The most exquisite gifts our dad ever gave us were access to quality educations and safe places to live. These gifts live on beyond his short life and have extended the possibilities of ours. They are the foundations upon which Alphonzo and I both stand and they are the wings with which we continue to soar.
There were many other things along the way that I can appreciate more as an adult than when I was a child still learning about the world, but when I look at our accomplishments in the world –my brother’s and mine–we can directly trace it to these gifts.
Education does not begin and end in a classroom. Our education took place over conversations during nightly family dinners, at airport gates in SFO where our dad worked, in hospital corridors where our mom worked, on horseback trails along the beaches in Half Moon Bay, over lunches in Sausalito, during family time watching 60 Minutes, at San Francisco 49er tailgate parties, and many other places along the way.
Education is exposure. To different realities. To different opinions. To different languages and customs. Our dad was an traveler and a book lover who opened up worlds for us and allowed magic to flourish in our minds whether through literature or through experience.
He was also a risk taker. In 1984 he purchased property in what is now Castleberry Hill. His excitement over the possibilities of a piece of run down land in an area that had been neglected for years made no sense to many people he talked to. Most people were afraid to even drive down Peters Street during that time much less get out of their cars to walk back and forth on the sidewalk he owned.
It is with a sense of mild amusement, given this history, that Alphonzo and I sometimes stare outside our windows during work and watch the traffic on Peters Street now.
The Boxcar Grocer is possible because our dad made it so. Every single day that we open our doors is a tribute to him. It is a salute to his extraordinariness and his adventurous spirit. The ground that people were once afraid to walk on is now the same ground that people look to for inspiration.
My brother and I were able to thrive in this world because of the foundation our parents built for us. Our education and confidence in our abilities grew out of a beautiful balance between independence and structure that led me to Columbia University and led Alphonzo to University of Denver.
As we approach this Father’s Day weekend and the 11 year anniversary of our dad’s death, we cannot help but celebrate our dad’s life and how he continues to live on.
The Boxcar Grocer is the result of the life our dad provided for us. Education, understanding, and creativity, are the family values that continue to serve us through this adventure of growing a business that is as much about the community that we are in as it is about the neglected communities where we soon hope to flourish.
© 2012 The Boxcar Grocer.