After 40+ years as a play-it-straight insurance lawyer, my secretly witty dad finally found his ideal creative outlet in the land of Super Antioxidant Smoothies. (I’m not so sure the Jamba Juice CEO agrees.)
After more than four decades working as a lawyer for an insurance company, my father formally retired. Informally, he continued to work. He took freelance assignments. He read everything from Teddy Roosevelt bios to Lena Dunham’s memoir, and he regularly attended author readings.
And then he started to write.
He wrote letters because he’s old school. He wrote to authors. He wrote to estranged relatives whom he wanted to tell off (they probably had it coming). More than anyone else, my father wrote to Jamba Juice, in which he owned some stock. My father always enjoyed the rush of gambling, but he’s not into the track or cards. Instead, every stock purchase is an entrée to a new adventure. “It’s the ultimate game,” he often tells me.
Jamba wasn’t just another stock for my father, who’s well into his eighties. Jamba was an elixir that ignited a newfound, unbridled passion. “I thought that the company had a future,” my father explains. “I thought because of their interest in healthy foods, they were ahead of their time. When I tasted it, I liked it. I thought it was a trend.”
And my father thought he could help the cause. So when Jamba sent him reports, as companies do with their stockholders, my father did not remain silent. He wrote back – a lot. Usually to their CEO. Why? He had invested in the company. Didn’t that make him kind of an owner?
Did he expect to hear back? “I thought that I might, but you can’t be sure,” my father says. But that was beside the point. He had something to say, so he said it – on plain white paper with black ink. He created his own letterhead, nothing fancy. Then, he put a stamp on it and sent it off to Jamba…
April 11, 2008
It has occurred to me that if the Jamba drink could take the place of the coffee break in people’s lives, the market place for our products would be substantially improved. I have thought of this slogan: “Healthier than a spot of coffee. Jamba perks you up.” If we don’t want to use “healthier,” we could use “better.” Let me know what you think.
My father signed just about every one of his letters with his given name, Arnold. I’m not sure why he did that. He abhorred that name. “What kind of parents would burden a kid with that name?” he told me as soon as I was old enough to understand. Indeed, now the name Arnold seems to be extinct. Almost exclusively, my father goes by Zack. But with Jamba Juice, he used his given, official name.
April 28, 2008
In observing my local Jamba, I am impressed by the youth and personality of our employees. I do have the following suggestions. In my mind, I do have the picture of a Jamba employee wearing a high hat, something like a chef’s hat with vertical edges around the circumference and with the name of Jamba. (As of now employees are sometimes wearing baseball caps.) The Jamba high hat will be distinctive and can be made of paper. In different colors, it may be offered to the public at a modest price.
June 7, 2008
Certainly I am not satisfied with the appearance of the personnel in the store. A white Polo shirt is not the answer. It is passé. If it’s to be a Polo shirt make it dark blue or black with JAMBA inscribed in orange or a shirt that hangs over pants straight down. Even McDonald’s people look better than ours.
My father never considered himself a writer. He grew up during the Depression and World War II. He saw his older brother go off to fight in Europe. It was a serious time – and laughter was scarce. Becoming a lawyer felt like the right choice.
While he’s not a writer, he does love all types of pens, not necessarily expensive ones, just regular pens. When I was in grade school, I suffered no shortage of pens. Zack often gave pens as gifts. “Why does he do this?” one of my relatives once asked. For the longest time, I didn’t know. But the answer is obvious: Zack wants everyone to write.
When he first discovered Jamba, it filled Zack with so much joy that he was inspired to write poetry and song and even sing.
June 9, 2008
Join the Jamba, Jambaree celebration.
It’s tasty. Transports your thoughts to tropical paradises, ocean waves and calm breezes with all its tropical combinations.
It’s healthy, Full of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and low in salt, sugar and calories.
It energizes. Gives the edge to meet all the challenges.
Gee, it’s for you and me – Jamba – a combination and celebration that’s tasty, healthy and packed with nutrients for energies.
As far as I know, my father has no musical background whatsoever. However, he did pay for my oboe lessons after a music teacher told him that I showed potential. The teacher was dead wrong.
