…as Eighty-one nears its end (June 29th!)… its fitting to answer the most asked question, “How did Eighty-one get its name?”
Answer: “it’s the owner’s IQ.” Drum rim shot. For those of a certain age, “One more than Jethro Bodine.”
He are me and I are it. I’ve got a marketing degree, and all these years later, I still haven’t put up a store sign along Ryan Street.
When I’m a kid American retail had set rules: The customer is always right; clerks and salespeople were deferential. I went the other way. Customer asks me how much something is, my standard answer is, “It’s either a million dollars, or way less.” I’ve been known to greet customers at the door saying, “Finally, the big spenders arrive.” One time a woman responded, “Fat chance; my husband is with me.”
The One Thing I Knew For Sure
Having done retail in college, I didn’t want to do that again. Turns out, it was good for me. It forced me to interact with the public, made me accountable, the randomness of The Public was interesting.
We carried these bracelets with uplifting messages, about faith, friendship, yadda yadda, this lady lays down five of them, says, “Make sure none of them say anything about love.” I verify the lack of love. “I’m a love flunky,” she says. “The first divorce, you can blame it on him, but after three, it must be me.”
So many customers were women. All these years, all these women, it’s like being a tourist in another culture. “I don’t want a man who looks better than me, or smells better than me,” said one.
I had no idea how many ways women have for hiding purchases from their husband.
You hear some quotes. “At my age, all men want is either a purse or a nurse,” said a woman; “All women want you around for is your paycheck and to kill spiders,” said a man.
If car dealers did it, I didn’t. The constant hawking, I’d rather be shot. My version of promoting the store was more creative. I’d make up fake groups, “People Still Awaiting Their 15 Minutes of Fame will be meeting at Eighty-one tomorrow. Mrs. Johnson reminds everyone to wear clear underwear, cause you never know…”
Another favorite group, “The monthly meeting of Procrastinators Anonymous at Eighty-one has been postponed.”
I was up-to-here with people playing the Race Card, so I’d come up with these micro minorities, “This week’s Cause of the Week are left handed redheads who can’t sing the first verse of Amazing Grace from memory.”
I invented the Eighty-one Meteorologist (who graduated from the College of Common Sense with no student debt.) “Expect diminishing sunlight as we near sundown.” He was notorious for never making an actual prediction, “Another week of June weather ahead for the last week of June.” He’d put his reputation on the line occasionally, “Stuck my arm out the window and it returned wet, so I predict it is raining…where I am.” Turns out, it was the sprinkler.
The Golden Rule is Good Business
Our business policy was Use Common Sense.
I despise haggling. No customer should pay more for the same item. I like stuff to go, so if something was worth $10, we’d mark it for $8, and reinvest the $8 into more merchandise.
We embraced creativity. We took Was and made it into Is.
Being a farm kid, I was rough around the edges. My first booth at an antique mall, the owner pulls me aside, whispers, “You ought to at least hose it off before you bring it in,” to which I replied, “where’s your hose?”
Women civilized me. From them I learned about color and patina. One day I heard the word “cute” come out of my mouth, so I excused myself to go look in a mirror, to see if I was still me.
There I was, new improved, from being part of Eighty-one.
We took beat up and cleaned it up, changed broke to fixed. We altered, modified, improved, and created. In a time where all stores seem same-same, we were not-not.
We used the tagline “Louisiana Creativity” because the boot state made us, and we made Eighty-one. Out of town guests, where to take them that they’ll surely not have back home? Eighty-one. For move-aways, we were part of the please-come-home-for-Christmas tradition.
So Why Close Eighty-one?
I’ve lived long enough to know life is short. I’m a preacher’s kid, and I’ve checked off the Prodigal Son box. Of all the Bible characters, my favorite is King David, but the one I most identify with is Jonah. He was given a job to do, to go to Ninevah. He was afraid, he went the other way, and here came the consequence.
I was built a thinker, and meant to write. That’s my Ninevah. Early on I ran, ran, ran, and lost, lost, lost. These last however-many years I’ve written, but as a sideline to running the business. For years now, I’ve felt a ceiling over my head with the business, but felt no ceiling in writing.
At age 62, if not now, when? If not ever, then never. There’s a faith thing too. If I trust God with the care of my soul after death, then why am I reluctant to trust Him to make something out of the gift He installed in me for some here ‘n now?
The store closes June 29th, so hurry. If you leave your car unlocked you might win a free litter of kittens. Besides stuff being on sale, we’re also throwing in unsolicited opinions and bad advice with every purchase..
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we wish to thank – sincerely – all of you who patronized our little store. Scattered in homes throughout the area are one-of-a-kinds that were meant just-for-you.
Uncle P can be reached at email@example.com. Many other Bedtime Stories can be found on the Eighty-one Facebook page.