Page 7 - Scene Magazine 46-01 January 2021
P. 7

 The Way I’ve Scene I
   cup of coffee. His bed-hair sticking out every which way, he would quietly lean on his elbow with a Pall Mall ciga- rette smoldering between his yellowed fingertips. WBCK’s AM radio person- alities Dave Eddy and Tom McHale filled the silence with news and chatter. The four kids would clamor around getting their precious time in the only bathroom, and when he finally had the sleep rubbed out of his eyes, he would get ready for work. Another cup of coffee with peanut butter toast, a splash of Old Spice and he emerged a differ- ent man. Dressed in a suit and polished wing tipped shoes with his hair neatly combed, he would drop a kiss on each of us and my mother, don his trench coat and fedora dad-hat, and out the door he would go for the day. He was a man in business.
Mr. Sharp had a wonderful sense
of humor and was easy to be around. Mr. Schmidt, on the other hand, scared the daylights out of me. He was a big, pipe-smoking man with a booming voice; he had a stern strictness about him that had me on edge. Despite that, he loved to tell stories, and when some- thing tickled his funny bone, he would sit back, tamp tobacco into his pipe and chuckle.
Forty years ago, there were no debit cards, and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Schmidt expected us to count the change back to the customer, which seems to be a lost art now. If you give today’s clerk a penny along with your dollars after the register tells them how much change to give you, they struggle to adjust
When the precious years between birth and high school graduation vapor- ized, it was time for me to go to go to college or go to work. I did both. While enrolled at Kellogg Community
Mr. Sharp and Mr. Schmidt are gone now, but their contributions in business are like ripples on a pond. As employ- ees moved on to other jobs, the solid work ethic and customer service skills we learned there went with us, and as we passed those skills to others, we became ripples ourselves. Huge success stories speak loudly for themselves for a while, but small successes will mur- mur quietly for decades, and the impact of a couple of good men in business will stand the test of time.
Each morning of his work career, my father would pry himself out of bed in the morning and settle in at the dining room table for a life-giving
College, I landed a part time job at Cereal City Office Supply, where I accidentally stayed for 10 years. At that time, Gil Schmidt and Bob Sharp were at the helm. They came in each day wearing their suits, wing tipped shoes, trench coats, and fedoras. They were men in business.
We engaged the customer, and
we had fun. It was not like shopping today. The clerks often don’t know the product, they talk to each other but not to the customer, and they honestly think that the appropriate response to, “Thank you” is, “No problem.”
Do I Smell Old Spice?
They sold lots of office supplies
to lots of places. It was a solid small business that served the needs of the community, but, that’s not all. They were both smart men who knew how to sell. They knew how to treat customers, and more importantly, they taught their employees to do the same. We greeted all customers as they entered the tiny store front and knew our regulars by name. If you bought a binder, we asked if you needed indexes to go with it. If you brought 5x8 pages and a 6x9 binder to the counter, we made sure you were not intending to use the two together.
the money owed back, because they were not taught how. For some reason, customers bag their own groceries and the next person in line is being rung up before you can put your wallet away. My, the times have changed!
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