5. Becoming a product distributor
This past weekend, we made a trip to I Sachs in Chicago – also known as Bootblack Heaven, or as I’m coming to know it, my wholesale supplier.
If you’ve never been there, the Yelp picture doesn’t do it justice. It looks like a small place, but it’s two huge floors of product. It’s a somewhat grimy place and it looks a lot like an old fashioned hardware store with wooden shelves, boxes stacked all over the place and a smell all to its own. The shelves are floor to ceiling and filled with of just about any polish, oil, chemical, brush, dauber, leather, buckle, rivet that you could think of related to shoes, boots and leather care.
I’ve seen the looks on bootblacks when they first enter I Sachs. There’s the peering around, the dawning look of religious awe and eventually they either explode in orgasmic ecstasy or they start loading up. Usually both, taking much time to find the exact item. Pinky fingers come out as each item is lovingly taken from the shelf, examined, discussed, (in some cases smelled or tasted) and then put in the basket. Then comes the paying, which usually includes carefully counting out bills from the tips given at leather bars, or (in my case) the pleading of the femme bootblack that I own, with that “i NEEEEEEEED dis!” look in her eyes.
But… you need to be careful of just how much you end up buying. As an example – we are packing for the UK and we had some requests for specific items. So off we go to I Sachs and I made mistake #1… I didn’t keep track of what was going into her basket. We get up to the counter and instead of just two tins of Lincoln, there’s that, plus 2 more tins, plus a couple of cans (4 maybe?) of Huberds shoe grease, plus a couple of daubers or spreaders or whatever the technical term for the brush is (I know I’ll get this corrected about 0.02 seconds after I post this, the bootblack community will be more than happy to correct me. Ha! 393 cousins… )
Anyway, the conversation went something like this:
Me: (looking rather alarmed at the pile of stuff that the salesman is QUICKLY checking out…) What is all this?
Angie: I’m taking some Huberds to the UK, leave it with them. And they’ll need daubers too. And I needed more Lincoln…
Me: OK, but there are four cans of Huberds.
Angie: Well, yes, remember last year when they ran out….. ????? (insert the beginning of the pleading look) There was almost a bootblack riot!
Me: Don’t you have some already at home?
Angie: No, I don’t think so… I only have half a can left… (more pleading looks)
Mistake #2… I didn’t trust my gut and went ahead and purchased the items, as my credit card screams and cries once more. We get home later and the bag sat until last night… until angie went upstairs to start packing the traveling kit… Then we discovered that in fact, not only did angie NOT need more Huberds, but apparently I’m somewhat of a supplies distributor for I Sachs. Complete with 3 huge bottles of dye. Many cans of Lincoln and Angelas. Enough saddle-soap to wash the entire tack for the Budweiser horse team many times over … and 10 TEN cans of Huberds. I could open my own store. It’ll go right next to my Leathers Library. I still have the card.
Morale of the story… take stock BEFORE we go out to I Sachs. The memory or pleading looks may not be all that accurate.
And if I Sachs does run out of Huberds this year… I’ve got plenty!