I had one of those days this week that managed to intertwine a remark with some lost memories and made me stop and think about things. About myself. About the folks I work for and what they may think of me. It was one of those instances where I had to sit down as my mind began to roam all the way back to my childhood. But that's getting ahead of the story.
I was on a shoot Wednesday and during an interview process with the subject, one of the questions led into customer service. My client made a remark that stuck with me all the way back to East Texas as it was one of those statements that required some deep reflecting.
His statement to the best of my recollection was, "If you know who you are doing business with and understand who they are as a person as well as hold their character to a higher standard then you really don't mind paying more for their services."
By the time I got home, I was tired. It had been a long day in Dallas and the Holiday Inn didn't offer a whole lot of comfort the night before. After a quick hello to the family, I went to the bathroom and began emptying out my pockets. Wallet, iPhone, keys and then some loose change which I offered to the small leather container my wife had gotten me to hold all of my crap. When I looked in the container, there was a small knife laying in the middle of all those nickels and dimes and I picked it up remembering where I had gotten it so many years ago. That knife would be the very last piece of hardware my dad purchased for me at Tony's Sporting Goods Store in Longview, Texas.
When I was really little, my dad would take me to Longview once a month to get our hair cut. I hated the lady that cut my hair as she brushed my head too hard and it hurt. But this was always made well again by a promising visit to the one and only Tony's Sporting Goods Store where dreams could come true and if you've been good, Tony might find something special to put in your pocket.
Born Anthony John Valentino on April 25th, 1923, he was known simply as Tony. An enormous "How are you doing today my fine Doctor?" when my dad and I would enter the store will be forever engrained within my mind. He was one of those characters that could literally light up the darkest of rooms with just his spirit and charm. He knew no stranger.
Tony was born in Chicago, Illinois to John and Frances Valentino and joined the military in 1942. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps until 1951 with the 2nd Brigade during World War II. Gunny Sgt. Valentino was an ordnance supply chief and lineman.
On October 21, 1943, he married the love of his life, Margery Hunt. They were married in Washington, D.C.
In 1953, he opened Tony's Sporting Goods on Mobberly Avenue where he served his community for more than 50 years. He was a local U.S. Marine chaplain in his later years transporting vets to appointments in Shreveport.
Tony passed away on February 4th, 2007.
Thinking back on that statement from earlier in the day, I began to think about Tony and my dad. My dad could have gone to a big chain store where he could have gotten things cheaper. In fact, we could have gone anywhere but we didn't as Dad always made it a point to buy from Tony. Not because he was the best deal in town but because of who he was and what he meant to the community.
These are the things to take with you in this world. You do business with a man because of who he is and what he stands for. He may not be the cheapest in town but what you buy from someone like Tony doesn't ever stop with just the purchased goods. It's an investment in your life and I've always found that a good investment will bring a great return.
God bless you Tony. Your memory lives on forever in these woods.