By the end of 1998, my father had been retired from the military for a year. Prior to his retirement, he had often expressed his desire to go into business after his service. Each time, I warmly supported my father, but being young and green, I could only give him verbal approval. I believed in my father with all my heart, I believed in his quick success, my father was a very knowledgeable and intelligent man. As for me, I was very attracted to commercial activities, I wanted to dive into the boundless and uncharted sea of business after graduation. In the meantime, I still had a year and a half to go to night classes at the university. I thought that during this time, my father would start his own business, and it would be time for me to help him with everything after graduation. But life decided otherwise. While I was finishing my fourth year and working part-time in a firm, my father managed to go from being the deputy director of a wholesale company to a “picker-upper” – a man who moonlights as a taxi driver with his own car. I did not pay much attention to this fact. The situation in the country was difficult at that time, and everyone had to work wherever they could. Casual earnings did not save the situation, only my father’s military pension helped our family. I remember his condition at that time – depression, confusion, guilt – all this was in my father’s eyes. But he was moved by his ability and desire to work. My father was naturally a hardworking and persistent man, and he was not intimidated by work. But every advantage in a man is his potential disadvantage, and vice versa. The disadvantage of my father’s industriousness was that he was overzealous, so he often did not take the most economical way in terms of effort. It is not for nothing that people say, “Leave work to the lazy, and they will find the easiest solution.” There is truth in this saying, as I was later convinced more than once.
In August 1998, the well-known crisis hit the country and turned my seven hundred ruble salary into pocket change. In the innocence of my age, I expected at least a small increase in my salary from the stingy director of the firm. Soon, realizing that my expectations were in vain, I began to shirk work. The director figured it out and fired me by September 1998.
As a former student with no experience and no connections, the only jobs I could see were jobs with lots of work and little money, a prospect I was not happy about. I started looking through newspapers and magazines, trying to find something interesting. I was driven by the feeling that if I looked, something would certainly turn up. In early September I came across an advertisement: “A certain brewery representative office is offering a job for sales agents.” I showed the ad to my father and he was interested. The next morning we were talking to a large and overweight man of about thirty-five. The job was simple: pick up the beer from the representative office at a fixed price, add any markup you want, and sell it to any outlets. There was one condition: financial responsibility for the goods and a money-back guarantee. About fifteen people responded to the ad, all with their own trucks. Most of them came with minibuses, one with a pickup. They all looked at our VAZ-2102 with amazement – it was clearly a desperate decision to transport beer in crates in a passenger car. My father and I took up the cause with enthusiasm. I made up for my complete lack of personal experience with the unwavering faith in my father’s experience and authority. We took out the back seats of our second model Zhiguli car and started loading the crates of beer into it. The division of labor also happened naturally: my father wrote the bills right there in the car, was the driver and the loader; I, who was only the loader, always tried to carry more crates than my father to equalize the amount of work. The work was intense and hectic – it was exhausting, but the excitement, new impressions and interest were so overwhelming that I didn’t feel tired; I was eager to be independent and gain much-needed experience. A week later, four of the fifteen sales agents remained. The fat man worked with the big wholesalers himself and left everyone else to the agents – small wholesalers and retailers. My father and I found a few more or less decent outlets and started supplying them with beer. The fat man was surprised and wondered where we were putting his beer in such quantities, but we kept quiet. After a month, my father and I were the only agents left. By the end of October, the seasonality of beer was over, sales dropped many times over, and Fatty shut down the business. The two months’ earnings were only enough to cover our current living expenses. We had to think of something, and a simple thought struck me: “What if we repeated the scheme?” I perked up, my brain started working in the intended direction: I needed a working brewery near our city. Not a very successful one, but a half-dead one. I understood that there was no chance to “fly” into a decent, well-promoted production facility without money. The search began, and once again I started poking around in newspapers and magazines, and my intuition didn’t let me down. At the beginning of November I found an advertisement: “Eletsky Brewery invites regional dealers.” I showed the ad to my father and said: “Call them!” I was only 21 at the time. I quickly realized that no one in the business took me seriously, so I urged my father to put my ideas into practice. The idea worked: we were invited to a meeting. We calculated the funds available, estimated the distance there and back – we had just enough money for gasoline. On a damp day, driven by an icy blizzard, we set out for Elets. We quickly found the brewery. It turned out to be quite an enterprise – a production facility on its last legs, on the verge of technical deterioration and financial collapse. We were met by the commercial director, a man in his forties, with a beer belly, a flabby body, a puffy face with sagging cheeks and watery eyes. We agreed quickly. My father communicated, and I nodded only occasionally, rejoicing inwardly at the intuition that had worked. We received the main condition – the goods for sale, in return we promised to bring back the same number of crates of empty beer bottles, and in payment we load out sugar in sacks. We drove home happy – it worked!
