Meeting Mr. Suchow

Meeting Sanford Suchow was serendipitous on a lot of levels. My husband and I were wandering through the Manhattan Art and Antiques Center on a Saturday afternoon when we landed in Mr. Suchow’s small shop. Truth be told, we were drawn to the shop less because of its merchandise and more because of the elderly gentleman inside with frenzied white hair reminiscent of Albert Einstein. He left us alone to peruse.

Much to our surprise, amid fine china and silver, we spied a walking stick with a beautiful ivory handle carved with the face of an 18th century man. Now, my husband happens to collect walking sticks, but never in his own backyard. They are typically mementos of our travels to foreign lands.

We asked Mr. Suchow to show us the stick. The ivory face on the handle, we learned, belonged to Voltaire, and Mr. Suchow showed us a picture of Voltaire that was its inspiration. Soon we were happily engaged in conversation, learning that the delightful Mr. Suchow was 83 years old and had spent a long career at W. R. Grace. Upon retirement, he turned to his great passion — antiques.

Mr. Suchow told us that his small shop gave him a reason to get up in the morning. A sense of purpose. He said that we cannot languish, whatever our age. He admitted that he struggles to walk, but that he never fails to take his wife (five years younger than he) out to dinner on Saturday nights. He showed us a stack of loose paper — his handmade catalogue of everything in the shop. A system, albeit an old-fashioned one. We fell in love with him and his little life lessons.

He saved the best lesson for last. We decided, of course, to buy the walking stick. When we pulled out a credit card, Mr. Suchow let us know that he didn’t accept credit cards. Only checks. We hadn’t brought checks with us, and said how sorry we were that we wouldn’t be able to make the purchase after all. Unconcerned, Mr. Suchow began wrapping the stick in volumes of bubble wrap. “You’ll send me the check,” he said as he handed us the stick. And so we learned trust.

By Yvonne Middleton, Partner, PR