VOL. 117 | NO. 214 | Tuesday, December 16, 2003
The 7th Inning stretches time, business
The 7th Inning Stretches Time for Customers
The Daily News
Selling nickel hot dogs and game-day baseball programs at
Russwood Park, a young Charlie Cleaves learned some of life's most important
lessons, including how to run a business and the proper way to treat folks of
Old-fashioned chat room. Now owner and manager of The
7th Inning a baseball and sports memorabilia store on the fringes of Midtown
that also offers trophy engraving services and a restaurant, Brubakers
Cleaves takes time out of every day to chat with anyone, young or old.
"The best thing you got these days is time, because
it's the hardest thing to have," Cleaves said.
Accordingly, it's no surprise that baseball, the only major
sport played without a game clock, is Cleaves' favorite game.
"Sports are the shoestrings that keep the country
together," he said. "But baseball is the one sport above them all.
The day that baseball goes away is the day the country follows.
Cleaves, a native Memphian, worked in Shelby County law
enforcement for more than 20 years. When he retired in 1987, he opened his
store in the Chickasaw Crossing Shopping Center.
Triple play. Ten years later, he moved out of his
expanded store in the center and built his current store at 3040 Walnut Grove
Road, near the new Central Library.
The stores interior is what makes it unique.
Inside, The 7th Innings walls are covered with nostalgic
framed photos of celebrities, local and national sports heroes and championship
teams. The store has a bar and television, bleacher seats and other tables
where lunch and dinner are served daily, including a popular all-you-can-eat
catfish dinner on Friday nights.
Cleaves said every aspect of the store supports the others.
For instance, The 7th Inning not only produces trophies and
custom-framed photos, it also hosts private team parties where coaches can hand
In many instances, Cleaves said, senior citizens shop for
baseball cards and other gifts for their grandchildren at the store. Even if
they dont care for sports, they discover the restaurant and return to dine.
Cleaves said many seniors frequent the store daily for
coffee and lively gossip.
I saw early on there would be a need to diversify, he
said. You always must look for different avenues.
Supply and demand. He first saw the need to diversify
in the early 90s, when the baseball card industry took a hit.
Cleaves said it was a matter of change in supply and demand.
Normally theres a high demand but limited amount, so the
cost is high, he said. But when companies began the mass production of cards,
putting them on shelves in Wal-Mart, the cost went down.
Dealers like Cleaves eventually adjusted to the change in
the marketplace and cut back on stock, slowly causing card values to rise.
Today, the novelty sports card business is good overall, he
A fitting tribute. Cleaves said he had wanted to
enter the restaurant business for a long time, and vowed that when that
happened he would name the eatery Brubakers in memory of Cleotis Brubaker,
an older, street-wise mentor he met in his youth who sold barbecue to patrons
during the 1950s and made a lasting impression on Cleaves.
Brubaker had hired Cleaves as a courier of at first only
barbecue, but later of medicinal potion which Cleaves later discovered was
Cleaves said it was Brubaker who taught him how to make a
dollar. But just as importantly, Brubaker taught him the importance of being
fair to everyone.
What I saw about him was that he was courteous to
everyone, Cleaves said. Thats a quality in people who look you in the eyes
and take the time to speak, to connect with you.
Working with Brubaker, Cleaves also learned the value of
working hard and investing wisely.
Customers first. When The 7th Inning opened for
business, Cleaves invested in 500 books of baseball cards.
Later, when the business added engraving and trophy
services, Cleaves said it was extra-special customer service that made the
store a success.
We treat people above and beyond, he said. Maybe a
customer waited until the last minute to place an order. You want to ask why,
but it doesnt matter.
Weve stayed up all night doing jobs for next-day business.
If you dont do it, youve lost revenue, and the customer is going to remember
that you couldnt help him.
The 7th Inning
Owner: Charlie Cleaves
Basics: The sports memorabilia store and attached
Brubakers restaurant focus on taking time to meet customers needs.