Saturday, July 13, 2024

RIP, Mr. Simmons

News is just breaking now that Richard Simmons has passed away at age 76.

In what must have been the early '90s, my sister and I were in Newark Airport and saw Richard. I'm guessing we must have been on a family trip and there were others with us, but I don't remember the details. I just remember Richard walking through the terminal, larger than life, in his signature spandex, with a detail of body guards in suits surrounding him.

We were in awe. Richard Simmons was a household name at the time and we admired his authenticity and boldness. He was himself, unabashedly, often appearing wherever he was--from a workout video to a talk show to Newark airport--sporting tight booty shorts, an oft-sequined tank top, and signature big curly hair crowning his pronounced forehead. He was beautiful.

Richard became a favorite of my sister's and mine from that point on, though to be fair we loved him before our encounter as well. One Christmas, not too long ago, I got my sister a Richard Simmons Chia Pet. Oh, it was delightful.

Rest in peace, prince of the prance and rump shaker extraordinaire. Thank you for showing the world what it means to be comfortable in one's own skin. You were ahead of your time and retro all at once...and we will always love you for it. You taught us not to be afraid to sparkle.

Friday, July 12, 2024

The 2nd Ask Uncle Marty™ Newsletter | Write Me

The second-ever Ask Uncle Marty™ newsletter just dropped. Please check it out here and be sure to subscribe for free so you don't miss a future issue.

In this newsletter, I shared a piece titled "Write Me" and I'd like to share it here as well...

Write Me

Ask Uncle Marty™ started out as an advice column and, at its heart, it still is.

Many years ago (15-ish), small business owners, primarily in my industry, started asking my opinion on things. They wanted to know how to do certain stuff, how to handle situations, how to build a team, hire, and fire, how to reach their target market, etc. So, I began submitting articles to what was then MPC Today, the industry’s leading publication that went to both independent and franchise shipping stores across the country.

After doing this a while, I learned that I love to write. It was strange, as I was always a math, science, music, and theater kid in school; English and reading comprehension weren’t my strong points. But, as an adult, something switched. I found out that I didn’t suck at telling a story or putting thoughts to keyboard; I discovered that there was incredible therapeutic benefit for me to be able to measuredly share my feelings, experience, and lessons-learned with others. So, after articles I had submitted to the magazine had been well received, I decided to give a tongue-in-cheek advice column a try…and Ask Uncle Marty™ was born. I went Ann Landers-style, changing names to protect the innocent and giving a mixture of encouragement and hard truths to those who chose to send in letters to the industry’s Uncle-in-Chief for anonymous publication.

Eventually, MPC Today changed its name to MBC Today, reflecting a change in our industry from “mail and parcel centers” to “mail and business centers” and the industry’s leading trade association, AMPC (Association of Mail & Parcel Centers), transitioned into a non-profit and changed its name to AMBC (Association of Mail & Business Centers) to reflect that same market and language switch. Now, the industry encompasses print, storage, and so much more—an ever-evolving and expanding collection of services that makes working in it both exciting and challenging.

When the non-profit transition happened for the industry association, I was, by then, running my own store and was asked to join the founding non-profit board of directors. I was glad to do so and eventually took over as Board Chair. When my service terms finished, I stayed on as an advisor to the board and ex officio Director of Communication. Then, this January, I finally stepped down from those volunteer positions completely in order to join the AYM High Consultants team and not pose a conflict of interest as a now-vendor for the non-profit association.

When the previous editor and producer of what had now become MBC Today retired, I put in a bid to AMBC to take the magazine over. They were happy to accept my offer and I’ve served as its editor and producer for many years now, keeping that contract at the request of the current board after stepping down from board service. The now-legacy and still kinda popular Ask Uncle Marty™ column published in it still takes letters from time to time, sometimes just shares unprompted thoughts, and often gets pulled from issues—by me—in order to keep things fresh and ensure other voices are shared equally and the magazine isn’t just me rambling on and on…and on.