My father instructed me to never, under any circumstances become a lawyer. He was damn good at it, but for him, it was merely practical and serving a purpose. He thinks there’s too much paperwork and not enough truth and justice. If he had his way, he probably would’ve been a professional tennis player.
Tennis, the way my father went after it, is a bloodless showdown, an art, the court a canvas, and you can strike the ball in such a variety of ways. You don’t necessarily need a partner. If you can find a backboard, which my father often did as a kid, you’re in business. In a way, a sturdy backboard is the ultimate opponent because it’ll never quit.
June 12, 2008
Our eventual objective is also the foreign market, although we have to be careful to not to be copied. A tie-up with the U.S. Open gets a lot of television coverage and people from all over the world.
Maybe we can get Federer or Nadal to take a sip and publicize it in exchange for a drink any time for the next year at any Jamba store. (They don’t need the money, but unfortunately their agent does.)
In our family, tennis was an event. We had park permits, but the courts were mobbed on weekends, so we usually had to wait around all day for court time. Once on court, things weren’t relaxed. My father approached this time as a training session, a preamble to Wimbledon, hopefully. As he rallied with me, he coached. Unfortunately, I did not share his passion for the game, but I played along. Then again, I didn’t have much of a choice.
Reluctantly, my father eventually caved and got me and my brother football uniforms, replete with pads and helmets. We scrimmaged violently in our shared, relatively small room. My father ordered us to stop. When he left, we continued. “I’m calling the police!” my dad used to threaten. That always stopped us. Once or twice afterwards, I eavesdropped on my parents’ conversation. “You should have sent them to the expensive therapist!” my mother yelled.
Eventually, after much pleading, my father allowed us to be on an actual football team – although he would have much preferred we spend the time perfecting our serves. For crying out loud, it was safer, not to mention a better game. But when my father did show up on the football sidelines, he went ape shit. He was by far the loudest parent. He summoned his inner Knute Rockne, and rooted us on with every ounce of his being. I don’t know what he said exactly, because I was always laughing so hard.
November 2, 2009
My new brainstorm is a drink made of red, white and blue, which could be strawberry, coconut and plum mixed together or other combinations. It could be called: The Tillman tribute drink. (Release from family would be necessary – might be given if Jamba offers a scholarship to his alma mater – Arizona State.)
I shall wait your reply. (Maybe forever).
My father served on the front lines in Korea, but he doesn’t discuss the war. War and Zack seem incongruous. If anything, my father is a warrior with words – but he did his duty, as Pat Tillman did when he quit the NFL after 9/11 and joined the army. More than anything, Zack vehemently believes that veterans should be treated better than they are, regardless of what you think of the wars they fought in.
January 31, 2010
Instead of flavor of the week, try this for size: JAMBA Jamboree cocktail – One combination could be chocolate and coconut. Another could be papaya, strawberry and whatever works. If one adult in America tries our cocktail we will out do Pepsi and Coke for at least one day.
Of course if you have people thinking Jamba day and night my communications should be answered. I am not employed and I am thinking on a Sunday.
February 16, 2012
I do expect our company to be more formal. I believe our executives in public should wear ties and appear more business like.
When I graduated from college, I have no idea what the keynote speaker said, but I remember what my father said – and I’m sure that everyone within earshot does too. Someone remarked on the number of graduates. “That’s a lot of kids without jobs,” my father replied in his signature dry manner. So often Zack sees the unconventional perspective.
April 23, 2012
What goes with wholesome good food? Did you guess it? EXERCISE. With our food let us offer possibly for sale – exercise description that can be performed at the desk, on the telephone, etc… It may be done on laminated paper and sold for as little as a dollar. Also a two pound Jamba exercise ball with instructions how to use beneficially. There also would be “spin offs.”
My father also wrote to the acclaimed novelist James Salter, whom he met at one of Salter’s readings. Salter graciously wrote back. Then, of course, my father took it a step further and requested that Mr. Salter mentor me. As usual, my father went into his trial lawyer mode. Vintage Zack. He argued that Mr. Salter and I were a natural team because he had written the screenplay, “Downhill Racer,” and I had managed to get down a few double black diamonds. When I got wind of this, I was embarrassed and told my father as much. As far as embarrassing me, Zack felt that was completely within his jurisdiction as my father. Fortunately, Mr. Salter was very busy and could not take me on as a disciple.
