Read CHAPTER TWO - OPPORTUNITY of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on

“What is brokers?” Mr. Marcus Shimko asked. “A broker is no good, otherwise he wouldn’t be a broker. Brokers is fellers which they couldn’t make a success of their own affairs, Mr. Zamp, so they butt into everybody else’s. Particularly business brokers, Mr. Zamp. Real-estate brokers is bad enough, and insurings brokers is a lot of sharks also; but for a cutthroat, a low-life bum, understand me, the worst is a business broker!”

“That’s all right, too, Mr. Shimko,” Harry Zamp said timidly; “but if I would get a partner with say, for example, five hundred dollars, I could make a go of this here business.”

Mr. Shimko nodded skeptically.

“I ain’t saying you couldn’t,” he agreed, “but where would you find such a partner? Nowadays a feller with five hundred dollars don’t think of going into retail business no more. The least he expects is he should go right away into manufacturing. Jobbing and retailing is nix for such a feller, understand me especially clothing, Mr. Zamp, which nowadays even drug stores carries retail clothing as a side line, so cut up the business is.”

Harry Zamp nodded gloomily.

“And, furthermore,” Shimko added, “business brokers could no more get you a partner with money as they could do miracles, Mr. Zamp. Them days is past, Mr. Zamp, and all a business broker could do nowadays is to bring you a feller with experience, and you don’t need a business broker for that, Mr. Zamp. Experience in the retail clothing business is like the measles. Everybody has had it.”

“Then what should I do, Mr. Shimko?” Zamp asked helplessly. “I must got to get a partner with money somewhere, ain’t it? And if I wouldn’t go to a business broker, who then would I go to? A bartender?”

“Never mind!” Mr. Shimko exclaimed. “Some people got an idée all bartenders is bums, but wunst in a while a feller could get from a bartender an advice also. I got working for me wunst in my place down on Park Row a feller by the name Klinkowitz, which he is now manager of the Olympic Gardens on Rivington Street; and if I would have took that feller’s advice, Mr. Zamp, instead I am worth now my tens of thousands I would got hundreds of thousands already. ’When you see a feller is going down and out, Mr. Shimko,’ he always says to me, ’don’t show him no mercy at all. If you set ’em up for a live one, Mr. Shimko,’ he says, ’he would anyhow buy a couple of rounds; but a dead one, Mr. Shimko,’ he says, ’if you show him the least little encouragement, understand me, the least that happens you is he gets away with the whole lunch-counter.’ Am I right or wrong?”

Mr. Zamp nodded. He resented the imputation that he was a dead one, but he felt bound to agree with Mr. Shimko, in view of the circumstance that on the following day he would owe a month’s rent with small prospect of being able to pay it. Indeed, he wondered at Mr. Shimko’s amiability, for as owner of the Canal Street premises Shimko had the reputation of being a harsh landlord. Had Zamp but known it, however, store property on Canal Street was not in active demand of late, by reason of the new bridge improvements, and Shimko’s amiability proceeded from a desire to retain Zamp as a tenant if the latter’s solvency could be preserved.

“But I couldn’t help myself, Mr. Zamp,” Shimko went on. “I got no business keeping a restaurant at all.”

As a matter of fact, Mr. Shimko’s late restaurant was of the variety popularly designated as a “barrel-house,” and he had only retired from the business after his license had been revoked.

“Yes, Mr. Zamp,” Shimko continued; “in a business like that a feller shouldn’t got a heart at all. But I am very funny that way. I couldn’t bear to see nobody suffer, understand me, and everybody takes advantage of me on account of it. So I tell you what I would do. My wife got a sort of a relation by the name Miss Babette Schick, which she works for years by a big cloak and suit concern as a designer. She ain’t so young no longer, but she got put away in savings bank a couple of thousand dollars, and she is engaged to be married to a young feller by the name Isaac Meiselson, which nobody could tell what he does for a living at all. One thing is certain with the money this Meiselson gets with Miss Schick he could go as partners together with you, and pull you out of the hole, ain’t it?”

Mr. Zamp nodded again, without enthusiasm.

“Sure, I know, Mr. Shimko,” he said; “but if a young feller would got two thousand dollars to invest in a business, y’understand, why should he come to me? If he would only got five hundred dollars, Mr. Shimko, that would be something else again. But with so much as two thousand dollars a feller could get lots of clothing businesses which they run a big store with a couple of cutters, a half a dozen salesmen, and a bookkeeper. What have I got to offer him for two thousand dollars? Me, I am salesman, cutter, bookkeeper, and everything; and if this feller comes in here and sees me alone in the place, with no customers nor nothing, he gets an idée it’s a dead proposition. Ain’t it?”