My site,, contains a lot of my writing in blog format, going back many years. Some of it is personal, some of it is spiritual, lots of it is opinion, a fair amount of it is ridiculous, and a good bit of it is business-related. It’s a hodgepodge and my own therapy to write and share. And I still love a good letter to answer publicly and anonymously from time to time. So, if you have any interest, please use the contact form on my blog to submit questions. If they’re appropriate (or juicy) enough, I’ll be glad to publish an answer. Please check out my disclaimer for more information.

In the meantime, if you have any interest, here are some essays, letters, co-written advisements, and columns I’ve done in the past year or so (plus two from 2022 that I love). To save newsletter length, please check out my blog’s handy archive directory for the 60-ish other older pieces on there that aren’t being shared here.

Thank you for reading.

This Last Week” - July 5, 2024

July / August 2024 Edition of MBC Today” - July 3, 2024

Rethinking Systems” - June 10, 2024

Difficult People” - June 10, 2024

Going High When They Go Low” - May 29, 2024

Foxwood Cottage” - May 9, 2024

Who’s on Your Bus?” - April 25, 2024

Wednesday Evenings With Gary” - April 13, 2024

Firing a Client” - April 12, 2024

One of Those Days” - April 11, 2024

Dumpster Delight” - April 2, 2024

See It Through: The Best Stuff Happens After Intermission” - March 30, 2024

Why Wait?” - March 30, 2024

Just Give It a Minute” - March 30, 2024

Getting on the ALDI Train” - March 13, 2024

March / April 2024 Edition of MBC Today” - March 1, 2024

Lady Wisdom” - February 28, 2024

Proverbial Wisdom” - February 25, 2024

Pearls of Wisdom” - February 21, 2024

Sparrows” - February 17, 2024

The First Ask Uncle Marty™ Newsletter” - February 12, 2024

From Wawa to Larry” - February 8, 2024

Consistently Clear Communication” - February 8, 2024

Respectful Responsiveness: How to Be Professional in Email and Text” - January 17, 2024

3, 2, 1 … Launch!” - January 10, 2024

Good-Neighborliness” - January 7, 2024

January 2024 Letter From the Editor” - December 28, 2023

The Next Chapter” - November 8, 2023

The November / December 2023 Issue of MBC Today” - November 7, 2023

Days With Knight” - November 3, 2023

AMBC4ME” - November 3, 2023

Go Forth and Cookiefy” - November 1, 2023

Tried and True Hiring Advice” - October 24, 2023

The Power of Relationship-Based Business” - October 21, 2023

Ask Uncle Marty™ Archives: The Security Question & Tell Them Uncle Marty's Sent You” - October 20, 2023

I Was Wrong About Wendy” - October 11, 2023

Hiatus? What Hiatus?” - October 11, 2023

What Will Matter” - December 30, 2022

Deep Blue Gratitude” - November 16, 2022

Friday, July 5, 2024

This Last Week

This is my last week in Ithaca, New Yok, the city I’ve called home and the community I’ve been a part of for many years now. I’ve pre-signed my home closing documents, have moved the majority of my stuff from my house, and this last week am existing on an air mattress, folding table, and trying my best to eat my pantry and fridge clean.

I agreed to wait until after the first week of July to leave town, as Codey and Clark, the new owners of Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, are on their honeymoon; as part of my agreement with them upon the sale of my business to them six months ago, I promised to storesit so they could not have to worry about day-to-day operations while they’re spending this important week together.

This last week, I’ve set up a workspace in the front of Uncle Marty’s on the guest worktable that is situated between banks of private mailboxes. Being up front, I’ve been able to see so many dear guests and loyal clients who have stopped in to check their mail, ship packages, pick up printing orders, buy greeting cards, or drop off used packing material for reuse. It has been truly a blessing to see these amazing advocates for Uncle Marty’s this week and say a proper goodbye (many did come to my retirement party in December, but now I get some one-on-one time to let them know how much I’ve appreciated their friendship, support, and patronage for 13ish years). I’ve given so many hugs, shed a fair amount of bittersweet tears, and felt incredibly content in the win-win-win sale of this business and the next chapters ahead.