In January we began to look for a warehouse. We had only two thousand rubles, which was my father’s military pension for that month. That was it. We drove around the city, leafed through the newspapers, and ended up at a former vegetable depot about twenty minutes from our house. The depot was one of the newest in the city. All the wholesale depots I’d been to were teeming with commercial activity, but this one was surprisingly empty. We met with the director, walked around the premises, and chose a warehouse – a huge one, four hundred meters, but we rented only a quarter of it. While my father talked at length with the director, I went out of the warehouse and looked around – the depot seemed to be asleep. Across the street was an auto repair shop. In the one-story building at the entrance to the depot, there was a small wholesale food company. We became the third tenant, my father gave them two thousand as payment for February, and our adventure began.
The first batch arrived on the tenth of February, the factory’s old GAZ-66 bringing eighty crates in the canopy. The beer was unpasteurised and had a short shelf life of only seven days. In fact, it was a very risky business if you think about it: a customer would not normally buy beer in a shop if it was nearing its last, seventh day; a fresh batch was made at the factory in the morning and brought in on the afternoon of the first day; we had only five days to sell it. 1999 was the peak year for general wholesalers. We had made arrangements in advance with the major wholesalers in the city to deliver beer for sale. It turned out that my father and I had to deliver each batch of beer on the first day, the second day at the latest. The next day the wholesalers would put the goods on display and start selling them, and by all accounts they should have sold everything in two or three days at the most. Ideally by the end of the fourth day. In this case, retailers could only trade on the fifth and sixth days. If the beer did not leave the depot by the end of the fourth day, we would almost certainly take it back after it had expired. There was a risk of loss. In negotiations with the brewery, we reserved the right to return up to a tenth of each batch of overdue product. We had to work hard. The GAZ-66 had a maximum capacity of one hundred and twenty crates, and it would come to us full from May. We took fifteen at a time, which meant eight trips. The depots sold beer in different ways: some sold fifteen crates in two days, others ten, others five. So there were more trips. Usually it was like this: we managed to make two or three runs on the day of arrival. The rest had to be done on the second day. That meant between five and eight trips, depending on the weather and sales. If we did eight trips on the second day, it was tough, we were exhausted. In those days there was no traffic on the city roads and we drove fast. My father was an excellent driver and I was a brisk loader and expediter.
By the end of the spring we were supplying beer to all the major wholesalers in the city. The quality was not so good, so we took the market by the price and kept it 10% below the competition. The money from beer sales was barely enough to rent the warehouse and pay for petrol. The only thing that saved us was sugar, which we used to pay for the beer at a very high markup. The sugar trade was as wild and chaotic as anything else. Homemade signs adorned the streets: “Sugar 320”, “Sugar 310”, “Sugar 330”. Stop at the sign of the warehouse you like and buy a sack. It’s as simple as that.
In April, new tenants, specifically sugar traders, moved into the neighboring warehouse. There were two of them – tall, strong men in their thirties. They made a billboard out of two pallets, stuck a piece of paper on each side with the word “sugar” and the price below it, and placed it in front of the entrance to the warehouse. The neighbors immediately started trading. First passenger cars went to them, then small wholesale buyers showed up in their GAZelle pickups. I nicknamed our neighbors “the sugar guys” and they nicknamed us “the beer guys”.
