‘A good beginning is half of all’

With every purchase there is Sanavaras guarding like the mythical Cerberus.

General J’s Military Surplus on Nicollet Avenue is a green-tinted bazaar complete with radiation body suits and its share of characters.

The owner of General J’s is Markos Sanavaras, a Greek man who immigrated to North Dakota in the ’60s. He moved to Minneapolis 11 years after owning most of the property in a little town in North Dakota. He moved to live near his daughter, who is now a professor of English literature at the University.

Sanavaras was an international police officer back in Greece; he stands like he is still on guard, reminiscent of leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser.

We discussed life and like a midlife crisis, a shoplifter interrupted us and so obscurely walked out of the store.

“Listen. Come here,” Sanavaras commanded, “Catch her. Bring her here,” he ordered his one employee (who later explained to me that he did not understand why their busiest time of year is Halloween). Unfortunately, they were not able to catch her.

“This is a bad, bad neighborhood,” Sanavaras complained.

The conversation between us did not continue much longer. He explained that his life could not be written in 650 words. I quietly looked around his store.

I rummaged through the military coats and helmets, all expected to be found at a military surplus store, but then there were things such as porcelain figurines and stacks of greeting cards. As I was leaving the store, I couldn’t help but feel I failed at capturing truth.

Sanavaras then told me a Greek saying, which translated to, “A good beginning is half of all.”

I thanked him for his time with, I must admit, complete disappointment. I continued walking around to the neighboring stores, determined to find something to write about.

I entered a chic, upscale salon next door, and they were eager to tell me about the military surplus store. The employees told me that their neighbors are interesting, to say the least.

However, they do enjoy going there and buying random knickknacks. With every purchase there is Sanavaras guarding like the mythical Cerberus but only too glad to tell a story.

Then I was surprised to hear rumors of General J’s, which has been there for four years, being replaced with a vinyl records store. So, this could possibly be the end of the military surplus.

But, in the end, his words stuck with me. “A good beginning is half of all.”

I repeated it to myself, trying to apply it to my own life, or even the life of the people around me.

The beginning is the most important step of any process. You don’t propose a prototype that doesn’t work. And, once the first step of the process is done, success will follow.

So, once you’re done reading this column, go start that assignment that you have been putting off for a week, and then consider yourself successful for starting. You might not have gotten far, but the important thing is that you started, and you started it on the right foot.

Each person’s beginning is different. For Markos Sanavaras, his beginning could have been back in Greece, or even when he came to Minneapolis.

So, whether General J’s will be closing or not, I am quite confident that he has no regrets. With the success that he has in his life, General J’s is not as significant in comparison with what he has already accomplished.

So, final thought, if you’re feeling like a failure now, just think about where you will be in a year, five or even 10. Although it may seem like a long time from now, just remember your freshman year of high school. Remember how you thought it would never end. Look where you are now.

And if you have time, stop by General J’s Military Surplus, you might find more than you were looking for.

Maggie Habashy welcomes comments at [email protected]