Why win-win-win? It was definitely a win for me, as I needed to head out of town in order to be closer to family in Delaware, as well as to move on to an exciting post-retirement career in consulting and editing, both of which have been so well received that my fellow coaches and I with our new consulting firm (AYM High Consultants, if you wanna check it out) can barely keep up with demand. So, the business sale and moving on to new and exciting freelance things was definitely the right decision for me.

It was definitely a win for Codey and Clark as well. Clark had been my manager the last couple of years and has worked in the shop off and on for nearly six years now. His sister Aleah started before him, brother Callum after him, followed by mom Julie, brother-in-law Ryan, and many other family and friends. This business had become a true family business—just, it was their family and not mine (though I am definitely an honorary member, loving my “work kids” as if they were niblings of my own.) In the last six months since Codey and Clark have been the owners, they’ve broken my records every single month and are poised to open a second location downtown next month, with a third location for 2025 in negotiations and looking very promising. They’re smashing it and I am so, so proud.

The third win is obviously a win for the business. With the growth, new locations, tremendous positive feedback, new systems in development, and possible franchising down the road, the business is doing better and growing stronger than it ever has before. It’s definitely a win-win-win; my heart is definitely content, overjoyed, and full of gratitude with how it all worked out.

There were two new team members, Ben and Caleb, at Uncle Marty’s who each started a month or two ago. They’re working out really well. As is the Uncle Marty’s tradition, once a team member reaches the point where we’re sure we like them, they like us, and they’ve made a difference around here, we immortalize them on our “Team Member Wall of Fame”—which is a section of the shop where we display portraits of all of our favorite team members, past and present. But these aren’t normal portraits. No, they’re black and white face-smashed-on-photocopier portraits.

The face smashing started years ago with Aleah, my very first long-time team member. (I had a few others before her, but none worked out.) Not only had she never used a landline, but she had also never photocopied her face! So, I was thrilled to show her what I have always found is a fun thing to do in any office…but made sure to set a precedent that we keep the photocopier portrait usage to faces only. So, I first demonstrated how to properly lay your face on the copier glass and made a copy of my mug and then, after the glass was properly cleaned, Aleah followed suit by copying her own face…and the Team Member Wall of Fame was born.

So, when it came time to initiate Ben and Caleb, I was so excited to be able to do it during the week I was storesitting. They know they’re likely the last ones to be initiated to the wall by “The One & Only Founder Uncle Marty Himself,” a title Codey and Clark graciously gave me when I relinquished my “Owner & Shopkeeper” title at the store sale closing. (Actually, the title they gave me was just “Founder,” but I’ve added a little extra flare to it since…because I’m admittedly a little extra).

What has made me just as proud as watching the new team members flourish, trained by people I trained through a training program I and long-time coworkers created, is watching the long-term team members that I hired take ownership and management and charge. In fact, there are two more new interns starting here next week and I’ve had the privilege to be introduced to each one when they came in for a business introduction / tour before they sign on officially. I watched Ryan, who has just become Store Manager, walking one of the new interns, Zoltan, through introductions. One of the first things Ryan did was bring Zoltan to the front counter where we have our mission statement framed for all guests to see and said, “This is our mission and what we aim to honor with each guest.”

My heart melted. I have preached and preached and preached mission statements to our AYM High clients—many of whom have never thought about having one—and how important it is to not only have one, but to publish it, display it, and from-the-get-go have each team member be in line with it. And that’s exactly what Ryan was doing, organically, because he knew that was a cornerstone of Uncle Marty’s. I was so proud.

Ryan then told Zoltan that, “At Uncle Marty’s, we believe we must diversify or die, so we are constantly looking for new products and services that make sense to add on and grow with.” This is verbiage Ryan has picked up from my own mentor, Fahim, and likely repeated by him to our team. “Diversify or die” is something we also preach now at AYM High.

