Published: December 1, 2010
"People in the neighborhood, guys in the neighborhood, the ones that kind of run the neighborhood, they tell everybody, 'Don't mess with Pearl's,' and that all came from a respect thing for all that we did. You never see people come in here with a smoke, you never see someone come in with a drink."
Once, the store got robbed by an armed gunman. When the neighbors heard what happened, they told Esaw they'd handle it.
"Just to tell you about the neighborhood, two days after we got robbed — they'd taken some cassettes and stuff — they put the money in a cassette with a note saying, 'Sorry we robbed you,' and put it back in the mail chute. I called the police and they said they'd never seen nothing like that before."
Esaw is a full-time accountant, so this job has been a weekend labor of love that started costing too much time and bringing too little money.
"It got to the point I had to reduce my hours, because I was paying someone $80 a day and I was making $60, so the math don't add up. And if the math don't add up, you got to make a decision."
As he presides over the last days of an 18-year dream, music plays from a speaker set on a milk crate outside the door. A sign in the window announces reduced store hours, where before it was a sign warning that the end was near. And the phone keeps ringing, bringing calls from more customers who had to hear it themselves from the owner himself, who has to relay the news, over and over, one customer at a time.
"Music is a luxury," Esaw says, standing behind the store counter, looking through the window at the quiet street outside. "You have to eat, but you don't have to hear some music. Detroit and the state of Michigan are just going through hard times. They just can't afford music anymore."
> Email Detroitblogger John