He answered, “Do you know what that is?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “Do want a job?”
That’s how I met Russ Ballaro - and how I got my first job selling magic.
Russ was one of a kind. A colorful character surrounded by a cast of equally colorful characters. They were drawn to him like moths to a flame. I never met a person who hustled more than Russ - selling everything from gold and clothing to gag gifts and perfume. He eventually moved the flea market stall to an actual store that I worked at into my 20s before he moved on to other opportunities. Over that time, he opened a second store, as well as having kiosks at a local mall and county fair. I worked all of them - and often on my own as Russ was on the road with other aspects of his business. I can’t begin to explain how much I learned from that experience. It paved the way for me to open my own place when I was just 22 years old and the stories from those old days could fill volumes.
I was sad to get the call that Russ passed away earlier this week. He was only in his 60s and after a lifetime of hard work, he deserved a long and restful retirement. Sadly, that was not to be. Truthfully, time off wasn’t really in his blood. If there’s a way to keep hustling on the other side – I’m certain Russ is doing it.