After Doug and I returned home from that first afternoon of delivering eggs with Dad as our unexpected driver and co-deliveryman, we were completely unprepared for his next question: “How much bigger could we make this egg route if we really worked at it?
Doug and I looked at each other. Dad had said “we.”
He had a plan. The previous April his clothing store had gone out of business after 15 years. He had been selling used cars and didn’t like it. If volume could be increased to 500 dozen a week, Dad suggested, he and Doug could deliver on the days that he wasn’t attending cantorial courses at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, and the net profit of about $100 a week would be enough now that Mom was working in the school district’s print shop. I was stunned, excited, and honored that my father wanted to take over the business I had started.
The following afternoon we delivered our sales pitch to every house along our route that wasn’t already in our customer book. By the end of the day, we had increased the business from 100 to 150 dozen, and Dad was convinced.
When I next drove Doug out to Moorpark to pick up our order, Dad had asked us to order 180 dozen; the extra 30 dozen would be for the new customers we knew we were going to get. As I was loading the six cases into the station wagon, Mrs. Ramsden, the lady who had offered to sell us her egg route a week earlier, approached Doug while he was paying our bill. I only saw her as she was leaving the office. I had forgotten all about her. Adding her 220 dozen would put us close to the bogey Dad had set, but Doug hadn’t made the deal. She had repeated her offer of one dollar per dozen—in my opinion a very fair price—but Doug, sensing weakness, had countered with one dollar per customer…about half of what she wanted. She, already aggravated by having to negotiate with a 12-year-old, had stomped off. Two weeks later, she accepted the offer, and we paid her just under $100 for her route book.
By the time I returned to college, Dad had changed the name of the business to Cotler Brothers and Father and bought a new rubber stamp for the cartons. A couple of months later, he was a college student delivering almost 700 dozen each week.
Perhaps, I thought, when I graduated I would return to Oxnard, partner with Dad, expand the business substantially, and become the Egg Baron of California.
But two years later my Dad took a job as cantor of a temple in the San Francisco area, and turned the egg business over to his older brother, who had been his partner in the clothing store. My Uncle Dave, 18 years older than my father, delivered eggs for ten more years until his health forced him to shut down.
I can still repeat our sales pitch word-for-word.