Thursday, April 19, 2007

The World's Great Optimist, An Interview With RJA

Earlier this week, I was chatting with RJA of Urf! fame through the miracle of instant messenger. Although I already knew at least a hundred and four things about him from his blog, I found myself getting nosy about what he does for a living and why. Along the way we had this exchange:

RJA: Will this interview be featured on One Of Each? That would be pretty cool.
SLC: Good idea!
RJA: It is a good idea. "Get to know your blogger"

Typical, that one narcissistic blogger would want to hijack the blog of another. But in truth, we’re not so taken with ourselves that we let the readers in on everything. We end up blogging about our kids, about where we go and what we eat, embellishing stories and posting pictures we think might entertain others. But rarely do we mention if we find ourselves following our dreams, or if running a smoke shop brings in enough money to support a family of six. And even more rarely do I stop talking enough to actually learn those things about someone else. So if you dare- get to know your blogger.

SLC: So how busy is your store? I don't know anything about tobacco sales.
RJA: Varies.
A lot of lottery sales, not enough cigar sales, but the money is in cigars, pipes and pipe tobacco.
SLC: So is there a lot of competition in Memphis?
RJA: Not really. There's me and Tobacco Corner.
Vinny in Midtown is a bit of competition and then there are a couple way the hell out in Cordova. In Memphis, our biggest competition isn't with each other but with online sales.
SLC: So is this something you always had an interest in, or was the store a good business opportunity for you independent of that, or both?
RJA: I wanted to work for myself. I've always wanted that.
So, in August of '98, when C was only eight-months-old, I started feeling pressure to do just that. I saw a notice that this place was for sale and thought it would be an interesting place to work. After much negotiating (though not quite enough), I closed on it at the end of December of that year, then took over Jan. 4, 1999.
SLC: So that place just caught your eye- you weren't on the lookout for a tobacco store in particular?
RJA: Nope. Not on the look out for a tobacco shop.
SLC: What were you doing before that?
RJA: I was working at The Commercial Appeal before this. Mostly, Stephanie, in the Sports Department!
SLC: Stop it!
RJA: Yep.
SLC: What did you do at the CA? Write?
RJA: A little. Mostly grunt work, but they did let me write a little.
SLC: So you chose being your own boss over writing for a living. . . because you can do both as your own boss?
RJA: It's more complicated.
SLC: Nothing's too complicated for IM.
RJA: I didn't go to college and all the CA wants to see now is a diploma when they’re hiring writers. But, as an editorial assistant, which is what I was, they would let me do freelance writing - book reviews, concert reviews, I covered a high school soccer match. And that was how I was going to prove myself. But then they cut out the freelancing by EAs, so I said screw it.
SLC: Gotcha.
RJA: My plan was to do more writing while here, but it's not that simple. Too much going on.
SLC: What, running a business and raising four kids doesn't leave you much extra time?
RJA: At the time I only had one. I pictured me doing a lot of writing between customers but there's always something else I need to be doing. Then more and more kids start showing up, so there's not as much time to write at home, either.
SLC: So the interview can continue tomorrow?
RJA: Okay. That's cool.
There's more to say. More than can be squeezed into IM.
SLC: You are severely underestimating this medium.

To be continued. . .

1 comment:

Stacey Greenberg said...

1. RJA was surprisingly unsarcastic.

2. i always imagined IM to be much racier

3. nice interview! fg may be calling on your skills soon :)