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.


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