Shimko pulled out a full cigar-case, whereat Zamp’s eye kindled, and he licked his lips in anticipation; but after Shimko had selected a dark perfecto, he closed the case deliberately and replaced it in his breast-pocket.

“A business man must got to got gumption,” he said to the disappointed Zamp; “and if you think you could got a partner just by bringing him into the store here, and showing him the stock and fixtures which you got it, you are making a big mistake.”

“Well, of course I am expecting I should blow him to dinner maybe,” Zamp protested, “with a theayter also.”

Shimko evidenced his disgust by puffing vigorously at his cigar.

“You are just like a whole lot of other people, Zamp,” he said. “You are always willing to spend money before you make it. Meiselson comes in here and sees you only got a small stock of piece goods, understand me, and you couldn’t afford to keep no help, and then, on the top of that yet, you would take him out and blow him. Naturally he right away gets the idée you are spending your money foolishly, instead of putting it into your business, and the whole thing is off.”

Zamp shrugged impotently.

“What could I do, Mr. Shimko?” he asked. “I got here a small stock of goods, I know, but that’s just the reason why I want a partner.”

“And that’s just the reason why you wouldn’t get one,” Shimko declared. “A small stock of piece goods you couldn’t help, Zamp; but if you let that feller come into your store and find you ain’t got no cutters or customers, that’s your own fault.”

“What d’ye mean, Mr. Shimko?” Zamp demanded.

“I mean this,” Shimko explained. “If I would got a store like you got it here, Zamp, and a friend offers to bring me a feller with a couple thousand dollars for a partner, understand me, I would go to work, y’understand, and get a couple cutters and engage ’em for the afternoon. Then I would turn around, y’understand, and go up and see such a feller like Klinkowitz, which he is manager of that theayter on Rivington Street, and I would get him to fix up for me a half a dozen young fellers from his theayter, which they would come down to my store for the day, and some of ’em acts like customers, and others acts like clerks. Then, when my friend brings in the feller with two thousand dollars, understand me, what do they see? The place is full of customers and salesmen, and in the rear is a couple of cutters chalking lines on pattern papers and cutting it up with shears. You yourself are so busy, understand me, you could hardly talk a word to us. You don’t want to know anything about getting a partner at all. What is a partner with two thousand dollars in a rushing business like you are doing it? I beg of you you should take the matter under consideration, but you pretty near throw me out of the store, on account you got so much to do. At last you say you would take a cup coffee with me at six o’clock, and I go away with the two-thousand dollar feller, and when we meet again at six o’clock, he’s pretty near crazy to invest his money with you. Do you get the idée?”

“Might you could even get the feller to pay for the coffee, maybe,” Zamp suggested, completely carried away by Shimko’s enthusiasm.

“If the deal goes through,” Shimko declared, in a burst of generosity, “I would even pay for the coffee myself!”

“And when would you bring the feller here?” Zamp asked.

“I would see him this afternoon yet,” Shimko replied, as he opened the store door, “and I would telephone you sure, by Dachtel’s place, at four o’clock.”

Zamp, full of gratitude, shook hands with his landlord.

“If I would got such a head like you got it to think out schemes, Mr. Shimko,” he said fervently, “I would be a millionaire, I bet yer!”

“The thinking out part is nothing,” Shimko said, as he turned to leave. “Any blame fool could think out a scheme, y’understand, but it takes a pretty bright feller to make it work!”

“If a feller wouldn’t be in business for himself,” Shimko said to Isaac Meiselson, as they sat in Wasserbauer’s Cafe that afternoon, “he might just as well never come over from Russland at all.”

“I told you before, Mr. Shimko,” Meiselson retorted, “I am from Lemberg geborn.”

“Oestreich oder Russland, what is the difference?” Shimko asked. “If a feller is working for somebody else, nobody cares who he is or what he is; while if he’s got a business of his own, understand me, everybody would respect him, even if he would be born in, we would say for example, China.”

“Sure, I know, Mr. Shimko,” Meiselson rejoined; “but there is businesses and businesses, and what for a business is a small retail clothing store on Canal Street?”

“Small the store may be, I ain’t denying it,” Shimko said; “but ain’t it better a feller does a big business in a small store as a small business in a big store?”

“If he does a big business, yes,” Meiselson admitted; “but if a feller does a big business, why should he want to got a partner?”

“Ain’t I just telling you he don’t want no partner?” Shimko interrupted. “And as for doing a big business, I bet yer we could drop in on the feller any time, and we would find the store full of people.”

“Gewiss,” Meiselson commented, “three people playing auction pinochle in a small store is a big crowd!”

“No auction pinochle gets played in that store, Meiselson. The feller has working by him two cutters and three salesmen, and he makes ’em earn their money. Only yesterday I am in the store, and if you would believe me, Meiselson, his own landlord he wouldn’t talk to at all, so busy he is.”

“In that case, what for should he need me for a partner I couldn’t understand at all,” Meiselson declared.

“Neither could I,” Shimko replied, “but a feller like you, which he would soon got two thousand dollars to invest, needs him for a partner. A feller like Zamp would keep you straight, Meiselson. What you want is somebody which he is going to make you work.”

“What d’ye mean, going to make me work?” Meiselson asked indignantly. “I am working just as hard as you are, Mr. Shimko. When a feller is selling toilet soaps and perfumeries, Mr. Shimko, he couldn’t see his trade only at certain hours of the day.”

“I ain’t kicking you are not working, Meiselson,” Shimko said hastily. “All I am telling you is, what for a job is selling toilet soaps and perfumery? You got a limited trade there, Meiselson; because when it comes to toilet soaps, understand me, how many people takes it so particular? I bet yer with a hundred people, Meiselson, eighty uses laundry soap, fifteen ganvers soap from hotels and saloons, and the rest buys wunst in six months a five-cent cake of soap. As for perfumery, Meiselson, for a dollar bill you could get enough perfumery to make a thousand people smell like an Italiener barber-shop; whereas clothing, Meiselson, everybody must got to wear it. If you are coming to compare clothing with toilet soap for a business, Meiselson, there ain’t no more comparison as gold and putty.”

Meiselson remained silent.

“Furthermore,” Shimko continued, “if Zamp sees a young feller like you, which even your worst enemy must got to admit it, Meiselson, you are a swell dresser, and make a fine, up-to-date appearance, understand me, he would maybe reconsider his decision not to take a partner.”

“Did he say he wouldn’t take a partner?” Meiselson asked hopefully.

“He says to me so sure as you are sitting there: ’Mr. Shimko, my dear friend, if it would be for your sake, I would willingly go as partners together with some young feller,’ he says; ’but when a business man is making money,’ he says, ‘why should he got to got a partner?’ he says. So I says to him: ‘Zamp,’ I says, ’here is a young feller which he is going to get married to a young lady by the name Miss Babette Schick.’”

“She ain’t so young no longer,” Meiselson broke in ungallantly.

“‘By the name Miss Babette Schick,’” Shimko continued, recognizing the interruption with a malevolent glare, “’which she got, anyhow, a couple thousand dollars,’ I says; ‘and for her sake and for my sake,’ I says, ’if I would bring the young feller around here, would you consent to look him over?’ And he says for my sake he would consent to do it, but we shouldn’t go around there till next week.”

“All right,” Meiselson said; “if you are so dead anxious I should do so, I would go around next week.”

“Say, lookyhere, Meiselson,” Shimko burst out angrily, “don’t do me no favours! Do you or do you not want to go into a good business? Because, if you don’t, say so, and I wouldn’t bother my head further.”

“Sure I do,” Meiselson said.

“Then I want to tell you something,” Shimko continued. “We wouldn’t wait till next week at all. With the business that feller does, delays is dangerous. If we would wait till next week, some one offers him a good price and buys him out, maybe. To-morrow afternoon, two o’clock, you and me goes over to his store, understand me, and we catches him unawares. Then you could see for yourself what a business that feller is doing.”

Meiselson shrugged.

“I am agreeable,” he said.

“Because,” Shimko went on, thoroughly aroused by Meiselson’s apathy, “if you’re such a fool that you don’t know it, Meiselson, I must got to tell you. Wunst in a while, if a business man is going to get a feller for partner, when he knows the feller is coming around to look the business over, he plants phony customers round the store, and makes it show up like it was a fine business, when in reality he is going to bust up right away.”

“So?” Meiselson commented, and Shimko glared at him ferociously.

“You don’t appreciate what I am doing for you at all,” Shimko cried. “I wouldn’t telephone the feller or nothing that we are coming, understand me? We’ll take him by surprise.”

Meiselson shrugged.

