Monday, April 03, 2006

The Egg Man…

Food suppliers are the ultimate behind-the-scenes partners of the restaurant business.

In an industry where margins are sometimes as thin as a slice of prosciutto, a good food purveyor can mean the difference between a profitable year and a used restaurant-equipment auction. When building business relationships, the successful business owner looks for a supplier that always keeps his customers in good hands.

Tommy Griffin personifies everything that is good about the restaurant business.

As the owner of Griffin Egg Company, Tommy is a restaurateur’s best friend. Griffin Egg Company is a small operation that sells eggs in various forms and top-drawer dried spices of all flavors and varieties to restaurants and grocery stores. As one of my company’s main food purveyors, we have been in the good hands of Tommy Griffin for 17 years.

As a small-business owner, Griffin works long hours while performing multiple tasks. Opening the office at the crack of dawn, he takes orders, processes orders, fills orders, and sometimes delivers orders, all while doing the books, billing, and payroll. In the spirit of the successful American entrepreneur Griffin has always done whatever it takes to keep his customers happy and his business profitable. At 8:00 pm on a Saturday night or 6: a.m. on a Sunday morning, Griffin could always be reached by phone to deliver emergency supplies for unsuspected shortages, with a smile on his face— again, good hands.

I slightly biased because I have been friends with Tommy Griffin, a fellow graduate of the Class of ’79, for most of my 44 years. Nevertheless, I know a good businessman when I see one, and know a valued friend when I need one.

The term, “there’s not a finer guy around” is clichéd, and often used to describe someone for lack of a better depiction. In Tommy Griffin’s case, “there’s not a finer guy” is a gross understatement.

When one encounters a person in the course of an average work week a snap judgment can sometimes be made that instantly sums up the person and his character. Maybe its more of a feeling than a judgment. Some people I encounter give me the feeling that they are sneaky and generally up to no good. Some folks I see and get the feeling that whatever they are doing, it must be good. Some I meet and get the impression that the person is probably praying for me minutes afterwards. Whenever I am around Tommy Griffin, the one thing that I am absolutely sure about is I know that he will always be doing the right thing. No matter what the “thing” is, it will be the right, morally just, and proper choice.

Like the restaurants he has supplied, Griffin’s family, too, has always been in good hands. He is a caring father, loving husband, devoted church member, faithful friend, and patriotic citizen. He is also a dedicated soldier.

Last week, Tommy Griffin shut the doors on the 54-year old family-owned business he took over from his father in 1987. On April 17th, Lt. Col. Tommy Griffin, a member of the 108 th National Guard Division out of Charlotte, N.C., will ship off to Iraq for a one year tour of duty.

This father of three, husband of one, and friend to many, will be supervising the training of Iraqi troops. When asked what the future holds when he returns, he’s not sure. Maybe he’ll start another business, maybe something in the food trade, maybe even a career in politics.

We will certainly find another egg and spice supplier. Will we find one who was as helpful, hard working, honest, and friendly as Tommy Griffin? No way.

Tommy, his wife Caren, his three school age children, and his mother all need our prayers. The war suddenly feels a little closer to home.

No matter how you feel about the conflict in Iraq, with men like Tommy Griffin over there, the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Army, and the rest of the world are in very good hands.

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