After his morning orange juice, hard-boiled eggs and pushups performed quietly on a small space of floor, my grandfather walked from his family’s apartment down the narrow, winding staircase that barely contained his broad Russian shoulders.
He pushed open the copper-framed door, flipped on the incandescent lights, and swept the sawdust at his eponymous Meyers Grocery in Washington, D.C., ready for another day of greeting his customers, his neighbors, by their first names, already pretty much knowing what they needed, without their having to ask.
Meyer was nothing less than a powerful business brand with great social media skills, minus the technology and Internet. He escaped the pogroms of Russia as a young man without his family, but knowing what it means to have a voice and to see in a person’s eyes the fears and joys of the human heart. It is why Meyer saw and heard his customers, connected with them, and earned their business, and love. As did his son, Herbert. And as I try to do.
At the other end of the century, after graduating from Brown, I backpacked through Europe, ran the bulls in Pamplona and, with my grandfather’s inheritance, attended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Traveling west to my first job in Los Angeles, I would meet an MG-roadster-driving Jersey girl and her Shepherd-Husky. We loved California, but obeyed a pull of gravity back East, where I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and started a career in marketing. Working for small and large ad agencies before starting my own shop in the village of Tribeca in downtown New York, I created campaigns for Business Week, I Love New York, BMW Motorcycles, Sprinklr, GlobeOp and other brands.
Today, Jersey Girl and I love our top-down, country-road drives as much as we do the pace and grace of New York, where our two sons live and work. And where I motor my Mini to, channeling the one-on-one customer stories of Meyer and Herbert into every little-big thing I do to help brands be their best human selves.
Also published on Medium