Clint says he opened the Silver Parrot “randomly,” after leaving a short career as a lawyer, which he realized he hated when he woke up one morning thinking, “you know, if I were sick I wouldn’t have to go to work.” His roommate, and fellow lawyer, asked Clint to join him one day in looking for a storefront in Albany for a client. Clint accepted his friend’s request, found a storefront on Lark Street, and rented it for himself. The Silver Parrot opened its doors in August of 1980 on the corner of Lark and Jay.
Having no real clue what he was doing, a friend offered to help him learn how to buy clothes to stock his store. She took him to the city and showed him the ropes. He remembers his beginnings and how different Albany was at the time, there was no Crossgates back then, and no Amazon. “All the students from SUNY and other colleges shopped on Lark Street,” Clint explains, “it was momentarily hot as a pistol. I randomly walked in on the perfect day to open a store, and it turned out what I was selling was very current for that location.” It wasn’t all easy, however, and he says he ran out of money the day before the store opened. He was still putting clothes on hangers when he opened his doors and let people shop out of unpacked boxes so he could buy dinner that night.
Luckily the struggles didn’t last long, as the city was severely understored at the time, and patrons were thrilled to have a place to shop locally. Clint says, “between 1980 and 2000, pre-Amazon, brick and mortar in Albany wasn’t that hard a job to do pretty well. People went to brick and mortar, they needed them, it was the only way to shop. So I just rode that wave.” Don’t let the modesty fool you, we have had a working relationship with Clint for a couple of decades and he is an incredibly hard working individual who enjoys his work immensely. Being in business for over 40 years in the age of online shopping and cheap fast fashion is a testament to that.
The business has gone through some changes, expanding to several locations at one point, and contracting back to one. Clint decided he didn’t want to have more than one location, he just hated it. The store moved to Stuyvesant Plaza in 1983, and it’s been there ever since. The business grew insanely through 2003. It wasn’t until Lehman Brothers went under in 2008 that Amazon really became ubiquitous. Even when there were signs of economic recovery on the horizon, it became evident that Amazon had taken most of the market share, leaving some retailers sitting on huge sums of inventory that they had stocked up on in hopes of business returning to pre-recession levels. Some of these businesses didn’t make it out as more and more commerce was being done online. After this Clint had to work harder to keep The Silver Parrot competitive. “It’s a real smart person’s game now.”
Keeping the Silver Parrot alive has been a true labor of love for Clint. He says he truly can’t wait to get to work every morning. Even through the periods of uncertainty, ups and downs, he has had fun through it all. When asked what his favorite part of his job is, he simply answers, “just being here.” The jewelry is his favorite thing to sell, he has always just loved it a bit more than the clothes, and of course, being his own boss is pretty great as well. “No one ever sits me down. I remember being at the law firm and having to sit down and justify my timesheets. Why wasn’t I billing more hours? And you know what? Talk about taking the air out of the room.” Clint says his worst moment in business was being closed for 70 days during the beginning of COVID-19. He imagined that it could be a fitting end to the whole thing, should they go under due to the shutdown. But they made it through, just like all the other times life threw something crazy their way. Really his biggest frustration with the whole ordeal was that he just wanted to work! He’s never watched a lot of tv, and lazing about does not suit him, so he started working on the company’s website. “I knew nothing about graphics, I mean, I’m an old guy! But it came out really good. My local customers use it to pre-shop, download something for their partner to come buy for them, and yesterday I sent jewelry to Morocco, last week I sent a bracelet to Switzerland, and I sent a pair of earrings to Orlando this morning.” The PPP loans and a few months rent relief definitely helped Clint weather the worst of the pandemic storm, and now they are working towards finding a new normal.
Of course we had to know what his favorite part of working with Specialty Box is, to which Clint firmly exclaimed, “because you’re PERFECT!” He gets briefly distracted by a text message, apologizes and says he’s experiencing “supply chain issues,” something we at Specialty Box are also well acquainted with. He tells us how he met Dave Fialkoff, who has since retired, in the early days of the Silver Parrot, after the business he was buying boxes from went under. “Dave was amazing to work with, he killed himself to get it right, and you know, we just became friends. The truth is, I like reliable vendors and Specialty Box is beyond reliable. You have the inventory, you deliver the inventory, if you say it’s going to be here on Tuesday, it’s here on Tuesday. We’ve never thought of leaving.” He then continues about Dave, “we never went out to dinner, but we’ve always felt like we were close friends.” I think that last bit really sums up the philosophy at Specialty Box -- we’re not just selling packaging, we’re making genuine connections with people and their businesses.
Although Dave has retired, like his father did before him, Specialty Box was passed to the next generation. Dave’s three sons, Eric, Jason and Joshua, now carry the tradition and legacy of Specialty Box forward. For the last 60 years Specialty Box & Packaging has helped countless businesses, large and small, find the best packaging options to fit their needs. That longevity is one of our best assets, six decades of strengthening relationships and growing trust is incalculably important. Relationships like the one we have with Clint, which we appreciate more than we could ever say.
Thanks Clint, and cheers to your success at the Silver Parrot!