D & B Wholesale warehouse
Stan’s gamble for a prosperous future depended largely on Donald’s future success, and Donald’s savvy business dealings, rather than his own ability to maintain D&B’s warehouse operations.
Although this was a strange symbiotic relationship since Donald’s success depended on Stan’s ability to keep the merchandise flowing to the Deep South.
As hungry for the better life college was supposed to supply him, Stan was ill equipped to do what was necessary, yet somehow rose to the challenge that Donald needed over the next few decades.
For one thing, Stan was notoriously slow.
This was not laziness; it was terror.
The song of a blue collar worker raised original in Pennsylvania where Stan was born, Stan could not believe how much some of the fragrances cost. Some perfumes, he noted, cost more per ounce than gold. Unlike gold, however, this previous item came in fragile glass containers and Stan was determined to make certain that each piece survived the perilous journey via rough-neck truck drivers – despite Donald’s assurances that these things were covered by insurance if broken.
Stanley would hover over each box, packing each bottle as if nitro glycerin, putting the most valuable items at the center with the cheaper items around them for protection.
Donald was constantly on him to hurry his pace, especially later when we moved to the new warehouse in late 1975. This would become an issue between me and Stan as I became night manager during the Christmas season of 1977.
Yet somehow, Stan muddled through those early years and managed to make the wholesale business work, when Donald’s first venture in retail sputtered. Although Donald might have later forgotten this debt to Stanley when hobnobbing with U. S. Senators and Presidents, much of what was needed for him to arrive there was on the back of people like Stan – who didn’t get the credit he deserved.
Stanley, who was honest to a fault, didn’t always agree with Donald’s business practices, but also loyal to a fault, Stanley did what was necessary to make the warehouse run. His job was not to question the process, just to make certain that nothing interfered with the steady flow of product from the posh stores up north to the low brow stores in the Deep South. And though he did this as a pace Donald found infuriating, the snail’s pace didn’t matter much until later when Donald expanded the business in the new warehouse, by which time other workers were doing the packing, and Stanley was condemned to overseeing us.
In 1974, when my old boss arranged for Donald and Stanley to hire me, the whole business hinged on the wholesale side of the business, something that seemed to bother Donald a lot.
This may have explained his abruptness and the air of dread he tended to inspire in his workers, even if unintended.
Unlike Stan, who could never shed his working class roots, Donald was desperate to do so and desperately needed to appear successful even during those early years when he was less certain that his efforts would succeed.
Warehouses in the industrial park were as uniform as suburban houses, stamped out of the same dull mold – divided into two portions, a relatively small front section that was used as office space and a much longer rear section with a bay door at the far end for use as warehouse space.
The Drawing Board had done very little to modify its off space, simply installing decks, filing cabinets and phones in the front area and pallet racks, a work table, and shelving in the warehouse section.
Donald’s warehouse largely resembled the card companies, except that it did not have the multiple leveled pallet racks and most of the goods simply sat on pallets on the floor or for loose pieces on metal shelves. The location of the work bench differed, too, placed up front in the middle rather than in the back as was the case with the card company.
The office space, however, was a totally different cup of tea. He divided it into smaller office spaces, with rich wood paneling, and dark cushioned chairs. He had a waiting room where his secretary, Carmella said behind a desk with seating across from her for visitors.
Although I describe Donald’s world in several journals over the years, the first reference came in a journal dated Dec. 2, 1982, in which I gave a rough sketch to this world.
“The first warehouse was one of many in an industrial complex of largely shabby buildings. Like the warehouse I worked for next door, it was just about wide enough for four rows of pallets, two along each wall, and two in the middle, with two aisles,” I wrote. “In the other warehouse, we’d had pallet racks with several levels – here everything was on one level. The warehouse was actually divided into three sections. Offices up front, warehouse in back.
From the front door, you could walk directly through to the warehouse, via a door, a short hall, and another door into the warehouse. Most business people stopped in front of Carmella’s desk, through a door to the left of the front door.”
Beyond her there were actually two offices – one occupied when I first got here (in spirit if not in the flesh) by Donald’s brother, a paper strewn place that later became a kind of conference room. Off this, was the second office that was Donald’s, which had another door that led more or less directly into the warehouse. It was Donald’s idea that he have access to the work area without being seen by people in the waiting area.”
His office was remarkably spare. It had a very expensive redwood desk and thick rugs. But there was a large space between his desk and the couch that stood against the other wall. During the two years I worked in that warehouse with him, Donald rearranged his office numerous times, once even replacing the vinyl couch with one covered in bulky cloth.”
Most of Donald’s files were just inside the warehouse, a disaster of spilling paper with a storage area just beyond it we cleared out to handle the massive increase of merchandise in the Christmas rush. When I first got there, that space was filled with a variety of useless junk. Beyond it, was the returns area – shelves that ran along the warehouse side of the office wall.”
Pallets of merchandise ran along most of both walls and in the center almost all the way to the loading dock at the rear. Our work area was closer to the front, made up of two tables. And after the first few weeks, I worked on one side and Stan on the other, facing each other, talking to each other as we packed orders. We numbered the boxes and listed what we put into each box on the packing slips so that Stan could tell what got shipped in what box just from looking at a copy of the packing slip later.”
Donald was always making deals, a regular pack rat when it came to some items, trading one thing for another, hoping in the end to get the bigger end of the stick. Sometimes, he forgot that he was only a pack rat. He always tried to be something bigger than he was.”