The main one was a big, active fellow with a short haircut and impudent, bulging eyes. He was broad in the shoulders, fleshy, and pot-bellied. He walked with his arms outstretched at his sides, changing the ease of his movements for vigor and pressure. He cursed a lot, and with relish, he drove his silver Mercedes up to the warehouse, braking sharply. And he drove away just as spectacularly. He got out of the car vigorously, but with an exaggerated laziness, grudgingly giving his hand for a shake as if incidentally to emphasize his importance. He even counted money dramatically – he took a bundle of bills from his briefcase with a rubber band, broke it in half with the fingers of one hand, deftly moved the thumb of the same hand, pushed a bill to the side, picked it up by the corner with the fingers of the other hand, and flipped it back to himself. The bills in his hands rustled like a counting machine.
In addition to sugar, my father and I made money with a bottle trick. A light beer bottle was half the price of a dark bottle – green or brown. The brewery would take either one as proof of sale. When I saw the opportunity to make money, I immediately offered my father to deliver only light bottles to the brewery. While the big beer wholesalers had a standard margin of ten or twenty percent, we were squeezing seventy percent out of our tiny turnover of sugar and light bottles. But as soon as our business reached the point of maximum efficiency, it slowly began to collapse before it had even begun.
In the summer of that year, I defended my diploma and received higher education. The day was dazzlingly sunny and warm. Everything happened quickly, I got the last “A” in my grade book and walked out of the classroom. My parents were waiting for me in the foyer of the first floor of the institute. My father shook my hand, my mother hugged and kissed me, and we drove home. For a long time, I felt that my diploma was the most important document in my life, and that it would soon change it beyond recognition. That day, I rejoiced like a child, opening it every minute and looking at every letter and number. When I got home, I carefully placed the diploma into my desk, not expecting to take it out but twice in the next thirteen years.
In six months of work, I got to know all the major players in the beer business. It was still chaotic, but the leading companies had already emerged. At the end of the summer, sales began to decline – revenues dropped and we were faced with the prospect of eating up the summer’s profits. An opportunity arose: we came across a large beer wholesaler in the region. By buying beer from him and transporting it to the retail outlets, we were able to make up some of the lost income. My curiosity never waned and I quickly figured out how the wholesaler worked. Immediately, my mind began to wander and I knew we had to do something similar, albeit on a smaller scale. It all came down to finances. We could not do without them for a qualitative change in the business. We needed a good product from a large beer producer. But such goods could only be sold for money, which was not yet available. The only option was to start picking up half-dead factories and get goods for sale, or – which looked fantastic – to get to know the director or owner of a large factory and negotiate preferential terms.
The half-empty depot gradually came to life as more and more tenants moved in. A fruit wholesaler settled in the back of the warehouse. The next warehouse after ours was occupied by a household chemical company. We continued to work, but I couldn’t help but feel that our business was shaky. It was only the price difference between sugar and beer bottles that kept us afloat. This went on until mid-autumn. And then a competitor came along. One day I walked into the sales area of the wholesale depot and saw an unfamiliar bottle of beer in the window. I was used to ours being the cheapest, but this was new and cheaper. I looked at the label, it was made in a cannery in a village in the Lipetsk region. “A cannery brews beer?” And then I saw the expiration date on the new beer: one month! The label under the name said “pasteurized”. “Where in a poky hole of a place did they get the equipment to pasteurize beer?” Two days later, the situation became threatening. The new beer, which appeared only in the largest wholesale depots in the city, immediately reduced our sales there to almost nothing. While my father and I were broodingly removing our expired goods from the depots, the village beer, which had ruined our week of trading, sold out and disappeared. Everything went back to normal, and a month later the situation repeated itself. There were literally piles of country beer in the depots. I walked around the storage facilities and counted the crates – fifty, eighty, what did they need so much for when we were bringing in ten or fifteen at most? No matter how you looked at it, it turned out that the rural beer supplier was either one sandwich short of a picnic or new to the business. Something had to be done about the supply of cheap beer.
As the classics say, “If you can’t resist something, lead it”!
That’s a good point.
I copied the phone number of the cannery from the label on the bottle and gave it to my father. It was not the first time, but he managed to get through to the director, and the next day off work, we went to the Lipetsk region. Negotiations went quickly, and at the end of the visit we found out that our competitor was an Armenian. He delivered tractor tires to the factory and took the beer under barter arrangements. “Too bad,” I lamented, realizing that the competitor could always sell beer below the purchase price just to get rid of it. They refused to barter with us, saying that the brewery didn’t need anything anymore. The return of beer bottles and sugar were not needed either. The factory did not have its own transport, so the only option was to hire one. But we still bargained for acceptable terms, agreed to take beer in batches, and promised to come back next week for the first one. Just about the whole factory saw us off on our way back.
A week later, we distributed the first batch of new beer to the competitor’s unused depots, and I began tracking his leftovers around the city. It quickly became clear that the competitor’s batch would expire in two weeks, and he would not sell all of his product in that time. And so it turned out that as soon as his beer ran out, we brought in fresh beer. The competitor’s beer was taken off the market, and it sat in storage gathering dust for another two weeks, until the competitor took it out and disappeared himself, having made a loss.
We worked through the winter with relative stability. The price of sugar fell slowly and steadily, and in the middle of spring it reached an absolute record – two hundred and sixty rubles per sack. Now we had one hundred and twenty rubles for each sack of sugar sent to the Eletsky Brewery. We kept quiet about this markup, because we knew that “the sugar guys”, who were facing stiff competition, had only twenty rubles per sack. They did well, and their production grew steadily. It was only thanks to sugar that we survived the seasonal slump in sales.
Although the director of the cannery assured us that the barter for tires was a one-time event and would not happen again, the Armenian showed up in May. He again received beer in exchange for tires and filled half of the depots of the city with it. The price was lower than ours. My father called the factory and was very indignant on the phone, listening to excuses. He faulted the director for his decency and for going back on his word, received shouting in response, and ended the conversation. We had to solve the problem ourselves. We tracked down the Armenian who came to our depot in a dirty “ninety-nine” with the left mirror torn off. We proposed the simplest solution: he would transfer his beer to us at a fixed price, we would sell it and pay for the goods. It was a win-win: the competitor got the money and we got the price control. Dumping is always bad for trade. To my surprise, the Armenian didn’t agree, raised the price extortionately and offered to buy all his beer at once. We refused; it was easier to wait a few weeks for the competitor’s beer to expire and the problem would go away. So we did. Two weeks later, the Armenian’s product disappeared from the windows of the wholesalers, and piles of dusty crates with white flakes of sediment on the bottoms of the bottles sat in their depots for a long time. The competitor was gone for good.
