Monday, September 22, 2008

My job, what is my job?

I do it every day, you’d think I know what I do. Let’s try to figure out what the owner of a middle-sized art supply does.

I often feel that I’m like a father to the 75-80 people who work with me. And like most parents I mess up. But if there is any reality to this self-image then Artist & Craftsman is a family life with all the strength and weakness so associated.

They drift in and out of our lives. Many who quit or are fired come back, sometimes older and wiser. Some of us just stay for decades.

I guess my job is to try to understand as many of them as I can. To help them grow and develop their best potential, even if my words hurt. To listen as best I can and to protect the security of this family-like group.

I guess that’s my job. I love my job and, my actual family – 4 children and many wives have given up trying to convince me to retire. I’m one of the luck ones.

-Larry Adlerstein

Jeff and Rob, the Cambridge crew.

First there was Rob.

I don’t remember how I met Rob. I was opening our first store in Boston and I believe he simply answered my help wanted ad. He was quiet and it took a few months to discern who he was.

The store had a slow start, located in a basement across the street from Pearl Paint – then the dominant player in our trade. But Rob in his gentle way won over artist after artist and built a solid business.

One day Rob came to me to say he and his wife Jamie wanted to buy a home and they couldn’t afford Boston housing. They wanted to move to Philly. O.K. We’ll open a new store in Philly.

Enter Jeff. Jeff had always been there as assistant manager but I knew little about Jeff.

After Rob went south Jeff stumbled around for a little while and then that thing happened: that thing that sometimes happens when the lid is off and an assistant has to become master. It happened to Jeff. So now I have two great managers.

The other day he came to me with an invitation, “come to Boston.”

“You visit the stores when there are troubles or problems. Why don’t you visit when things are good? We’d like to get to know you better.”

So I did. Even this old dog can learn from Jeff.

-Larry Adlerstein