Tag Archives: snack shop

Preserving My Past

This is kind of a #FlashbackFriday#FF, since I missed #ThrowbackThursday#TT, though it’s more of just an addition to my life story as made possible through the wonders of Facebook and, especially, the Timeline. Since its inception, I have seen my Timeline as a way to share contemporaneously, as well as retrospectively. I have used it as a way to share both my present and my past, the latter being primarily with the thought my two daughters will one day be able to see who I was, in some sense from the beginning. If others enjoy it, that’s a bonus. Hell – I enjoy it myself once in a while and it gives me a reason to slowly digitize some of my favorite actual, printed photos, which would not be shareable other than in person if I didn’t scan and post them. This seems like as good a place as any; better than most.

The picture I am here sharing was taken quite some time after I owned the business that resided in this small, unassuming space. Nevertheless, the size and location haven’t changed since January of 1967, when my father (fearing I was on the road to becoming a bum) purchased what was then DEB’s Snack Shop and I began managing it. We were partners. My job was to spend 14 hours a day there and his job was to show up once a day and get pissed at me for something I neglected to do or didn’t do properly, as he saw it. He was very good at his job and so was I, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he performed his special task.

This little place consisted of 14 stools and about a 10′ takeout counter. It sat in a parking lot across the street from the main entrance of the May Company store on Hill St., between 8th and 9th Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. It was small, but it was busy . . . and quite lucrative, especially for a nineteen-year-old who had recently just barely escaped High School.

It was here I learned some of the more valuable lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from. Perhaps the most important of them was given by my father when he admonished me to never ask anyone who worked for me to do something I wasn’t willing to do as well. I had five employees and every one of them was older than me, one by around thirty years. Earning their respect was of the utmost importance. Now that I think about it, I was fortunate to be raised with respect for most everyone. Another valuable lesson, which made this primary business one much easier to aspire to.

I also learned what I have always considered my first real marketing and sales lesson. This place was a snack shop. Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, ham sandwiches, fries, etc. We also opened up early enough for breakfast, so eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc. Of course, there were other items and most of the food was marked up 300%, that is the cost of the food item was generally 1/3 of the price we charged.

Then there were soft drinks, none of which were served in cans or bottles. We had a dispenser. The cost of a large soft drink was marginally more than a small one and the difference in cost of the cups was about a penny. The difference in profit, however, was spectacular, with the price of a large drink around two and a half times what the small one went for. I think it was $0.10 and $0.25. Let’s say I made $0.07 (in today’s money that would be $0.50) profit from the small drink. Since the cost of the large drink was marginally more than the small – let’s say $0.05 instead of $0.03 – I made a profit of $0.20 ($1.42 today) on the large drinks.

That’s the data behind it, but the real lesson was in behavior. Over a period of time, I did some experimenting. I didn’t keep a little notebook, nor did I design a devilishly clever test. People would place an order like “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a Coke.” I merely responded in one of two ways and noted the difference in results. If I asked them “large or small” they would frequently opt for the small. However, if I merely said “large?”, they would seldom say “no”.

I don’t know how much more money I made by doing this, but I’m reasonably certain it was on the order of a few dollars a day. Extrapolated out over a year’s time, that would be around an extra couple of grand in today’s money. Not a bad result. Unfortunately, I didn’t last a year, but that’s another story. I have no regrets, btw.

PS – The name of the place in the pic is JEMP’s, which stood for Jerry, Eileen, Marshall, and Penny . . . the Silversteins. Jerry, who had worked at the Grand Central Market with my father for many years, bought the business at a discount when I kind of abruptly told the old man I was through with it. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. This was the Summer of Love, 1967. The rest, as you no doubt know, is history.


A Bit of My History in Hair

For the third time in my life I’ve let my hair grow. It was always something I wanted to do, but back in the 60s it was very much frowned upon. In my very late teens I was the lead singer in a rock and roll band called “The Night Owls”, but I also had to still answer to my family, so I purchased a wig and wore it when I performed. I wasn’t terribly happy with it, but there wasn’t much I felt I could do at the time. I was rebellious, but not that much . . . not back then.

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped performing with them, but it was probably around the time my father stumbled onto an opportunity and, since I seemed to be heading in a direction no self-respecting, good Jewish boy was supposed to go, he took advantage of a chance to purchase a small snack shop in downtown L.A. He had spoken to me and expressed his wish that I take on the responsibility of running it. I was midway to my twentieth birthday when we took it over; the last week of 1966.

