NRF’s “Talking Shop” Event Not the Same Without “The Rev”

lorenzo-robinson-300-224Last night, I attended the National Retail Federation’s “Talking Shop” reception for what was most-likely my seventh time. The press and Retail CEOs event is held the Monday of NRF’s Big Show at New York’s prestigious 21 Club, and I’ve met some tremendous industry people there over the years.

But last night, one 21 Club legend was missing, and I did not notice until I decided to use the men’s room. That would be long-time bathroom attendant Lorenzo “The Rev” Robinson.

Robinson passed away in October at the age of 71. And according to news reports, he worked right up until his death.

That’s right, news reports. The Rev was much more than a bathroom attendant. The Rev was a legend, a 21 Club fixture, if you will.

We talk a lot about customer experience in the pages of Multichannel Merchant. And we also talk about differentiation. With his charm and personality, The Rev helped set 21 Club apart from other New York City dining establishments.

Every year after the first “Talking Shop” reception I attended, I’d make sure I had singles on me so i could tip The Rev. My wife never understood why. She’s tell me I should just hold it in, or get my own soap and towel. But I kept telling her it was a part of the 21 Club experience.

No matter what your age, The Rev greeted you with “Good Evening, Young Man!” And from there, you didn’t know what to expect. But it was always a great conversation. You brought up any subject, and The Rev was ready to talk.

And if you came in with nothing to say, he’d break the ice with something like, “Wow, that was some limo I saw you come here in. Beyonce on one arm, Rihanna on the other? You sure are a hit with the ladies!”

So I was bummed to walk into an empty men’s room last night, and figured The Rev just had the night off. And then I saw the above-pictured plaque on the wall near the men’s room sink, I was just sad.

And when I looked for Lorenzo  “The Rev” Robinson’s obituary, I was sad to learn even more about the man who was more than a bathroom attendant. Sad as in I wish I’d know more about The Rev while he was still with us.

Though he worked 14 hour days, six days a week, and commuted by train from his Stamford, CT home to 21 Club, The Rev had the time to give back to his community. He served as the president of the Stamford chapter of the NAACP. He was a pastor at four different churches. He sponsored bus trips to Shaw College in Raleigh, NC to provide high school students with an opportunity to experience a glimpse of college life. He gave selflessly so others could have a better life.

Rest in peace, young man. You are and will be missed.

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