June 6, 2012
Let’s make up a cartoon as follows: 4 star General (Petraeus) on one side, Jamba order board with our drinks in the center, Taliban/Al Qaeda on the right (men with beard and their distinctive hats).
The four-star general says: “Send them Jamba’s Heaven and Paradise to let them know there is a better way than IEDs.” If you don’t get the joke, I will fill you in. It’s not offensive and you don’t have to wear a bulletproof vest. It does show that Jamba is a company that cares for its customers, its military and our country.
While he’s often a lion on the page, Zack is actually soft spoken (except when he’s in the courtroom or at youth league football games). He’s not much of a boaster. He did once, fairly recently, talk up his career in the courtroom. “I could cross examine a witness,” he told me confidently. I’m sure he was relentless and thorough, extremely thorough. When truth and justice are at stake, time isn’t a factor for my Dad. No doubt, Zack could bring a closing argument home.
June 29, 2012
If you do not think the revolution is here, you are wrong. It has already started. It is a revolt against processed foods and a belief in organic foods as the best way to a long and healthful life and avoidance of cancer.
I am demanding to know whether our company employs or uses a nutritionist?
October 15, 2012
There is an old Japanese proverb: “Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare.” What is our vision? I project that it should be healthful food otherwise we are just another smoothie drink. Of course taste is important but my impression of Red Bull is that it is vile tasting; yet that product and 5 Hour Energy Drink have made millions. If we could produce an energy drink without caffeine, we might have a winner.
My father heard back from Jamba Juice more than a few times, from multiple employees. He got some letters, often with coupons, as well as some calls. Jamba was always gracious and even commented on some of the ideas. They also made my father sign a waiver more than once. My father says they seemed extremely concerned that he would ask for payment.
One executive issued an extensive rebuttal to my father’s critique of Jamba employee attire. (“In reference to your dress code remarks, we have a business casual dress code that does not require our executive team to wear ties…”)
Ultimately, Zack feels that he was never fully embraced by Jamba. He was mostly bounced around between customer services (“I am a stockholder, not a customer!”) and guest services (“I am not a guest!”). Frustrated, Zack eventually unloaded his Jamba stock, at least most of it – and stopped writing them.
Though he still believes in the product, my father isn’t singing Jamba jingles anymore. In regard to Jamba’s responses to his letters, my father says that “they were pretty good. I thought they were well mannered. But I never heard from the CEO.” Perhaps my father rubbed him the wrong way when he was critical of the CEO’s attire in his television appearances.
On another note, Zack did hear back from a few estranged relatives. They reconciled, for the most part.
Jamba didn’t turn out as sweet as my father had hoped, but it was by no means sour. It did inspire him to create and write.
“You’re pretty funny,” I told him recently.
“I never knew I had a sense of humor.”
My father spent more than eighty years playing it straight. No surprise, the insurance firm, where it was his job to uncover fraud, was not the optimal venue for Zack’s under-utilized creativity and dry wit. Ultimately, his letters to Jamba Juice were his art, his gift. Zack didn’t plan it this way. Inspiration came, as it often does, unexpectedly – and he ran with it. Though he would never refer to himself as an artist, my father is one. Maybe not a typical one, but an artist nonetheless.
When I tell my father that his letters are masterpieces, he just laughs. He would never be so grandiose. “Thank you,” he says finally after I repeat the compliment. “You made my day.”
These days, my father still isn’t retiring. He hits the weight room every morning. He’s still reading, still obsessing about tennis. He recently discovered Amy Schumer. Female comedians weren’t as brash in his day, but he likes her, as well as Lena. In short, he wants more out of life. Zack doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”
When I ask him about what’s next, post-Jamba, he tells me about a small rotisserie chicken chain with unlimited potential. “They’re small right now, under the radar, but I foresee great things.”
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Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures.