Last weekend Diane and I went to Terrain at Styers on Route 1 not far from Chadds Ford. Trips to the Brandywine Museum are usually followed by a stop at Terrain. owned by Urban Outfittes, Terrain is an ultimate yuppie garden center. They practice what I call thematic marketing, a table offers local honey, ceramic honey pots, books about honey, plants that attract honey bees. I admit I soak it up.
Almost immediately, Diane called me, “Here’s a fig tree.” In Italy last month, I was taken by fig and olive trees. Maybe I could grown one. I have strong memories of Sam Mignoni’s fig tree in his Mill Street yard across from our apartment. It was always amazing to me, each winter Sam dug up the root, wrapped the tree, laid it down and covered it with dirt — protection against the cold. Growing a fig tree in the Philadelphia area wasn’t easy. But my genetic code said, “do it.”
I had read a bit. Some varieties were more hardy. Some were sweeter. The tree Diane saw was a Celeste. When I talked to one of the gardeners, he showed me Brown Turkeys. Not as sweet at the Celeste but they had a selection. Should I buy one? It’s risky. Might die. Wrong time of year to plant. Can I keep in in the pot and move it indoors in the winter. Finally I decided to make the leap and buy the fig tree.
Leaping, taking a risk, operating outside my comfort zone — not me. I usually look carefully before leaping, I am small town, not a big risk taker. I settled a few miles upriver from where I grew up in Bristol Borough. We rented for a few years, but still live in our first house purchased in 1979. I worked for just two employers in my adult life, several years at St. Michael’s in Levittown, then 40 years at Holy Ghost Prep. I am intrigued with people that pack up and move to a new area, that look for new employment opportunities, change careers. But it’s not me.
I usually drive within the speed limit. Safety. But also I am usually not in a hurry. I plan on arriving early. Give yourself time. Be prepared; don’t leave anything to chance. I’m not passing a value judgement. Not yet anyway.
In the 1980s, I volunteered on the Gazela, Philadelphia’s tall ship. During one work session, I was charged with the task of climbing up and scraping the mast. I had a harness and a guide. We started up; my legs turned to jelly. I called to my mentor, “Go easy, Vince, up or down, it’s your choice. Do whatever you want.” I climbed to the first small platform, tried scrapping the mast, but pretty soon decended — slowly. That was my last climb in the rigging.
I grew up in a family business. But I don’t think I have an ounce of entrepreneurial spirit. Back in elementary school, I though I did. I solld coins (to student collectors), operated a snow cone stand on Mill Street with my cousin, even took extra supplies (like batteries) to scout camp and sold them. In college I worked in the Harcourt Bindery, my employer Fred Young, allowed me to purchase interesting books, we bound them in leather and offered them for sale. A small business. Fred actually wanted me to take over the Bindery but Diane and I were headed to the Peace Corps. That was probably my last business venture. I often have “great” ideas for businesses but . . . I really enjoy hearing and reading about inventive, creative entrpreneurs. who do it. But it’s not me.