The founder of Juan Pollo Chicken, Albert Okura, passed away last week at the age of 71. Mr. Okura envisioned Juan Pollo, a fast food chain with 25 locations in Southern California, as a household name that would someday sell the most chicken in the world. He believed in this so much that he bought the site of the original McDonald’s restaurant, located in San Bernardino, CA, in 1998—not to turn it into a Juan Pollo restaurant but rather into a museum to honor his fast food industry. Like Mr. Okura, I believe we can benefit from honoring our industry. It’s the right thing to do and it can benefit our business. We want to honor those the came before us and on whose shoulders we stand.
The Dallas Market Center honors people and businesses in the industry via its ARTS awards. The black-tie affair, which I attended this past January, entails a cocktail party and a dinner. Awards are given in a host of categories, such as Best Furniture Retailer in the Midwest, and people are honored, including best rep. I was happy to see our clients honored. In the tabletop category, three of the four nominees were Shop Local customers. I don’t know if the AmericasMart has a similar event, but it should as the ARTS award creates a lot of goodwill.
Borrowing a page from Mr. Okura and the ARTS Awards, we could honor people in our industry and call it the Shop Local Awards. We could honor the best sales rep, brand, and store. I think of the rep Roger Bailey, who promoted Bridge to his clients when we first started in 2007, and still attends the trade shows looking dapper. I think of Tim Kutz, VP of DeVine Corp, a distributor of premium brands, who allowed us to use his products as a proof of concept for the Product Syncing service. I imagine an awards format where their story is shared, such as via a short video of Roger Bailey’s 40-year history in the industry.
I’d like to differentiate ourselves from the ARTS awards. In New York City, there is a 1925 Art Deco sky bridge 8-stories in the air built to connect the two Gimbels’ department store buildings. Sadly, the Gimbels traverse, as it’s called, is empty and unused because the current tenants on each side of the bridge are different. I wonder if Bridge can rent or buy this structure as an homage to the retail industry. Saving a bridge built for retail is fitting for us.
When people or businesses honor another entity, they may also benefit themselves. Did Mr. Okura buy the McDonald’s site to honor the industry legend or to promote his goals? Answer: yes. Our Shop Local Award would be good publicity for our business.
We spend most of our time in technology looking forward. I think that pausing to look back and honor is healthy because we may learn something and it helps create a record for posterity. We have to act fast while our colleagues are with us. Gimbels is gone. Down the road, someone may even honor us for taking the time to honor others.