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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Requiem for a Ray Who's a Real Jewell -- and a Born Contender

8 May, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Consider this a Requiem for a Friend.

Ray Jewell, the feisty independent retailer from Texas who spearheaded the much-ballyhooed "Protect Our Windows" campaign, is calling it quits.

He's selling his Movie Magic chain of Wills Point, Texas, to a new owner, and is exiting a business he cared deeply, and passionately, about.

The entire home video industry, and not just his fellow independents, owe Ray Jewell a tremendous debt of gratitude. In addition to his campaign against shorter pay-per-view windows, Jewell has been the independents' de facto ambassador to the studios, an eloquent spokesman and shrewd dealmaker who took great pride in getting executives like Warner's John Quinn to not only take his calls, but actually sit down with him for long face-to-face meetings in which he imparted a better understanding of the trials and tribulations with which indie dealers must contend.

Did it make a difference? Maybe it did; maybe it didn't. But thanks to Ray Jewell, studio executives at least got to know what it's like on the other side, down in the trenches of independent retailing, a sector of the business with which many of them had been unfamiliar.

Ray Jewell also communicated freely, and openly, with his peers. He would counsel fellow indies, share strategies and tips, and dispense advice -- either over the phone, or in hallway or cocktail lounge conversations at trade shows and other industry events. I've seen Ray in action; I've dined with him on several occasions, and each time there were other retailers present -- retailers who asked a lot of questions, retailers who received invaluable advice.

I've also seen Ray in the limelight, a position he modestly pretended to disdain but one which we knew, deep down, he loved. I've seen him up on stage, conducting "indie survival" seminars chock full of good, solid advice; I've seen him on the campaign trail, first for the presidency of the North Texas VSDA chapter and, most recently, for the VSDA national board. He's a natural speaker, a born contender; hell, after hearing him make his pitch I'd vote for him for anything, and I'm a natural fence-sitter in most political contests.

Farewell, Ray. You've been a great source, an inspiring leader, but most of all, a good friend. I'm going to miss you.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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