Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Right Place, The Right Time

I've been reading a lot about Sammy Hagar recently -- in business journals, of all places.

You know Sammy Hagar, right? In the early 70's he played guitar for the band "Montrose", then launched out in solo work before being picked to replace David Lee Roth in the band "Van Halen".

I've skipped over a lot of details because it is here that the story gets interesting. So pour yourself a shot of tequila and pay attention here!

After joining "Van Halen", Sammy talked other members of the band into buying a a little cantina in Cabo San Lucas. He was looking for a place where he could relax, eat, drink tequila, and play guitar whenever he wanted.

The band's $400,000 business venture was a financial flop, losing about $40,000 per year those first couple of years. In 1994, Sammy bought out the rest and continued to operate Cabo Wabo,which has since become a multi-million dollar business enterprise that includes two cantinas (the second is in Tahoe) and a line of premium tequila.

In May of last year Sammy sold 80% of the business to Gruppo Campari for a whopping $80 million!

Now, amigos, there are several lessons to be learned from this. I'll give you a second to pour yourself another shot of tequila before I continue.

1) Most of Cabo Wabo's success came about simply due to being in the right place at the right time. During the years Cabo Wabo was struggling to survive, Cabo San Lucas was being discovered by the tourism industry. Cruise lines were beginning to dock there, opening up a whole new source of revenue. And because of name recognition, it was fairly simple to connect the dots from the docks to the cantina.

2) Again, Sammy was at the right place at the right time. Pretentious American drinkers were starting to pony up as much as $120 for a bottle of premium tequila. In 2004, there were only 13 premium tequilas on store shelves; by 2006 there were 40 labels! Sammy had been drinking his own premium stuff out of ceramic jugs and wash tubs for years by then. He simply saw the trend coming, got out ahead of it, and started bottling and distributing Cabo Wabo Tequila.

3) Finally, Sammy was at the right place at the right time. (Have I mentioned that already?) He didn't start out to become stinkin' rich. He just wanted a place to eat, drink and play. When others gave up, he continued his vision despite the financial losses. It was what he wanted to do and he did it.

Now Sammy has a place to eat, drink and play -- and $80 million to play with!

Why do I recount this here? Because I can't preach about it from the pulpit! But the implications are something our churches need to hear, something our pastors need to hear.

Pour yourself another shot of tequila and reflect on the story of Cabo Wabo. I'll write my reflections next week. Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Keeping Our Priorites Straight

Because of the storms and tornadoes that blew through West Tennessee on February 5th, several of my recent postings have been of a more serious and sober nature. And while we should pause to remember those who lost life and property, we must remember that God is present and we still have reason to rejoice.

Which brings us to BEER...

As Ben Franklin is quoted: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!"

And so I present the following diversion to get us back to celebrating life as it should be. For this I turn to Chuck Shepherd's "News of the Weird":

"It's the "holy grail" of beers, said a Boston pub manager, but, still, only 60,000 cases a year of Westvleteren are brewed because the Belgian Trappist monks with the centuries-old recipe refuse to expand their business (and even get on the phone to harass black-marketers).

"Westvleteren is sold only at the monastery gate, by appointment, with a two-case-a-month limit, at a price that's reasonable for retail beer, but anyone who gets it from a re-seller will pay 10 times that much. Producing more, said Brother Joris, to a Wall Street Journal reporter in November, "would interfere with our job of being a monk." Furthermore, said Brother Joris, referencing the Bible, "(I)f you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it." [Wall Street Journal, 11-29-07]

I applaud the Trappist monks for their commitment to their "job of being a monk". It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it... make beer, that is!

However, I am still looking for the Biblical reference cited... perhaps found in the Book of Hesitations? Or has Brother Joris been sampling the stock?

If you can't find your Westvleteren, and you're not so particular about what you drink, look for Jimmy Buffett's "Land Shark Lager". It is now being distributed outside of the Margaritaville chain, although it hasn't made it to Memphis yet!

Some are shaking your heads by now. So I leave you to ponder this famous quote from author David Daye, who said, "If God had intended us to drink beer, He would have given us stomachs."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Time to Rant

This is not a tribute to Gallagher. I am using his image to make a point. At the end of one of his shows, he removed his trademark cap and warned the audience, "Never let your mother brush your hair when she's mad at you!"

It would probably also be good advice to never write a blog when you're mad. But I'm going to anyway.

This morning when I arrived at the office, I had a bill in my mailbox. It was from National Pen Company. They were demanding payment for a previous order, with a $20 "late fee" added on.

Here's the story: Back in November I placed an internet order with National Pen for foam can coolers with the church's name on them. I was going to give them away to the congregation as Christmas presents.

Quirky, I know, but they've grown used to me now.

National Pen confirmed the order, noting I had given my credit card number in payment. I sent them my art; they replied a couple days later with a proof; it was not what I asked for, and over the next couple of days we refined it. Then I waited.