Somewhere in this house – quite possibly in a box hidden deep in the garage – is a picture of me in my teenage splendor, wearing the wig underneath a short-brimmed, felt hat, hanging from a walk/don’t walk sign that controlled pedestrian traffic to and from Deb’s Snack Shop and the May Company across the street.

Shortly after that picture was taken (with film, and it was developed on paper!) I told the old man I didn’t want to continue with the business. I knew I was letting him down, but I had grown weary of getting up at 4:30 am and getting home at 7:30 pm, Monday through Friday. On Saturday, I was usually home by 4:30, but it was still a long day. I remember going out on a date after I had been working at the business for a few months. It was a Saturday night and I fell asleep at dinner. Part of me was worried I was watching my life slip ignominiously away. I feared one day I would awake to find myself with a nice house, a car, who knows what else, and nobody to share it with and no time to enjoy it. Remember, this was at the height of the Summer of Love. 1967. The Haight was calling me to a field study.

Also, I was really sick of getting blasted by my father every day. My old man was one of those who was very good at pointing out one’s shortcomings, but highly averse to handing out praise or acknowledgement. When he was finished with his deliveries nearby at the Grand Central Market, where he sold distressed lunch meat and cheeses to a half dozen or so of the numerous stalls to be found there still, he would stop by to see what I had fucked up how I was doing.

Invariably, my youth, inexperience, naivete, cluelessness, or stupidity had grabbed me by one of my still wet behind ears and slammed me against a well-known business tenet or a shop-worn rule-of-thumb. Although I couldn’t win for losing, back then the cliches did not come so easily to me. So each and every day, with the exception of Saturday, he would be in my face.

But I digress, which (in case you haven’t noticed) I’m pretty darn good at.

So he sold the business. He lost $5K and was pretty pissed at me. It wasn’t until years later I decided to use a time value of money calculation to see what the present day value of his loss would be. I won’t say it was staggering, but it was a chunk of change I wouldn’t particularly want to part with. As of this writing, it’s value would be $36K. That knowledge would be somewhat disconcerting had my father and I not reconciled our issues a couple of years before his untimely death. It still bothers me to know I was such a jerk but, thankfully, guilt is not a component.

Oops! I’m digressing still.

Hair. I really want to talk about hair. Not because it’s all that important to me, but because I can . . . and I had one of those flashbacks today, when I thought about something I hadn’t thought of in many years.

Rick's Hebro

I Called This My Hebro. It Does Look a Bit Like a Brillo Pad, I Suppose.

As I said, I’ve grown my hair long three times in my life. One of the reasons I’ve done it this time is that my hair is no longer as curly as it used to be. When I was a young man, and up into my late sixties – I think – I had really thick, really curly dark brown hair. It was somewhere between kinky and wavy. I still have a lot, but it’s not quite as thick, and most of it is gray. And the gray ones, which first started coming in with these weird, almost right angle bends in them, now are pretty straight.

Now to that flashback. Long ago, in Junior High School, I had a “friend” who gave me two very distinct nicknames. I’ll leave it to you to suss their significance. He called me “Brillo” and “KinkyJew”.

I hadn’t thought of these nicknames for many years until yesterday. The memory was interesting and caused me to think of how my hair has changed over the years. Since the last time I grew it out, I had pretty much decided not to grow it again; it was a giant pain in the ass to take care of. However, with it being so much straighter, it’s much easier to handle. It’s still not really straight straight, but you can see the difference pretty clearly in the two photos I’m including here.

I also find it interesting to recall I never took much offense to those nicknames. I suppose they were better than “kike” and “hebe” and I’d had to put up with a lot of that shit in my

An Old Fart

Livin’ large, I’m enjoying the home stretch.

youth. In fact, the younger brother of the “friend” (he was a close neighbor) had once called me a kike and he and I had had a couple of fights over the years. Nevertheless, I considered these names mostly sorry distractions from what was really important; having fun and cutting school, which my “friend” and I did quite frequently.

I’m somewhat thankful I still have a lot of hair. Mine’s getting a bit thin in front on top, but I don’t see it going away anytime soon. If it does, I’m quite willing to shave my head. I’ve always wanted to discover if I have a curly scalp. It kind of feels like it, but it’s hard to be certain with all the hair what, exactly, is causing me to feel like my skull would look like a University of Michigan Wolverine’s football helmet.

It would be fitting. When I competed in swimming, I shaved my head, my arms, and my legs. That was about 53 years ago. I can’t quite recall what my head looked like. I was only interested in competing as best I could. Time is now threatening to leave me hairless, but I’m hanging in there. Either way, as long as I’ve got another decade or so I’ll be a happy camper. I want to see my daughters to adulthood; get to know them a bit before I check out forever.


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