A Chat with April’s Profile, A.G. Russell and Goldie Russell, president and CEO, A.G. Russell Knives
CS: Now you say you dropped from nearly $1 million in 1980 to less than $250,000 in 1984.
A.G.: Actually it was ‘79. I dropped 40 percent in 1980 alone because I wasn’t working. And then in ‘81, ‘82, ‘83 it was the same thing. Then in ‘85, we grew and by ‘88 we were at $1 million again.
CS: And now the company is at about $15 million?
A.G.: Goldie can give better numbers, but yes.
CS: Goldie, as you took over the day-to-day operations, how did you grow the business from $1 million to $15 million?
Goldie: The thing that really made it happen was working as a team. We were able to accomplish a whole lot more. A.G. tends to be the creative force and I tend to be the organizational force. I’m very methodical, whereas he’s very impulsive. He had the knife background and the mailorder background. The way the roles have worked out is that he does knife designs. We’re not just a retailer. If you look at the A.G. Russell Web site, you’ll see a whole lot of knives on there have the A.G. Russell brand on them. So all along, through 43 years of history of being involved in the knife mail order business, he’s designed knives and had a real impact on what knives are being manufactured; he’s very involved in the hand-made knife side of the industry; and is very creative with the copy. If you read the copy we put in the magazine, it’s a lot like Crutchfield. So much of what they do is how they talk about and what they say about their product. And A.G. tends to do that also. He tells a story. He’s not just selling a product; he’s educating the customer. That works really well with the customer base we have, men who are interested in knives. My coming on allowed him to concentrate on that. I took over the business responsibilities. I took over the catalog production responsibilities. I edit all of his copy. I had a minor in English in college, so I have a little understanding of that. We have a lot of ideas. There always are more ideas than you can accomplish. And we just started hammering them out. And in 1996, we got to the point where we were concerned with how much more we could grow the knife side of the business, so we went looking for another opportunity. We wanted to stay in mail order because that’s what we knew. And so we decided to start Russell’s for Men, which is just a catalog of product that appeals to this male customer base that we have. It includes limited edition prints, luggage, walking sticks, kitchen knives, turkey fryers, all sorts of high-end quality products that appeal to those folks.