In the summer of 2000, there was a serious sugar trouble. Its lowest price lasted for a month. At the beginning of the summer, it gradually returned to two hundred and eighty and continued to rise. At first, people didn’t really react to the increase. As soon as the price exceeded three hundred and twenty, the demand grew and customers flocked to “the sugar guys”. After each update of the numbers on the billboards, I became gloomy as our profits from sugar melted away. In the summer, we were helped by the beer itself, which sold three times as much as in the winter. July, sugar three hundred and forty, three hundred and sixty. The city rustled with panic, and a pilgrimage of customers began to gather at “the sugar guys”: the heat, the daily line of two or three cars at the warehouse: one pulls away, the next is already rolling to the end of the line. If the passenger cars usually came for a maximum of three sacks of sugar, now they shoved it in not by weight but by volume – three sacks in the trunk and three in the back seat of the car. When their rear bodyworks were almost down to the asphalt, the cars drove away, scraping their mufflers on the ground. The large number of retirees in line was noticeable, and after a day or two they reappeared, obviously stocking up. I began to recognize some of them by sight. The “GAZelles”, with a capacity of one and a half tons, loaded two or two and a half. Sugar was hastily bought all over the city. “The sugar guys” rubbed their hands with glee and spent the whole day running between the warehouse, the office and the sugar factories. In August the price peaked: three hundred and eighty rubles per sack. It was as if people were going crazy. Once or twice a day, trucks with goods would arrive at “the sugar guys”. The loaders were working at full tilt in no time – first unloading the sacks from the trucks onto pallets, then rolling them into the warehouse on a trolley, then rolling them out again and loading the sacks from the pallets into the buyers’ cars – over forty tons for four men a day. Sales continued to grow, and by the last week of August, “the sugar guys” were buying and selling two truckloads a day. The loaders worked themselves to death; the pallets of sacks were no longer rolled into the warehouse, but stood outside, blocking half of the warehouse’s central driveway. In their moments of rest, the dust-black loaders either lay exhausted on the sacks of sugar or ran to us one by one for beer. Those who bought a bottle would open it quickly, throw back their heads, and gulp down the contents. “Hell of a job,” I thought to myself as I watched the next bottle of beer disappear into the stomach of the loader.
“That’s quite a job you got there!” I said sympathetically.
After gulping down half a liter, the loader immediately bought several more bottles.
“And you think we’ve always worked as loaders?” he said suddenly, drinking half of the second bottle, more slowly this time, and staring at me.
I was surprised by the question and wondered what I was actually thinking.
“We used to be in business too…” the guy went on, meaning by “we” some of the others lying on the sacks, pointing in their direction with the bottle in his hand, and boastfully adding, “We had everything! We had business. We started out together…”
He waved again in the direction of his buddies.
“Um-hum…” I let out something vague and nodded.
“We got money right away,” the loader added sadly, without bragging. “And as soon as the money came in, it all started: baths, saunas, chicks…”
I kept silent; it was clear. The story sounded true for many such cases.
“We had to move ahead, keep the money in the business, but we…” the guy waved the bottle in annoyance, took a swig, and went outside to join the others.
“We had everything!” the phrase echoed in my brain, cutting me to the bone with awareness. I shuddered at its simplicity and inevitability, and decided for myself that I would do my best not to find myself in a similar situation.
The sugar psychosis continued. While “the sugar guys” usually worked until six, they began to stay until eight or even nine in the evening. People would reach out to them until dusk. As for my father and me, it was a sad time because the profits from the sugar barter had dropped to zero. The limit had been reached. We bought and shipped only one batch at the limit price, because it collapsed in our city – yesterday papers with the numbers “380” hung everywhere, and the next morning – “260”. The buyers were gone like the wind. There was a “sugar break” in the city. The neighbors became sad. I understood them; appetite comes with eating. Ordinary shoppers had once again fallen into a simple economic trap – yielding to panic and herd instinct, they thoughtlessly grabbed the goods in stock at the highest price, squandering their savings. Only the occasional car pulled up for sugar, a loader lazily taking out a sack and putting it in the trunk of the customer’s car. The other loaders sat outside in their shorts on empty beer crates, sunbathing and nibbling sunflower seeds. A lazy, hot wind carried pieces of packing polyethylene and bags around the depot. With only one month of big beer sales ahead of us, September, my father and I toiled every day, trying to make money.
We were lucky with the weather, but unlucky with the barter – the brewery announced that starting in October they would only accept money to offset beer sales. And since that was the case, there was no point in selling beer at all. The news came as a bolt from the blue. After all the expenses and the rent for the warehouse, the profits from the sale of the beer itself would only be enough to keep us on our feet. We didn’t want to spin our wheels, development was a crying need for us. In the same month, the thin hopes for the rural beer melted away, the brewery was going to raise the selling price in October – the end of the beer business was coming. And, as is often the case, Fate allowed us to earn a small severance bonus.
