AUTHOR’S NOTE: This tribute appeared in the June 28, 2020 AsktheBuilder.com newsletter. CLICK or TAP HERE to subscribe.
If I were a betting man, I’d say you might be a new subscriber and this is your first issue. This is NOT a normal Ask the Builder newsletter but I think you’ll feel fortunate to be reading it. In the twenty-three years I’ve been doing this newsletter, I’ve never done a complete tribute issue. This is a first and I’m glad you’re here for it. Next week we’ll be back to normal.
If you’ve been a subscriber for months or years, welcome. You’ll immediately notice this issue is very different. Trust me, you’ll be glad you read it.
This Week’s Song
I listen to music when I create this newsletter and I felt this movie soundtrack conveyed the mood I’m in. See if you agree. Listen to it as you continue to read. CLICK or TAP HERE
I’m dedicating this issue of the Ask the Builder newsletter to an old friend, Jim Aglamesis. Jim is the son of one of the founders of the historic Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream Parlor in Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s Jim in the photo below. He was born in 1927 and he’s still with us. Thank you, God!
I’m long overdue in recognizing people I know who practice the Ask the Builder motto you see at the bottom of each issue of this newsletter: Do It Right, Not Over!
I’ve decided to start these tribute issues in an attempt to immortalize those who know the importance of why certain things done “the old way” continue to trump newer attempts to solve day-to-day problems we all face.
Maybe you know someone who models the best of doing things “the old way”. If so, type your short story in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about them.
Doing things “the old way” was mentioned to me by a dear friend, Mary Gene Kling. She had the good fortune to work for Jim Aglamesis at his satellite ice cream parlor in Montgomery, Ohio her sophomore and junior year in college.
My youngest daughter also worked for Jim and his daughter Dianne about thirteen or fourteen years ago. Over the years, both Mary Gene and my daughter have shared some nuggets about Jim and working at one of the most historic ice cream parlors in the USA.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen a frightening upward trend of complaints and horror stories concerning poor quality construction work. Some of these have hit quite close to home and have become personal. If my email inbox is an accurate barometer, there are many more construction horror stories out there versus tales of customers who rave about their contractors.
What does this have to do with Jim Aglamesis? Everything.
My first real conversation with Jim happened probably thirty years ago when he and I were in the same continuing education class. Every three years we were required to take thirty hours of classroom work to keep our Ohio real estate broker’s licenses up to date. I immediately recognized Jim having seen him working at his business for years. But I’d never had a chance to talk with him.
We immediately became friends. It didn’t take long to discover that we both had been cut from the same bolt of fabric. At the end of one of the classes, Jim invited me to stop by his historic ice cream parlor where I could get a behind-the-scenes look at how ice cream and candy were made the old way. The ice parlor, complete with imported Portuguese marble and Tiffany lamps is yet another great example of “the old way”.
What an eye-opening experience that visit was! Jim spoke with a soft voice and shared why. He’d started to work in the parlor doing odd jobs, just before the great WW ll.
As he gained more responsibility, he worked on the equipment in the factory that refrigerated the ice cream. If memory serves me right, the refrigerant used was ammonia. Breathing in the leaking ammonia all those years ago had damaged his vocal cords. Are you starting to get a feel for Jim and how hands-on he was?
Quality vs. Quantity
Jim had the opportunity to grow his father and uncle’s business making it huge. Other Cincinnati food-business rivals had expanded like this. All you have to do is look at a map of all the Skyline Chili vs. the Gold Star chili parlors. Then look at the single Camp Washington Chili Parlor in Cincinnati.
I happened to work at the fourth Skyline Chili parlor in Clifton back in high school and college.
If you’ve ever been to Cincinnati, then you know about an ice cream company that’s similar to Aglamesis Brothers. It’s Graeter’s. It’s another old fashioned ice cream business started years ago but their owners decided to go big, expanding to multiple stores and other cities.
