A Chat with Frank Glaser, president/owner, James’ and Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy
CS: What goals do you have for the catalog, and what steps will you take to get achieve them?
FG: We’re looking to expand at the same rate we have been, about 30 percent per year. But we’re going about it in a very conservative, careful process. We’re not trying to bite off more than we can chew though. I don’t think we yet have enough experience to grow faster than that without getting into trouble. Once we get a few more years of steady growth, we’ll look for a major jump, but we don’t have enough information just yet to try to grow any faster comfortably.
CS: Have you had any mentors?
FG: This is a family business, so I grew up under the tutelage of my father and his three brothers. They all were tough, hard-working, German guys who taught me that nothing works unless you work hard. They were my mentors and taught be a strong work ethic.
CS: What about the business appeals to you?
FG: The catalog I like because your customer base really feels limitless. Anyone into whose hands you can put your catalog, that’s a potential customer. Whether they turn into a customer is another question, because they have to show an interest in your product. But the marketing of it, and the ability to reach so many people is really exciting to someone who’s worked so long in retail. In that market, you’ve got to wait for someone to walk by your front door. In the catalog business, you can bring your front door to the customer, and hopefully you have something in common.
CS: One of the keys to success you mentioned was the fact that you have a great nostalgia-filled story to tell. How do you tell that story?
FG: We do it in a number of ways. We use or recreate the packaging that was used going all the way back to the 1900s on some boxes. And on most of the boxes, there’s a story about the product on the box. Most of them are a little light-hearted, but there’s a story about the product which people enjoy. The decor in the stores also reflects the history of this old-time business. Packaging has a lot to do with it.