Diagonally across the street from my apartment house sits a butcher's shop, Ottomanelli's, that has occupied their corner since 1900. It's a throwback of a shop. A place where the owners actually work behind the counter and they greet you by name.
My neighborhood is very far east and unlike so many areas of Manhattan, it's not dotted by retail stores and restaurants. In fact, the butcher shares its block only with a nail salon and a dry cleaner.
Over the years as people's tastes and habits have changed the butcher has changed to keep pace. They still sell meat in great bloody hunks, but now they also sell prepared foods, sandwiches and they do a lively breakfast business with freshly baked muffins ($1.25) and coffee. At 7 in the morning it seems that every doorman and porter in a ten-block radius is there getting their morning Joe.
Yesterday as the storm bore down on New York I stopped in Ottomanelli's around 11. I bought a loaf of bread, a caesar salad, two orders of their famous "steakhouse" chili and eight of their really superior "Coney Island" frankfurters. At that hour they were all out of bread and had just a few quarts of milk left.
Otto's closed at three yesterday. The butchers who work there live on Long Island and needed to get out before the bridges and tunnels were closed for the storm.
This morning, however, Ottos was open once again, serving the neighborhood, its green neon signs a beacon saying "all is ok."
It occurred to me that we in the advertising industry could learn a bit from Ottomanelli's. The importance of being there. The importance of personal service. The importance of being important to their clients.
Woody Allen once famously said "80% of life is showing up." I think most agencies and agency people ignore that wisdom.
They aren't there and working for their clients. When the roof needs repair they talk about plumbing.
11 years ago when the city was attacked on 9/11, Ottomanelli's stayed open. They were there for their clients and their neighborhood.
Recently a newer, better store opened not far from Otto's. My wife is ready to switch our business to this new place.
I can't do it.
I know who will be there when I need them.