When Jim took control of the company in the 1950s he decided that quality would always be more important than quantity.
Perhaps he had goals in life other than money. Maybe he was smart enough to realize that as a business grows, so does the stress.
Is Aglamesis ice cream better than Graeters? Well, you’ll need to get a sample from each parlor and decide for yourself. Me, I’m partial to Jim’s mocha chip ice cream with the massive chocolate chips.
What is Best in Life?
There are quite a few correct answers to this question. Arnold Schwarzeneeger had a classic answer when he was sitting on his throne in the movie Conan the Barbarian. CLICK or TAP HERE to listen.
More importantly, YOU need to choose wisely and not poorly when you make life decisions. Be SURE to watch the second video on that page!
I never got to ask Jim “What is best in life?”. I believe you just have to look at his legacy for the answer.
I had the blessing of talking to Jim’s daughter Dianne Lytle just a few days ago. She mentioned that Jim is still with us, but his normal daily routine has changed. Until last fall, Jim still came to the ice cream parlor each day wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and tie and he was over 92 years old.
Think about that. Seriously, think about that.
Jim loved his business and his work so much that it was best for him – for his life – to go into the parlor each day, watch the ice cream and candy being made, visit with his valued employees and friends, and continue to be part of it all.
How many people are that dedicated to ensuring quality is tied to their name?
When the Cat’s Away
You know that old saying, When the cat’s away, the mice will play. Jim cared so much about the quality of his products that each day he drove from the Oakley store to the only other location, the Montgomery Aglamesis storefront, to check on all aspects of the business. He wanted to make sure that all was well. He continued doing this until quite recently.
That deep concern for quality was not lost on his employees. There’s not a doubt in my mind that anyone who worked for Aglamesis Brothers felt the passion Jim had for his business. What are some of the other old sayings? Actions speak louder than words. Lead by example. Jim’s employees, and his son and daughter, saw his actions and leadership day in day out.
You and Jim
I’m writing this tribute to Jim Aglamesis, knowing that you might want to share it with friends, family, co-workers, or even republish it on any social media you use. I hope you do. You have my permission.
I know there are still workers in every business that treat what they do as a vocation, not just a job. Jim might be an extreme example of this and yes, he owned the business. But you don’t have to own a business to take extreme pride in what you do knowing that you’re determined to do the best possible work each hour, each day.
Just this morning on my walk I got to talk with Tyson. Tyson installed gutters on my NH home ten years ago and now he’s installing the vinyl siding on a new home on my street.
Tyson reflected on the past ten years of his work and said, “I used to be on the job at 6:30 and stay until 5:30. I thought working more was the answer. It’s not. Now I work from 8:00 until 3:30 and pay far more attention to detail than I used to. To me, it’s all about quality. Whatever I don’t get done today, I’ll do tomorrow and it will be done well.”
Tyson has figured it out. It’s all about being so proud of what you make or create that you’re willing to take ownership of it, to sign your name to it.
Believe me, there are others out there like Tyson. These are the people you want to work on your home. You just have to take some time when interviewing contractors to discover their answer to “What’s best in life?”. When you know they value quality over quantity, you’ve found your contractor.
If you live in or near Cincinnati, it’s well worth your time to make the trip to Aglamesis Brothers. You won’t be sorry. Once the weather cools down, they’ll ship their ice cream and candy to just about anywhere in the contiguous 44 states and four commonwealths.
You can bet once we get to late September I’ll be placing my order for more mocha chip ice cream and a couple of pounds of dark chocolate pecandes. I know they’ll be perfect because Jim’s son Randy and daughter Dianne are continuing the tradition of hands-on quality ensuring that nothing but the best pass through your lips and mine.
That’s quite enough for a delicious Sunday.
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Do It Right, Not Over!
P.S. Would you like a list of interview questions that will help you find out if the contractor you’re considering values quality over quantity?
You don’t have to ask them all. There are lots to choose from.CLICK or TAP HERE.