“Go ahead and take him by surprise if you want to,” he said wearily. “I am willing.”

In point of fact, Isaac Meiselson was quite content to remain in the soap and perfumery trade, and it was only by dint of much persuasion on Miss Babette Schick’s part that he was prevailed upon to embark in a more lucrative business. It seemed a distinct step downward when he compared the well-nigh tender methods employed by him in disposing of soap and perfumery to the proprietresses of beauty parlours, with the more robust salesmanship in vogue in the retail clothing business; and he sighed heavily as he contemplated the immaculate ends of his finger-nails, so soon to be sullied by contact with the fast-black, all-wool garments in Zamp’s clothing store.

“Also, I would meet you right here,” Shimko concluded, “at half-past one sharp to-morrow.”

After the conclusion of his interview with Isaac Meiselson, Shimko repaired immediately to Zamp’s tailoring establishment, and together they proceeded to the office of Mr. Boris Klinkowitz, manager of the Olympic Gardens, on Rivington Street. Shimko explained the object of their business, and in less than half an hour the resourceful Klinkowitz had engaged a force of cutters, salesmen, and customers sufficient to throng Harry Zamp’s store for the entire day.

“You would see how smooth the whole thing goes,” Klinkowitz declared, after he had concluded his arrangements. “The cutters is genu-ine cutters, members from a union already, and the salesmen works for years by a couple concerns on Park Row.”

“And the customers?” Zamp asked.

“That depends on yourself,” Klinkowitz replied. “If you got a couple real bargains in sample garments, I wouldn’t be surprised if the customers could be genu-ine customers also. Two of ’em works here as waiters, evenings, and the other three ain’t no bums, neither. I called a dress-rehearsal at your store to-morrow morning ten o’clock.”

On the following day, when Mr. Shimko visited his tenant’s store, he rubbed his eyes.

“Ain’t it wonderful?” he exclaimed. “Natural like life!”

“S-s-sh!” Zamp exclaimed.

“What’s the matter, Zamp?” Shimko whispered.

Zamp winked.

“Only the cutters and the salesmen showed up,” he replied.

“Well, who are them other fellows there?” Shimko asked.

“How should I know?” Zamp said hoarsely. “A couple of suckers comes in from the street, and we sold ’em the same like anybody else.”

Here the door opened to admit a third stranger. As the two “property” salesmen were busy, Zamp turned to greet him.

“Could you make me up maybe a dress suit mit a silk lining?” the newcomer asked.

“What are you so late for?” Zamp retorted. “Klinkowitz was here schon an hour ago already.”

The stranger looked at Zamp in a puzzled fashion.

“What are you talking about Klinkowitz?” he said. “I don’t know the feller at all.”

Zamp gazed hard at his visitor, and then his face broke into a broad, welcoming smile.

“Excuse me,” he said. “I am making a mistake. Do you want a French drape, oder an unfinished worsted?”

For the next thirty minutes a succession of customers filled the store, and when at intervals during that period Klinkowitz’s supernumeraries arrived, Zamp turned them all away.

“What are you doing, Zamp?” Shimko exclaimed. “At two o’clock the store would be empty!”

“Would it?” Zamp retorted, as he eyed a well-dressed youth who paused in front of the show-window. “Well, maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t; and, anyhow, Mr. Shimko, if there wouldn’t be no customers here, we would anyhow got plenty of cutting to do. Besides, Shimko, customers is like sheep. If you get a run of ’em, one follows the other.”

For the remainder of the forenoon the two salesmen had all the customers they could manage; and as Shimko watched them work, his face grew increasingly gloomy.

“Say, lookyhere, Zamp,” he said; “you are doing here such a big business, where do I come in?”

“What d’ye mean, where do you come in?” Zamp asked.

“Why the idée is mine you should get in a couple salesmen and cutters,” Shimko began, “and ”

“What d’ye mean, the idée is yours?” Zamp rejoined. “Ain’t I got a right to hire a couple salesmen and cutters if I want to?”

“Yes, but you never would have done so if I ain’t told it you,” Shimko said. “I ought to get a rake-off here.”

“You should get a rake-off because my business is increasing so I got to hire a couple salesmen and cutters!” Zamp exclaimed. “What an idée!”

Shimko paused. After all, he reflected, why should he quarrel with Zamp? At two o’clock, when he expected to return with Meiselson, if the copartnership were consummated, he would collect 10 per cent. of the copartnership funds as the regular commission. Moreover, he had decided to refuse to consent to the transfer of the store lease from Zamp individually to the copartnership of Zamp & Meiselson, save at an increase in rental of ten dollars a month.

