Whatever Works: Where Product is King
But mother was to be obeyed, so Larry went to see Steve at his broken-down warehouse on Long Island. While there, he had a life-changing epiphany.
Steve Brown, along with Victor Schiff—another mail-order alumnus from the old days—had just launched a new company called Cheeselovers International. It was the early ‘70s. The gourmet wave was just breaking in America, and Cheeselovers had caught it, by providing exotic foreign cheese and other food delicacies to a new generation of aspiring sophisticates.
This was long before the dawn of today’s block-long supermarkets, with their elaborate cheese and gourmet departments. Back then most people had never heard of cheeses like Brie and Jarlsberg, let alone tasted them. So Steve Brown set out to titillate their taste buds and inflate their self-esteem by traveling to France, England, Italy, and even South America and Japan in search of marketable product.
However, to build Cheeselovers, Steve had stretched himself dangerously thin. He not only had to come up with the cheeses, he also had to photograph them, write the promotional copy, design the direct mail packages, lay out the cheese catalogs, and even paste up the mechanicals (no computer graphics in those days). Then, as company spokesman “Gerard Paul” (his nom de fromage), he had to don a tall white toque and fly to hotels, motels, convention centers, churches and school auditoriums around the country to publicize the new venture with hundreds of cheese and wine tastings.
No wonder Steve saw little brother Larry’s arrival as a godsend. Eager to sign him up, he took Larry on a guided tour—a proud proprietor showing off the hottest new mail order company in the country. But for Larry, it was one big yawn—until, at the end of the tour, they walked into a room containing 100 post office trays, each filled with 1,000 envelopes, and each being opened by a phalanx of ladies who were busily extracting cash and checks from each. Thousands of envelopes filled with money—what was going on?