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Notable Neighbors
home : features : notable neighbors
September 22, 2021


9/2/2021 10:50:00 AM
Notable Neighbors
Don Musilli
Don Musilli
During the 2020 Covid pandemic, Don Musilli and LitWorld, LLC joined forces to help alleviate the shortage of face shields. Using 3D printing, they manufactured head-pieces and connected them to clear presentation covers to make the face shields. They provided the face shields to area healthcare facilities.
During the 2020 Covid pandemic, Don Musilli and LitWorld, LLC joined forces to help alleviate the shortage of face shields. Using 3D printing, they manufactured head-pieces and connected them to clear presentation covers to make the face shields. They provided the face shields to area healthcare facilities.

Dean M. Laux


He Flies High, Dives Deep
For Englewood’s Don Musilli, those words constitute a perfect analogy for both his life as a business entrepreneur and his leisure activities. In each case he has been willing to take risks to achieve his goals–risks that maybe most people would shy away from. But he says, “If you fail to aim, you aim to fail.” And it has not been in Don’s DNA to fail.
Don was born in Buffalo, NY and was blessed with an identical twin brother, Ron. Their bond was naturally strong, and it probably helped them to adjust to frequent moves during their childhood, spent partly in Buffalo, partly in Erie, PA and partly in Parma, Ohio, a southern suburb of Cleveland. “We could switch classes in school and nobody knew it,” he remembers. Friends called them “Ronnie/Donny” because they didn’t know which twin they were dealing with. But as they reached their teens, the twins became more concerned with establishing their own individuality.
When they graduated from Parma High School in 1966, Don went on to college at Cleveland State University, majoring in business administration, and Ron joined the U.S. Air Force, becoming a missile technician. “I wanted to fly,” Don says, “but just for the pleasure of it. I wasn’t really interested in a career in the military.” When he got his bachelor’s degree in 1970, he found a job as a salesman for a company in Cleveland that was selling industrial air filtration systems. “I had never thought I’d be involved with mechanical things in my career. But it was something to do, and it was interesting, and I was kinda cruising around and enjoying myself.”
Don met Jill at the company, they hit it off, got married in 1972, and it was time to get serious. Offered a job by a California firm that was also in the air filtration business through a subsidiary in Littleton, Colorado, he took it. And Colorado is where he learned to fly.
“I had a friend who was getting his commercial pilot’s license to fly for a U.S. airline, and he said, ‘I’ll be your instructor, and you just pay for the flight.’ We’d go up in a Cessna 172, but I also flew in a few other planes. At that high altitude in the Rockies, you needed a long runway just to get off the ground,” and he was flying over peaks and valleys that created updrafts and downdrafts, making the whole process somewhat risky. Landing was an adventure, especially if he was flying a plane with wings below the fuselage. “You can’t get a good look at the ground in those planes, and you’ve got to land at a very low angle,” he points out. “I loved it. Jill went up with me once, and she didn’t like it at all. But that’s where I got my flying bug satisfied.” On his job, he traveled throughout the west, from Montana and Wyoming in the north to Arizona and New Mexico in the south.
“In 1984 the economy started really turning sour, and I got an opportunity to go to work for a company in Indiana called TRSI that, among other things, made high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems to remove asbestos from the air in commercial and industrial buildings.” After a year on the job, he offered to buy the company’s patent for the HEPA unit, which was big, bulky and expensive. The company complied, and he created a new corporation called Pure Air Systems. “I had to borrow $35,000 to do it, because I didn’t have the money myself at that time,” he says, and he met some resistance from both Jill and his friends. It was a new venture for him, and it carried considerable risk of failure. “But I always enjoyed doing something different, especially if it had some risk associated with it,” Don says. “I always felt that taking a risk was a part of life.”
There was already a market for the product in big companies, but Don’s idea was to sell it to the residential market. He got help in redesigning the HEPA unit to half its size and much lower in price. “Nobody else was selling similar products to the residential market as well as to healthcare facilities of all kinds, because their units were too big and bulky and costly,” he says. He had a niche market and a virtual monopoly in it. Over the next 21 years he was able to diversify his product line from a single model to seven different models, and his business thrived.
Along the way he bought some land nearby and put up a 9,000 sq ft metal building to house his offices and inventory, but he found that he had some space available at the rear of the building that he could use for something else. It so happened that Jill and their daughter Melanie had met a Scuba instructor, and Don joined them in taking lessons and getting certified, eventually becoming a master instructor himself. So he decided to use that free space to open a dive shop: Dive World USA.
Indiana was not exactly a mecca for scuba divers, so why a dive shop? “It gets cold in the winter in Indiana, and they love to go off to the Caribbean and go diving,” Don says. Dive World USA gave them the whole package: scuba instruction, diving gear and trips to the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Cozumel, the Bahamas and other great scuba sites. Don had himself another small monopoly and had a lot of fun with it as well. He would on occasion dive to 130 feet, the maximum permitted for recreational diving, and on other occasions would do a little night diving and shark diving. “That was always fun,” he says. “We’re pretty big compared to the sharks. They mostly like to feed on prey that are dead or dying, so we were okay–unless we encountered more than four or five of them, and then we’d get out of there.” Sure sounds like fun, eh? But that’s Don for you.
Don sold his company in 2006 for enough money to assure himself of a comfortable retirement, and he and Jill moved to Englewood in 2009. “But I wasn’t going to just sit around and do nothing,” he says, “so I got involved with the community.” He became one of the founding members of the Englewood Farmer’s Market, a highly successful nonprofit organization that brings thousands of customers to the town every Thursday to buy quality foods and other products. “It’s a big business, and it brings in about $85,000 a week,” Don points out. The recent pandemic brought the Farmer’s Market to a temporary close. It reopened after the first of the year, and will be back in operation beginning in October–good news to Englewood residents.
In 2012 Don created the Englewood Incubation Center (EIC), a 501(c)3 company designed to bring hard technology development to the Englewood area. EIC has since been responsible for bringing 3D printing to over 70 schools, libraries and other organizations in Sarasota and Charlotte counties. The EIC’s first Maker Faire drew an attendance of over 1,000 people, and for the past eight years its 3D minicamps for kids from age 8 to 18 has been teaching kids how to use 3D equipment. “The schools love the program, the parents love it, and the kids love it.” They are developing an interest and a skill set that can be utilized in the high-tech world they are entering. They’ll be flying high. Just like Don Musilli, the man who flies high and dives deep.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: tomnewton@englewodreview.com. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.

Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: tomnewton@englewodreview.com. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.






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