So, as I sit here in the front of Uncle Marty’s, spending my last week getting all the takeout dishes I’ll miss from this neighborhood, hugging all of the regulars one last time, and feeling elated, excited, and sometimes a little weepy, I’m reflecting with profound gratitude and looking forward with hopeful anticipation.

This has been one wonderful, wonderful last week.

Marty Johnson is the Communication and Vision Coach at AYM High Consultants, a columnist, and an editor, producing the mail and business center industry's leading magazine, MBC Today. In 2023, he sold his popular and growing brand, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, and retired from shopkeeper life to focus on writing and coaching. Subscribe to his Ask Uncle Marty™ newsletter and read more at; follow him on socials @askunclemarty. #AskUncleMarty


Article written July 5, 2024, for co-publication on the and blogs.


Wednesday, July 3, 2024

July / August 2024 Edition of MBC Today

The July / August 2024 edition of MBC Today (volume 26 issue 4) just dropped. A free preview version is available on the homepage of the Association of Mail & Business Centers ( and AMBC Members may access the full version in the Members Only section of the site; AMBC Members will also receive their printed copy in the mail soon!

Thank you to all who contributed to this issue of the mail and business center (MBC) industry's leading publication, keeping both independent and franchise stores across the country up to date, in the loop, and networked together. It's a privilege to produce and edit this publication, but it's because of your hard work that it has such rich content.

I'll share my Letter From the Editor below. Enjoy!


Dear Readers,

Welcome to another fine edition of MBC Today.

As always, it's our hope that you learn, grow, and become inspired by what you read in here. As Mary says in her outstanding "Passport Photos" article, keep searching for golden nuggets to fill your treasure chest.

I am so excited about the launch of AMBC-U, which you'll read all about on page 16 and see some screencaps of its interface on page 17. This online, on-demand training platform is something AMBC has been working on for years. I had the pleasure of helping with its preparation when I served on the AMBC board of directors and was honored to be asked to help out with some of the training videos you'll watch on it. It's a first-in-the-industry platform, something that has been needed for a long time, and will truly be an asset to every store in our industry that takes the time to check it out. So, please do!

In my new roles after selling my business and leaving the AMBC board to represent an AMBC Trusted Supplier, AYM High Consultants, without conflict of interest, I travel quite often and visit with store owners and their team members across the country. We do a lot of our coaching on Zoom and FaceTime, but the in-person store visits are what really inspire me the most. It's so exciting to help set up new stores, do basic training, and constantly learn tips and tricks from my fellow coaches on the AYM High team. With each new store setup we do, I admit that I get a little homesick for my former store and think to myself, "Well, if I had only known that when I started" or "If I could do it all over again, I'd definitely design my layout like this."

Our industry is ever-evolving. Our models must change with the times. Our platforms must increasingly go online, making things easy for guests and clients to order, pay, and interact. Our youngest team members must be listened to so we know how best to market to, appeal to, and accommodate generations whose spending habits, needs, desires, and choices may be different than our own.

I've also really enjoyed our clients who have been in business a long time, but understand their need to reach a new level and to add fresh services, modules, profit centers, and procedures to stay relevant and reach new heights. We've seen people go from six to seven figures through some very basic streamlining and automation techniques, as well as new-mindset marketing.

Whether you do it on your own, with your AMBC peers, with a mentor or three, or if you hire a coach, somehow please keep growing. Don't get stagnant. Keep changing. Keep improving. And keep shining!

With gratitude and care,

Marty Johnson (he/him)

Columnist | Ask Uncle Marty™
Editor & Producer | MBC Today
Founder | Uncle Marty's Shipping Office
Communication & Vision Coach | AYM High Consultants
Co-Host | *To-Be-Announced Podcast Launching in 2024* · @askunclemarty · #AskUncleMarty