitive piloting commands and translates them into precise engine actions—from simple forward and reverse to the most complex strafing and rotating. The total ease of the system would be difficult to grasp if it weren’t for the fact that it’s literally quite easy to grasp: a simple silver joystick at the helm controls Zeus. “Whatever you do with your hand on the controls, the boat does,” Art says with more than a touch of awe.

Just move the joystick in the direction you want to go, or twist it to do a neat 360-degree spin. Auto-heading and auto-yaw features allow the boat to hold its bearings in the choppiest water. “I’ve had friends step to the helm and dock the boat with the joystick—their first time,” Art says. “It’s like a video game.” No longer do the Great Lakes’ notoriously windy conditions blow his plans for a day on the water. “Zeus has lowered my apprehension level and raised my confidence level,” Art declares. “Now it’s impossible not to have a good time.”

Complementing the wonders of Zeus is the 500 Sundancer’s SmartCraft VesselView display next to the dual-inboard throttles. Large, easy-to-see icons deliver information right at the captain’s fingertips. Art proudly points out the generator data, Sirius XM weather, fish finder, fuel to waypoint data and more.

We’re a short while away from embarking on a breezy afternoon cruise. The 500 Sundancer is docked at the newly opened 31st Street Harbor Marina, along Chicago’s southern lakefront. Art stands under the helm’s electric retractable sunroof panels and alongside the pivoting double captain seat. Why does the seat pivot? It turns to face a U-shaped seat, enhancing interaction among passengers while the boat is at rest.

Which brings Art to his second favorite aspect of his Sea Ray: Art has been digging the social accommodations of his new boat. Five teakwood steps lead down to the cabin, where Art’s dock neighbors are busy pulling the fixings for a pre-launch lunch out of the refrigerator/freezer and assembling everything on the kitchen’s Corian countertop. The boat is bustling, as usual.

“The social aspect is a big thing for me,” Art explains. “When I first started out, I liked the idea of captaining my boat. My runabouts were a lot of fun. But as you get older, your priorities change. The social part means more.”

In the cherrywood-finished salon, he doesn’t fuss much over the entertainment center, which is fully loaded with options like a 42-inch flat screen monitor, satellite TV and radio, DVD player and surround sound—all of which are comfortably enjoyed from an L-shaped sofa. (A hydraulically powered table can be lowered to allow space for a pullout bed when the master and guest staterooms are occupied.) He’s most pleased with the look and feel of the salon, and for that he credits his friend Len Bulat, who owns the 380 Sundancer in the slip next door.

Len is showing another guest some of the custom touches he suggested for Art’s cabin, which has wood flooring in lieu of standard carpet trim “The wood makes the boat look more classic,” Art says.

“This has been kind of a project by committee,” he adds with a laugh. “Len in particular has an eye for design, so I took a lot of his advice. Others were helpful, too. I got them all involved because it makes for a better experience for everyone. This was my first time ordering a boat so I could customize it just the way I wanted it, so it’s more like home. Sea Ray worked with us really well to make all the adjustments.” At B&E Marine in Michigan City, Indiana, sales consultant Chris Cipares and dealership owner Ron Bensz made sure it all came together.

The only thing currently between us and the open lake is, well, lunch. As the guests tuck into a spread of cold-cut sandwiches and beverages, some head up to the foredeck seating to lounge. Back in the Sundancer’s galley, Art is in his element. “This room is where I spend most of my time when I’m on the boat,” he says. “It’s like hanging out in my home kitchen, which is big—not because I cook, but because people tend to hang out there. So this is just like home.”

Another of Art’s guests this afternoon, Michele Goldsmith, also had a hand in making the 500—and a host other Sea Ray models—so homey and comforting. Michele represents Actuant, which owns the Marinco, Ancor and Mastervolt brands. All three are systems suppliers for Sea Ray. “If they want cold drinks in the fridge, if they want to cook on the stove, if they want to listen to music or watch a video, we supply the power from shore to boat,” Michele says. “But really, we supply the power for them to have fun!”

Mastervolt battery chargers ensure that everything from the air conditioning to windshield wipers hums along. “Our high-frequency switch mode technology makes the charger light, compact, efficient and running clean,” Michele explains. “And regardless of how dirty the input may be, you get clean output to the battery, which extends the battery life.” The charger can be used as a direct power source, too.

As lunch wraps up, the onboard activities take on a bit more purpose. Everyone pitches in to clean up the kitchen and help prepare for launch. Moments later, with Art at the helm, Peace of Art glides effortlessly from its dock and cruises alongside the new marina’s breakwater. On past excursions Art tempered his wanderlust, setting his sights on short jaunts up the shore to South Haven, Michigan, and Milwaukee’s shoreline for the Summerfest music scene. But these days he’s broadening his horizons with flicks of his wrist and taps on his touchscreen navigation system. “I feel like I can go anywhere,” he declares with a smile. “Maybe I’ll head east and keep heading east and see what I find. Kind of like the reverse of what Columbus did.”

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