He handed me his card...I had no idea.
A couple of decades ago, while visiting Memphis, I stopped into Lansky's at The Peabody.
Lansky's, if you're not aware, is one of Memphis' most iconic retailers. Bernard Lansky, one of the store owners, was responsible for crafting the unique wardrobe look for Elvis Presley as his career began. As Mr. Lansky told it, a teenage Presley was looking in the window of the clothing store, (on Beale Street at that time), and when approached he said, ‘You have some nice stuff in there'.
Elvis bought his high school prom outfit there, black pants, pink coat and a pink-and-black cummerbund. Lansky also sold him the outfit he wore on the “Ed Sullivan Show”; a plaid sport coat and pegged pants...and it didn't stop there. Aside from the sequined outfits later in his career, Mr. Lansky was always Elvis' wardrobe consultant.
Soon other musicians visited, including Johnny Cash who once walked in with a can of Prince Albert tobacco and said, "I want this...a black suit." Mr. Lansky made it for him. Carl Perkins, the Jacksons, the Beach Boys, and others became regular customers during that time.
In the 1980's, Lansky's opened a second location at The Peabody. That's where I unknowingly met Mr. Bernard Lansky. During my visit, I was perusing their tie selection when an elderly gentlemen (he had to be in his 70's at the time) appeared with a wide smile, a gleam in his eye, and asked, "How can I help you today sir?" I told him I was just browsing and he smiled again and handed me a business card, adding "If there's anything I can help you with, today or any other day, don't hesitate to ask. It's my job." I stuck the card in my pocket, and after shopping a little longer, left the store.
A bit later, I took the card out and saw the name Bernard Lansky just below the store logo. Only then did I realize who the kind gentlemen had been....and beneath his name was one word. It wasn't CEO, Proprietor, or even Owner...
...it was 'Salesman'.
That struck me. Here was a man who had been responsible for the looks of so many stars, as well as untold thousands of other customers for well over 50 years, the founder of a multi-million dollar retail business who still saw himself, proudly......as a salesman. Maybe we should all rethink the titles we have bestowed upon ourselves and realize that at the root of it all, we are in sales. A noble profession we should never shy away from, never be ashamed of, but should instead welcome, embrace, and proudly claim.
I am a salesman. And proud of it.
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