Mambo Movers feeds Philly artists on hard work and magic.
Matt Schwartz still remembers his interview. At the time he was the driving force behind the now-defunct Philadelphia Independent, an eccentric and infrequently published newspaper with a cult following. Schwartz needed a job to pay the bills.
Serge Krupnov, one of Mambo Movers' co-owners, conducted the interview, which Schwartz remembers as a kind of coronation.
"I read your newspaper," Krupnov told him. He folded his hands across his stomach and smiled. "I think we have a place for you here."
How publishing a newspaper qualifies anyone to work for a moving company is beyond common understanding. But such equations are pure Mambo.
"You will come to love it here," Krupnov told Schwartz. "It will not be like a job. It will be an honor. You will be moving people at a special time in their lives."
Schwartz took the job. "I felt like I was being indoctrinated into some secret hipster priesthood," he says. "It was great."
"If you play music, and you're in town, you're gonna work at Mambo," says William Costa, a longtime Mambo man also known as DJ Bilwa. "You may only work there for a day, but you'll work there."
"Being an artist is not a requirement to be a Mambo guy," says Krupnov. "It's just that Mambo guys are artists."
Mambo guys are painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers and actors. They're not movers-at least not first and foremost. And therein lies the miracle of Mambo's unlikely existence.
The average height and weight of a Mambo Man is somewhere around 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. If you tied them to a string and caught a favorable breeze, many would make serviceable kites. But they aren't merely skinny; they're fit. And once indoctrinated into the priesthood, they're gifted with arcane knowledge.
A Mambo man can put a refrigerator on a dolly without lifting it all the way off the floor. A Mambo man can prop open a door with a quarter. A Mambo man can take three dollies and turn them into a handtruck.
"Sometimes," says co-owner Pete Danz, "we get something like a huge armoire, and we think there's no way we're gonna be able move it. But we always do. Then there's that magic turn that gets a couch through a doorway."
How much magic lies in the Mambo man? Well, remember that scene in the first Superman movie where Lois Lane dies and Superman flies around the world so fast he reverses the Earth's rotation and turns back time?
Get real. A Mambo guy can't do that.
But remember the scene in The Untouchables where some mob goon scares an attractive, helpless mother, who loses her grip on her baby carriage ... which goes ... rolling ... down ... the steps? The good guy races toward the staircase, slides the last many feet on the ground, and stops the runaway baby carriage with a single hand.
A Mambo guy could do that-and write a song about it afterward. And if all this sounds like a bit much, if all this sounds impossibly romantic, then welcome to the world of Mambo Movers, where romance is life-and life itself can be found in the sweat rolling down your back.
This might be the hottest day of the year.
Steve Pingdum and Phil Jablon are in Cherry Hill, loading furniture from a storage unit for a move to Center City. "Thai is such a difficult language," says Jablon. "The alphabet has 46 letters."
Geek Invasion 2013