As stories go, this one won’t make you wait long for the punchline.
A customer walks into Jerardi’s Little Store, 7325 Peters Pike, in Butler Twp. He orders a sandwich.
He notices the Eric Jerardi CDs at the front. “Hey, I love that guy,” the customer says.
“Yeah?” an employee replies. “He just made your sandwich.”
According to Jerardi, that sort of thing happens.
It’s understandable. Jerardi is multi-faceted. A Dayton-anchored entrepreneur. Foodie. Wine lover and reputed Bordeaux/Old World wine expert. A Strat-slinging blues-rock guitarist who sometimes leaves audiences wondering why he isn’t more widely known.
All of the above.
In 1988, his only brother, P.J., passed away and in August, so did his father, Pete Jerardi, a Dayton attorney for nearly 50 years. Both deaths strengthened in Jerardi the view that time is precious and the day must be seized.
“I knew I wasn’t going to just grow up and put the suit on and have the family and live-in-the-suburbs type of lifestyle,” Jerardi said. “It just really made me think life is too short.”
He said he didn’t want to be the “weekend warrior” guitarist. So he has cranked out six CDs and regularly tours, including a tour of the West this summer with his band. He didn’t want to drink poor wine. So he developed an expertise in French and Italian wines and helps others assemble their wine lists. And he has built a small business.
“I love food and wine and music,” he said. “So I guess I am a creative type of person.”
We recently sat down with Jerardi, 45, at Lock 27 brewery in Centerville to talk about what drives him. What follows is an edited, condensed transcript.
Q: Of your jobs, your roles, what’s the most challenging?
Jerardi: “When you do what I do, you work an awful lot. But I don’t mind work, nor have I ever. There’s an old saying, when you wake up and you love what you’re doing, then it’s not a job. I’ve always felt that way.
“But it’s hard. All of it is. Nothing is easy. Writing music, performing. That’s not easy. I’m in my 25th year this year getting paid for it, 25 years as a professional (musician). And my store has been going for 20 years.
“When I look back at the body of work, I am impressed with what I’ve done, and all the songs I’ve written. I marvel at them. I don’t know where they came from. … It’s time to start writing again, and I wonder where it comes from. I really don’t know where it all comes from.”
Q: How did your deli and wine store come about?
Jerardi: “Through a fluke. A person who had the business was injured and had to sell it. It was a fire-sale situation. It was really a good opportunity. My father advised my friend and I to go in there, clean it up and flip it … That was 20 years ago.
“I fell in love with it. I think a lot of good businesses are ones where you don’t have aspirations in. You know, the guy who loves golfing wonders, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a pro shop? Those things tank all the time.
“I had no aspirations of being in the food and wine business. I had no knowledge of it. But my overhead was so low, that I grew with it, and I learned, and I fell in love with food and wine.
“I think when I hear the words ‘day job,’ especially when you’re a musician … sometimes playing the show that I don’t want to play is the day job. It’s all work, and I love it.
“I’m very realistic, the older I get, about how much work it is to do what I do. It’s not simple to go do a show, and to employ people. I have a lot of people that I’m responsible for.”
Q: Your toured the West this summer with your trio. What was that like?
Jerardi: “I have been doing that for years now. We go out West. First of all, my travel-mates, my band, we get along great, or I wouldn’t have them around. But I will tell you doing one-nighters from here to Western Wyoming is not easy. My guys are great. They don’t (complain).
“We do the job. We’ve gotten to the point where it’s advantageous financially for us or them to do this … But the point is, how many years it took to get to that point. And that’s what people don’t understand.
“All that work, when I get letters and emails from people all over the world, I’m like, ‘All right. That’s cool.’”
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