The second Saturday in September is our city day. In the two weeks leading up to the holiday, there was always good alcohol wholesale – the retail stores bought up the supplies. Suddenly, the city ran out of cheap local beer. Two days later, the wholesalers bought up a week’s supply of ours as well. Three days before the holiday, there was no cheap beer in the depots, and all that was left was to bring in the rural beer as a matter of urgency. Early in the morning I jumped into the cab of the “ZiL” car with the driver I already knew, and we drove off. It took me two hours to load the car and I was very tired: the factory loaders were drunk and only carried crates of beer from the shop to the side of the car. I worked alone in the body, taking the crates from the edge and carrying them deep into the car, where I placed them in rows and columns under the top of the tent as high as my height would allow. The last three rows I made at the edge. “Absolutely packed… four hundred and seventy crates,” the words ran through my head as I sat down tiredly in the cab. We started our return trip at noon. “Three hours of driving, I’ll drop a hundred on the left bank, that’s four… then another hundred crates on the right, and the rest to the warehouse… It’s okay, I have to make it by six, I think I can make it…” I estimated, finally relaxed, came back to reality, and immediately felt that the car was overloaded. The engine pulled well, the overload felt in the measured rocking of the body to the rhythm of the curves and irregularities of the road. The leaf springs on the rear axle squeaked pitifully. A couple of times I looked in the side mirror and saw that the wheels were so pressed down that it looked like we were driving on half-flat tires. Finally, as we left the regional roads for the highway, the ZiL began to ride softer, bouncing less. I closed my eyes and dozed off.
We were about twenty kilometers into the city when the right rear tire blew. It was a big explosion. We stopped. There was a fist-sized gaping hole in the right outer tire, with cord sticking out. The car was leaning slightly on its side, one of a pair of inner tires sagging for two. I looked at my watch – there was still time. After replacing the wheel, we drove on. It was four o’clock. For ten minutes we drove in gloomy silence, and I kept squinting in the mirror. Just as we were relaxing from what had happened, a second explosion went off. Again from my side, but already the inner rear. We couldn’t replace it without unloading the car. The driver slowed down instinctively. I looked intently in the mirror – the wheel, which was still intact, was shrinking so much that it seemed to me it would explode next. But it held. We had another forty minutes to get to the first depot. The driver and I looked at each other and decided to continue on one wheel at our own risk. With such a high center of gravity, we’d probably tip over if it exploded too. “If only we could get there in time…” I was nervous because I knew that the depot accepted goods until five o’clock.
It was ten to five when we crawled into the depot area. As soon as the truck touched the ramp at the back of the warehouse, I was relieved that we had made it. The driver opened the back, the loaders reached for the goods, and the unloading began. I was standing nearby. A few meters of the floor had been emptied when the driver came back and looked inside the body.
“Well, should I take them out?” I nodded at the solid wall of crates. I didn’t want to put too much load on the rear axle, and leaving the crates in high rows was dangerous.
“No, that’s okay, we’ll get there, they won’t fall over!” the driver confidently brushed me off.
“How’s the wheel? Still holding up?” I said.
“It’s okay, it’s much easier now, we’ll make it!” the driver lightened up.
I looked down, the wheel lifted slightly, a few tons less in the back of the truck after all. As soon as the loaders were finished, I quickly handed over the goods, ran to the office, signed the papers, jumped into the cab of the ZiL, impatiently blurted out: “Let’s go!”
The truck drove slowly out of the depot gate, turned left, and joined the stream of cars. Three hundred meters later, at a large T-intersection, we ran a red light and stopped. The hard trip and two blown tires made me nervous, and just then I felt a wave of relaxation sweep through my mind and body. I exhaled tiredly, wanting only one thing – to end this endless day and go home. Green. The driver abruptly released the clutch and the truck jerked. There was a rumble, a clang, a clink, and a crackle of shattering glass in the back.
