I sat in Beth-El Zedeck Temple for the funeral services of Melvin Simon. The various speakers spoke of Mel’s desire
to create a real estate empire and his desire to give back to the community.
Melvin would bring his executive staff to the downtown deli when they first got started in Indy. Melvin would also order a sandwich-and-a-half of corned beef on rye bread. In particular he instructed the slicer that he wanted it “wet,” which was code for “leave the fat on it.” Melvin knew from his early days in the Bronx that the true flavor was in the fat.
He also would bring his fat-cat New York bankers to the deli to challenge them with our food. Melvin knew that for him to convince New Yorkers to loan money in Indy that he had to one-up them. So he brought them to the deli. He would have his brother, Herb, call Uncle Max to make sure that his favorite table near the mirrors was reserved for his group. This was the beginning. Melvin knew that he had to break bread with his business contacts to get the deal finished in a place that was strange to New Yorkers.
Our store was half the size because Paso Drug Store and Junior’s Barber shop occupied the buildings to the north, but Melvin was as loyal as they came. When he took his family on vacations, he would always stop and get food for the plane or the condo.
Melvin knew what he wanted and how he wanted it. Even in his last few months, Melvin would sneak away to the Carmel deli and come eat some Jewish soul food. He would have his sandwich, with his many small dogs in the back seat of his car, as his chauffer would whisk him to his appointment. I am positive that his driver was told to take him to a doctor’s appointment, but Melvin knew what he wanted, and nobody was going to argue with Melvin.
Melvin was a mentor to his family and friends. He was passionate with his ideas for success. But, Melvin and Uncle Max taught me about loyalty. Businesses can talk about customer service and customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty is the real success to business. Thank you, Melvin, for your teachings and may these good deeds serve as a blueprint for future generations of mentoring.