Public Speaking, Customer Service and the Cigar Store

Now, Maybe, Finally™

My Grandpa came to the United States in the early 1900’s from the old country.  He was born in Poland.  I called him Grandpa Blackie.  When I was very young, I couldn’t quite pronounce our last name, Blackman, correctly.  That’s when the name Grandpa Blackie was born.  Grandpa Blackie had a phenomenal work ethic.

Old World Public Speaking and Customer Service
My Grandpa, An Immigrant,
Public Speaking &
Customer Service

The drive of an immigrant to succeed in America was a powerful incentive for him to do all that he could in his small business and for his customers.  I believe a flame deep within Grandpa Blackie burned to be an entrepreneur – to live the dream – to have his own business.  This article is dedicated to his work ethic and the great lessons he unknowingly taught about public speaking, planning a presentation and customer service.

Grandpa Blackie first found work in a luggage factory making suitcases for the burgeoning number of train travelers. Then as more people opted to travel by plane, they needed lighter weight luggage.  Time for my grandfather to find another job and Grandpa Blackie, the entrepreneur, kicked into to full gear.

He ran a cigar store in one of the many large skyscrapers in downtown Chicago.  The cigar store back then was a small convenience store.  Cigars and cigarettes were main attractions, but other sundries, gum, candy, magazines and newspapers were available.

I spent many Saturday afternoons and school vacations with Grandpa Blackie at the cigar store.  It was fun to watch Grandpa run his store.  Early in the morning, before the constant flurry of customers, Grandpa counted out piles of change.  I wondered why he made groupings of coins amounting to 37-cents, 11-cents, 74-cents?  Grandpa explained that he knew most of his customers and what they bought.  He knew what were the most common denominations of coins that would likely be given back based on buying habits.  Having the right amount of change available made Grandpa’s store run very efficiently and got customers in and out quickly during peak hours. Great customer service!

Grandpa knew the regulars, those who came in at the same time every day.  The regulars tended to always buy the same items.  Grandpa would have their items ready to go for them.  More great customer service!

Then there were the random customers who might wander in because they needed to see one of the professionals who worked in the building.  They tended to buy the daily newspaper, a pack of cigarettes and gum.  Grandpa kept those items close to the register for easy access for his customers.  Again, great customer service.

When Grandpa Blackie would talk with someone, he’d make a quick speaking presentation with details that might include the weather or how nicely they were dressed. With his regulars, he’d remember comments made in the last conversation and ask, ‘How was your anniversary?’  And, of course he would suggest they might be interested in some new item at the store.  Everything Grandpa did made his customer feel special – an integral part of public speaking and customer service.

Today’s Lindaism, public speaking and customer service are like two peas in the pod – both keep the audience in mind.  Now, Maybe, Finally we will all recognize that public speaking and customer service work hand in hand.


Linda Blackman, CSP, is one of only 578 people worldwide to hold the Certified Speaking Professional designation. Linda transforms people into the speaker they need and want to be in every speaking situation.   Linda is an award-winning broadcast journalist and author. Linda’s company, specializes in helping individuals and companies with sales, public speaking, how to handle the media and crisis communications.  Bring in Linda to speak at your events and contact her for coaching and consultation.  She can be reached at