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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

THIS STEP IS FOR YOU

The End Of An Era arrived yesterday, Monday, September 20, 2010.

It was 30 years ago that Christiane and I created and together ran our Wholesale Packaging Company, SPECTRUM ASCONA, INC.

Christiane left our Company on May 05, 1995, suffering with Breast Cancer. In my heart, our Company shifted into a "holding" mode that day. I remember, the flowers bloomed beside the Office Door as she walked out for the last time.

Christiane died January 12, 2001. As I walk across America, I silently repeat...."this step is for you" Christiane..."this step is for you"...; I walk into my future...a future she was not allowed to have.

Yesterday, I formally stopped accepting new orders.

This morning, the holding mode is lifted. Our journey with our Company is now complete.

When SPECTRUM ASCONA, INC. was born, everyone in America (and Canada) took sweets home in a white paper bag tied with a red string. What Christiane and I did changed all that.

It was 1980. My employer, Krupp International, Inc (daughter company of Krupp, Germany) was in it's final decline. I was let go, being denied unemployment, etc. For many months, we ate rice and sometimes meat, wondering what to do. The time was a time of Recession. I sent out over 100 resume's...not receiving a single response - and I was well known in the industry.

Christiane's Cousin, Francis Grimm, owned a tiny box and bag manufacturing company in France. In the recent 3 years, Francis had sent us 4 or 5 samples of his work, asking if there was not a market in the USA. I could hold all our samples in one hand.

One day in January, we took those samples out of the drawer, looking at them...now who would pay for such a package just to take a Truffle home?

We develooped a list from the Manhattan, New York City yellow pages of 30 Companies we thought might use such a package. One after the other, we telephoned, telling them we "imported" elegant "designer" packaging, and would they like to see our samples. We got 30 "Yes" responses.

We visited each selected Company. Response was:

How much do they cost? Our Reply: "We don't know"
How many do I have to buy? Our Reply: "We don't know"
How quickly can I have an order delivered? Our Reply: "We don't know"

We telephoned Francis, told him we had his potential customers, and repeated the questions we received.

Francis said there was to be a Confection Exposition in Paris on February 7, and we should be there. He would sponser us and introduce us to his colleagues and friends.

Christiane and I had NO $$...we were barely eating. I asked my Mother what she thought we should do...in reply, she bought two round-trip tickets, New York - Paris. We arrived in Paris, Francis waiting for us at the gate. He drove us to his Factory and put us up in a hotel.

On February 07, 1980, Christiane and I walked into the International Confection Exposition in Paris. In hand (pocket), we had our business cards for our Non-Existant Company - her idea -.

We left Paris with agreements from seven major packaging manufacturers from Holland, France, and Switzerland in hand, together with a suitecase full of samples, product and price lists.

We took the train - 2nd Class - to Christiane's home in ASCONA, Switzerland, where I sweated for one week, compiling our own "Catalog" of products, complete with samples, prices, and availability. Working with Krupp, I was well acquainted with importation procedures and costs, so I was able to make quite accurate calculations of delivered costs to our New York area Customers.

We returned to our home in White Plains, 30 miles North of Manhattan. We retained a lawyer who created our Company. We made appointments with our "Customers". A number of them wanted immediate action, so we invited them to our home, set up a meeting room in our basement.

Our first order was for $800.00.

Over the next 30 days, we received a few additional small orders. We were informed that we had something the confection industry needed and we should attend the Retail Confectioners International Exposition in Pittsburgh.

We telephoned Francis. He arrived two days before the Exposition. We drove in our Oldsmobile Station Wagon to Pittsburgh, only to find that we had not registered as Exhibitors. There was not a single space available in the Exhibit Hall of the Hotel overlooking Three Rivers Stadium.

Approaching Hotel Management, they allowed us to set up our "table" in the lobby outside the Exhibit Hall. (I still use that table EVERY DAY in my office).

The Exposition ran Friday 12 - 3, Saturday, 12 - 5, and Sunday 12 - 3.

Within 1/2 hour of the Exposition opening, attendees, crowded around our "Exhibit", became frustrated at not being able to push their way into our "booth"; without asking, two more tables were brought from the Hotel; set up in a circle; "Customers" moved samples from our display to the new tables, and proceded to place orders. Christiane manned the main display. Francis and I each took one of the new tables.

We drove home Sunday afternoon.

Francis and I put the orders into some kind of order.

When we dropped Francis off to board his plane back to Paris, he took with him, $48,000.00 in orders...all from the Exposition.

SPECTRUM ASCONA, INC. was born.

Today, 30 years later, the final order has been taken. The flowers by the Office Door sit naked, huddled in the rain whipped into a frenzy by the stiff wind. I sit in my office, looking at the computers, the printers, the phones, the FAX, and remaining 3 file cabinets - which not long ago numbered 14 - and simply cannot hold back the tears.

What a ride it has been. We served thousands of candy makers. Our Designer packaging can be found on nearly every retail shelf in the USA and Canada. As I pass through our local Supermarkets and those I visit on my walk, I let my fingers slide over the elegant displays of truffles - in OUR packages - lining the shelves...; silently, I whisper...this step is for you, Christiane...this step is for you.

2 comments:

Scott Mumford said...

Now THAT'S a blog post. I've always been curious about your business and the story behind it.

And what a sweet tribute to your lady...

DJan said...

It breaks my heart, in one way, and is uplifting and wonderful in another. Thank you for the story, Bruce. She is and always will be your soul mate.