When the order did not arrive, I called customer service. The innocent "I just work here" customer service person said the order had been cancelled. The company has a policy that if the order is not in production within 5 days, the order will be cancelled. She asked if I wanted to re-initiate the order; it would not arrive by Christmas. Frustrated, I declined.

Four days later, a box arrives... filled with can coolers with my logo on them. What a surprise. But the ink color was not what I requested. When I called the company again, the service rep said I did not specify the ink color... perhaps I did not know how to make online orders. I told her that first they had cancelled the order, then I cancelled the order, but now here it was, and it is wrong!

She consulted her manager, who said I would have to pay shipping and a fee to return the custom-imprinted items I did not order. Or, they could give me a 20% discount. I took the discount.

I received a credit memo a week later indicating the amount my bill was reduced, with the following words printed on it: "Credit has been applied, do not pay". Again, I had given them my credit card number with the initial order, so I did not pay.

Which brings us to today. More than a month later, they send me a bill plus a past due fee. I have sent payment -- less the late fee -- with a letter that in no uncertain terms explains how very unhappy I am with them. I will not be using their services ever again.

And so I pass this along to you. Do not do business with National Pen Company. There are other companies that offer the same products with better service.

And they don't blame you when they screw up!

I wish I had a watermelon... and a comically large hammer...

Monday, February 11, 2008


Last year I posted an article on the gullible, the furry little creature pictured to the left. (Nov. 6, 2007) As it turns out, we can all be a little gullible from time to time.

Following the storms that assailed Memphis on Tuesday last, I lamented, "Even in the midst of the storm, as local police tried to maintain order, people were looting the damaged Sears store."

As best I have been able to determine, this information originated with overly-zealous newscasters on FOX news, who reported just two hours after the storm that 1/4 of the Hickory Ridge Mall's roof had blown away and the Sears store had been looted of 1/2 million dollars worth of merchandise.

Folks living in Memphis found that scenario completely believable; the Hickory Hill neighborhood does have a lot of crime... in the eyes of some, crime ONLY exists in Hickory Hill.

Regrettably, I even repeated that unfortunate "news" a few times, including here, without checking out the facts first.

"Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa!"

The Sears store has already re-opened for business, and as far as the losses, the Comercial Appeal reported today:
"...few signs of the storm could be seen inside Sears, which lost very little merchandise, officials said. "We lost not one TV, believe it or not," store manager Joe Yasinsky said. "You could probably put (all our damaged goods) in the back of a large pickup truck."

So let this be a lesson to you: don't be a gullible!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Storms of Life

The storms that ripped through the mid-south last night certainly made for an exciting evening at Asbury UMC.

Asbury is a polling station, and since it was Super Tuesday, citizens of Memphis were scurrying to the church between downbursts to exercise their democratic right.

At the same time, church members were at the opposite end of the building preparing for my 11th annual Fat Tuesday Celebration. While the storms kept away the crowds, a few hardy souls ventured out and we had a good time anyway.

Throughout the evening we kept a careful eye on the weather radar (special thanks to and relayed information to volunteers at both ends of the building. We watched with joyful amazement as several dangerous storm cells skirted our neighborhood. A few blocks in either direction would have sent us all into the hallways for cover.

The photo above is what remains of the Sears store at the Hickory Ridge Mall, which is located only two miles southeast of the church.

As I count my blessings, two thoughts come to mind.

First, concerning politics: Although the polls closed at 7 p.m., very little was said about the election during the non-stop weather reports that filled the local airwaves from about 4:30 until well after 10 p.m. ...

... when we lost electricity at the parsonage ...

... so we went to bed.

[Note to self: Buy candles.]

I find it interesting that those things we think are "most important" are suddenly relegated to the back of the line when put into perspective -- in this case, when life and property are at risk.

In fact, I had to search the internet to discover that Hillary Clinton took Tennessee, although Barack Obama took Shelby County. Mike Huckabee was the Republican winner.

[But can any of them get my lights back on???]

The second thought I want to share concerns the Hickory Ridge Mall. When I was the associate pastor in Collierville, TN, the Hickory Ridge Mall was the predominant mall in Memphis. The huge two-story Mall of Memphis with indoor ice rink was all but closed, and Germantown's Wolfchase Galleria was still just an idea on some architect's drafting table.

At lunch time I would drive to Hickory Ridge, eat in the food park and walk a lap around the mall before returning to the church. I was such a regular that the manager of the Disney Store once offered me a job!

Did I really look unemployed?

But the good days are past at Hickory Ridge. The once thriving shopping community is in an economic downward spiral. Crime has driven off shoppers, which has driven off businesses. Even in the midst of the storm, as local police tried to maintain order, people were looting the damaged Sears store.

I fear this storm will be the last gasp for the dying mall. If Sears chooses to not rebuild, or if the mall management decides it's time to pack up and leave, the economic future of the area will be left with a hole the size of ... well, the size of a mall! Another chapter of Memphis history will come to an end; another carousel will be boxed up to await a new home.

The repercussions of last night's storms will be felt for months -- perhaps years -- to come. Although the worst of the weather missed us, our neighborhood is not out of danger yet.

Your prayers are coveted.