“Very well, Zamp,” he said. “Maybe the idée ain’t mine; but just the same, I would be back here at two o’clock, and Meiselson comes along.”

With this ultimatum Shimko started off for Wasserbauer’s Cafe, and at ten minutes to two he accompanied Meiselson down to Canal Street.

“Yes, Meiselson,” Shimko began, as they approached Zamp’s store. “There’s a feller which he ain’t got no more sense as you have, and yet he is doing a big business anyhow.”

“What d’ye mean, no more sense as I got it?” Meiselson demanded. “Always up to now I got sense enough to make a living, and I ain’t killed myself doing it, neither!”

For the remainder of their journey to Zamp’s store Shimko sulked in silence; but when at length they reached their destination he exclaimed aloud:

“Did you ever see the like?” he cried. “The place is actually full up with customers!”

Zamp’s prediction had more than justified itself. When Shimko and Meiselson entered, he looked up absently as he handled the rolls of piece goods which he had purchased, for cash, only one hour previously. Moreover, his pockets overflowed with money, for every customer had paid a deposit of at least 25 per cent.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Zamp,” Shimko cried. “This is Mr. Meiselson, the gentleman which I am speaking to you about. He wants to go as partners together with you.”

Zamp ran his hand through his dishevelled hair. He was more than confused by his sudden accession of trade.

“You got to excuse me, Mr. Shimko,” he said, “I am very, very busy just now.”

Shimko winked furtively at Zamp.

“Sure, I know,” he said, “but when could we see you later to-day?”

“You couldn’t see me later to-day,” Zamp replied. “I am going to work to-night getting out orders.”

“Natuerlich,” Shimko rejoined, “but couldn’t you take a cup coffee with us a little later?”

Zamp jumped nervously as the door opened to admit another customer. The two clerks, supplemented by a third salesman, who had been hired by telephone, were extolling the virtues of Zamp’s wares in stentorian tones, and the atmosphere of the little store was fairly suffocating.

“I couldn’t think of it,” Zamp answered, and turned to the newly arrived customer. “Well, sir,” he cried, “what could I do for you?”

“Say, lookyhere, Zamp,” Shimko exploded angrily, “what is the matter with you? I am bringing you here a feller which he wants to go as partners together with you, and ”

At this juncture Meiselson raised his right hand like a traffic policeman at a busy crossing.

“One moment, Mr. Shimko,” he interrupted. “You are saying that I am the feller which wants to go as partners together with Mr. Zamp?”

“Sure!” Shimko said.

“Well, all I got to say is this,” Meiselson replied. “I ain’t no horse. Some people which they got a couple thousand dollars to invest would like it they should go into a business like this, and kill themselves to death, Mr. Shimko, but me not!”

He opened the store door and started for the street.

“But, lookyhere, Meiselson!” Shimko cried in anguished tones.

“Koosh, Mr. Shimko!” Meiselson said. “I am in the soap and perfumery business, Mr. Shimko, and I would stay in it, too!”

Six months later Harry Zamp sat in Dachtel’s Coffee House on Canal Street, and smoked a post-prandial cigar. A diamond pin sparkled in his neck-tie, and his well-cut clothing testified to his complete solvency.

Indeed, a replica of the coat and vest hung in the window of his enlarged business premises on Canal Street, labelled “The Latest from the London Pickadillies,” and he had sold, strictly for cash, more than a dozen of the same style during the last twenty-four hours. For the rush of trade which began on the day when he hired the “property” salesmen and cutters had not only continued but had actually increased; and it was therefore with the most pleasurable sensations that he recognized, at the next table, Isaac Meiselson, the unconscious cause of all his prosperity.

“Excuse me,” he began, “ain’t your name Meiselson?”

“My name is Mr. Meiselson,” Isaac admitted. “This is Mr. Zamp, ain’t it?”

Zamp nodded.

“You look pretty well, considering the way you are working in that clothing business of yours,” Meiselson remarked.

“Hard work never hurted me none,” Zamp answered. “Are you still in the soap and perfumery business, Mr. Meiselson?”

Meiselson shook his head.

“No,” he said, “I went out of the soap business when I got married last month.”

“Is that so?” Zamp commented. “And did you go into another business?”

“Not yet,” Meiselson replied, and then he smiled. “The fact is,” he added in a burst of confidence, “my wife is a dressmaker.”