The woman was mad. She wanted to know what gave me the right to talk to people that way. It was 1984, almost 30 years ago, and I was getting blistered by the woman running the shipping department at Technics in Albany. I hung up the phone and called her the nom de guerre that most women fight their most bloodthirsty battles over, only to realize that I hadn’t actually hung up the phone. I pulled the receiver ever closer to my ear as her rage was building to a crescendo. After a dozen roses and a heartfelt apology, it proved to be the start of a wonderful friendship. Years later, when she left Technics, I was lost without my most ardent supporter. On her way out, she sent me a goodbye note that simply said, “See you next Tuesday.”
Not much has changed since then. I swear, and when I hear someone else swear, I really do cringe. It sounds ignorant. Go figure. In meetings, I use a dozen variations of fuck as if I was stuck in a sophomoric torrent of Tourette’s. Just writing the word seems ignorant. I even hate hearing it in comedy acts. I once gave a little talk at Canisius High School, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t drop any F bombs; but, sure enough, some little shit went home and told his parents that I dropped three of them. The sad part is I really thought I got out of there clean.
I always kid that every year Butch puts $30k aside just in case my mouth provokes a nuisance suit. $30k seems, to me, like a small price to pay to be able to say [or do] whatever I want; but I realize it can never be enough to convince everyone [or, at times, anyone] that it is appropriate.
I do sincerely apologize to those that feel I have wronged them. We all have regrets. If we didn’t, it would mean that we are perfect. Not likely. Nevertheless, I’ve always had to answer to myself, and you can trust that I am my harshest critic, prosecutor, judge, and jury. So, before you tell me what a %$@&!/# I am, be confident that I have already considered and accepted your epithet. (But why not let it go? Give me a call. It’s all good, and we’ll both feel a whole lot better.)
Yesterday, Dej told one of our vendors that the Stereo Advantage is not a store, it’s a story. And everyone who has been a part of it certainly has their own story to tell. For me it’s been a story of 35 years of building and creating opportunity. It’s been 35 years of being part of a community. It’s been 35 years of being the guy who owns the Stereo Advantage. And, yes, it’s often been 35 years of being mad.
It’s also been 35 years watching over 5,000 employees: I’ve had to break up fights, but not as many as I was in. I’ve had to forgive some of them, and I’ve had to ask some of them to forgive me. I’ve been to their weddings, and now I am hiring their children.
And now it is time for me to leave the stage. I am selling 51% of the Stereo Advantage to the management team that has remarkably transformed the company over the past year. Now they get to write their own Stereo Advantage story. Dej, Al, Mike, Joe, Jim, Kam, and Butch are the future of the Stereo Advantage, and what a future it promises to be.
The leases at the Walker Center are set for the next 10 years, we have a great partnership team for the Stereo Advantage, the G8 Partnerships are thriving, and my kids are building TW&Co and Giancarlo’s with a great staff of leaders. It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m a lucky man.
So, why was I so mad today when we had six people standing around in Jewelry with their thumb up their ass? I may have gently said, “What the fuck are you doing?” But, I’m not sure. I do know a couple of customers looked at me like I was nuts [as I was going nuts]. I know what you are thinking, and you’re right: We don’t need anymore of that.
So, that’s what I have to say after 35 years in business.
If you thought this might end with a promise to curb my mouth, well, some of you really need to lighten up. You may not swear as judiciously as I do, but, admit it, you still let it rip every once in a while. Righteous indignation doesn’t wear well on anyone, and it only fits the most contemptuous hypocrites well; so, save your outrage, it will only spoil a beautiful day.
I’ll close with one of my favorite memories of one of the sweetest girls who ever worked for me [and who died tragically young]. She would always cringe every time I dropped an F bomb. She would admonish me in her own sweet yet decisive way. And then one day at the corner of So. Forest and Main, she was cut off while making a left hand turn by a particularly rude man. Yes, I caught Becky Stone with road rage. As I was sitting at the light, I could see her lips forcibly carve out an unmistakable FUCK YOU. When I called her on it, it was one of the best laughs we ever had. Some times you just have to belt it out.
I miss Becky, and I miss everyone from the past 35 years. Yes, I even miss you.
PS A car ran into the new hotel today. Plowed right into it. I guess we all had the feeling it was a tad too close to the street.