The value in a cup of coffee

“I would like to get Downtown Westfield to be more like it was when I was growing up here”.  

I was told: “You can’t say that if you want to win, it’s not the same Westfield.”

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All I have ever wanted to do was race cars. At 15, I went looking for a job, back when gas stations repaired cars. My plan was to get a job, buy a car and work on it till I was old enough to drive. So, I went to each station and explained about my mechanical ability and motivation. All offered me a job at $3.75 an hour except one that offered $3.50.  I went back to my $3.50 offer with the intention of convincing the owner to offer me the additional 25 cents.  What I didn’t expect was his reply “wouldn’t it be worth 25 cents to learn how to deal with people?” delivered from the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. “Think about it and get back to me.”

I could not shake those words. Looking back on it, he was challenging me to invest in myself. The next afternoon I accepted my $3.50 an hour job at Romeo’s Gulf. From the day I started I began to learn. I watched how Russell would make each customer feel at ease and assure them he would take care of their car. He was a great business owner; he taught me to listen, to be kind and to realize how important helping these families was. He would fix peoples cars that couldn’t afford the repair and let them pay over time.  He understood what community meant and how his business was an important part of that community.

The best lesson: always have a pot of coffee brewing. Russell made the worst coffee, but that didn’t stop the town fathers stopping for a cup. Coffee and discussions that covered everything: economy, government, kids, but the worst were the tragedies. The sadness that affects every town as time passes:  the loss of a family member or a loved one, a car crash, sickness. Discussion was the main ingredient stirred in with the cream and sugar. Questions, how it occurred and how the community might support those in need. I listened and learned from the people of Downtown Westfield how to become a better man. They taught me it was never about me, it was always about us as a community.

Time after time watching how this town rallies to help its own, someone’s hospital bills, cleaning a yard or just a helping hand, Westfield is a great town.  Differences of opinion, was always embraced at Romeo’s Gulf. So, I will wish you and your families some of the kindness, wisdom and love this town gave me growing up.  Westfield, please hold on to the kind soul this town has always had, by stirring in a little community in your next cup of coffee.

I became a licensed NASCAR driver in 1993. Thanks Russell, best .25 cents ever spent.  

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