“They fell over after all!” I blurted out with a flash of anger. The driver looked at me startled. I was angry at him for telling me not to move the beer crates, angry at myself for listening to the man and being lazy, and now I was losing money and had at least half an hour of extra work. The car rolled through the intersection almost by inertia, I heard the pouring sound, and I looked in the mirror – the beer was flowing through the cracks in the bodywork onto the asphalt.
“Stop right after the intersection!” I said with restraint, trying to suppress a flash of anger. Two wheels, damaged goods – it was clearly a bad trip. We pulled off to the side of the wide dirt road under the shade of a large tree. From the cab, I stared at the long yellow foam tail stretching across the intersection. It was still pouring from the back of the car, and the smell of beer hit my nose. The driver came over, lamented a bit for the sake of decency, made a sad face, and untied the awning from behind. I reached inside. The crates were lying like dominoes. The top ones were fine. Most of the bottles in the bottom ones were broken, and the rest had flown out of the crumpled crates and were rolling around. I stared at the picture for a minute, wondering where to begin.
“We have to take down some of these crates!” I said to the driver, who was standing outside looking guilty. “I’ll give them to you and you put them on the ground and then we’ll throw them back in!”
People stared at us curiously from the passing cars. The smell of beer wafted across the intersection. I gathered intact bottles from under my feet into the empty crate boxes. I pulled some of the half-empty crates out to make more room underfoot. The bottom crates still wouldn’t move. I carefully climbed on top of the rubble. I pushed the top of the fallen rows back upright. It swayed a little and then fell back into place. So, one by one, I put half of the rows back. There was a mess of crates, bottles and broken glass underneath. I jumped down to the ground and assessed the damage – it wasn’t that bad, no more than ten crates were broken. I was relieved. The driver was off somewhere. I went through the crates on the ground. Half the bottles were broken. I stacked the broken glass in a pile on the lawn, a janitor would clean it up, I filled the crates and put them in the back of the truck. The empty crates followed. The driver, who suddenly appeared, tied up the tent and we drove to the right bank. We didn’t lose much time, it was about six o’clock. Forty minutes later we were at the second depot, unloaded, and arrived at our warehouse at nine o’clock. My father was waiting for us in our “second”. As he and I unloaded the beer, I told him everything to get it off my chest, subconsciously looking for support. In his typical dry manner, he pointed out my mistakes, told me what I should and shouldn’t have done. Everything was flaring up inside me, but I remained silent. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The one who does nothing is never wrong. It hurt me that instead of moral support, I received the expected rebuke. I suddenly realized that this had always been the case. No matter what I did, my father would meticulously find fault in my actions and blame me. That was his nature.
We paid the driver and he left. It was getting dark. The only people left in the depot were us and the guards, since everyone had closed the warehouses and left long ago. The only light coming out onto the street was ours. We rolled our beers into the warehouse and got home around midnight. I took a shower, ate dinner, and went right to sleep, and I had no dreams.
The loss of the trip didn’t stop us from making good money on the last batch, two-thirds of which sold out before the holiday, the rest two weeks after.
In October, my father and I made a firm decision to close down the beer business. Surprisingly, the decision was not difficult for me, as I intuitively recognized one of the most important rules of business: if a business is no longer profitable, you have to stop it before it starts to drain you of money, time and effort. Or it needs to be transformed and taken to a whole new level. We didn’t have the money for the second option. Besides, I didn’t see selling beer as the business of a lifetime. I had a clear understanding that my dad and I were going to do commercially profitable operations on anything and everything until we made enough money to start something significant.
We settled accounts with the factories. We loaded the empty crates and the expired beer into the car, and my father took them to Elets. I was left alone in the warehouse, I went in, it was empty. Suddenly I felt the same. I went outside. The day was sunny, warm and calm. Life in the depot seemed to stand still on a working day, not a soul around. I lit a cigarette.
After I finished smoking, I closed the warehouse and walked home. Our beer business was over.
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