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Furniture Retail Tip #21 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90 - Our Industry? It's More Than Home Furnishings! It's Stories!!

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Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

Lots of things can stir up nostalgic memories in furniture gals and guys of a certain age. For example, I just received an email from my old friend Lee Corson who I know from his days at Crestline/ Corson Furniture Industries and who is now doing the hop-skip and jump to China and back as a consultant.

Lee read Grandpa Mike-e-e's! last article and wrote, "Michael, delighted to see that you are still doing your thing in the furniture business. I've just returned from my 104th consecutive High Point Market and, like you, I haven't decided what I want to do when I grow up! Keep up the great work. Best regards."

Thanks for your note Lee, it brings back memories. And it's memories of  the stories about our industry that this installment from Grandpa Mike-e-e! is about.  Every furniture rep, manufacturer and retailer has a few really good ones... and there is now an official effort by our industry's historical society to record these stories, before all of us industry elders forget them! More about this later. 

Which inexplicably brings me to my Bubbila, sharp as a tack at ninety, who just found a source of ancient music on the internet that's so "new" that she's glued to the sound for twelve hours a day. Yes, she is listening to music uninterrupted by those annoying repetitive commercials that are always advising us to please visit a doctor to get the new "miracle" drug that incidentally may cause headache, red eye, wheezing, boils and rarely sudden death! Now what has this girl of mine found for the two of us to hear? A TV feature of "Singers and Swing": Dozens of singing guys and gals like Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Mel Torme and Tony Bennett who left his Heart in San Francisco because Frank Sinatra had already left his in " Chicago! Chicago! and  New York, New York" which is "A Wonderful Town."

So what does all this delicious musical nostalgic goulash have to do with remembering stories? Well, I'll tell you.

Years ago when I was sipping a Pepsi at the High Point Market, I, Grandpa Mike e-e! saw t-h-e Tony Bennett in the Furniture Exposition Building, all by himself. Yep! All by his pleasant self without the usual star, personality entourage! Just plain Tony. Wow-e-e!

It seems he was invited to sing at a private dinner in the building for the guests of a well-known manufacturer. A-n-d, when I introduced myself, he invited me to visit with him during his performance break.  And when I showed up that evening the guard posted at the door told me that Mr. Bennett had left word that I was to be expected. Gee! Whiz!

Well, I stayed for my Pepsi drink and when we met the following day, by appointment, I spent a few very unique, pleasant hours showing Tony around the show exhibits.

Furniture? Nope. I discovered that Mr. Bennett was a well-known name in the Arts circles since he was a talented, recognized, oil painting, artist...at $3,000 a canvas. Wow-e-e! again! We did the tour and he was visibly pleased with what he saw us do at a Market.

I always knew that Tony Bennett was a talented personality but then I learned that the reason his singing came across was because his voice is the voice of a mensch. A mensch with heart. He never needed the hullabaloo of a paid entourage.

That's just one story, but like I said before, there are  so many good ones about our industry that are even more interesting, historically significant and funny. We've all heard them... about deals that were made, the proverbial skeletons in the furniture family closet, plus stories of first meetings, misunderstandings, fantastic collaborative ideas and things that used to happen in our industry that seem incredible when we look back.

Do you have a great or even a not so great furniture story to tell? Has the rep who has called on your store since the ice age told you the same story over and over and you find it interesting every time?

If so, have them check out the website of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation at http://www.furniturehalloffame.com/furniture_history_stories.asp. I hear that the Foundation is collecting and cataloging the stories of our industry. You or your favorite rep, relative or supplier can type in their furniture stories on this website for the next generation to enjoy. And -- if you think of it, send a copy to me at grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com.

And if you are better at talking than writing, send a recording to the Foundation at 202 Neal Place, High Point, North Carolina 27262 or call Karen McNeill the CEO of the Foundation at 336.882.5900 for more information.

Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

PS. See the new YouTube music video staring me, Grandpa Mike-e-e! with my granddaughter Becca in a supporting role at  http://bitly.com/qALkrX

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)

Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricist.

Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.

Graduated high school at 16.

Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.

Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.

Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.

Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.

Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.

Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.

Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.

Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.

Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.

He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."

Retired from retail management at age 70.

BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.

Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home

Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.

At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.

Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,

IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.

At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.

Grandpa Mike-e-e

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