A Chat With February’s Profile, Mike Stopka, President/Owner of Design Toscano
CS: What year did you commit full-time to Toscano?
MS: 1993. In ’93 we started the business, and everything was at that point statuary. Gargoyles and dragons got very popular at that period, so that was another boost that we had. But at that point I realized we needed to diversify our merchandise. I started going to the gift shows and bringing in different products, mostly European-inspired tapestry, jewelry, gifts, etc. We developed our first true catalog for Design Toscano that wasn’t from the statuary business in 1993. I think the first mailing was about a quarter million. And it was the first time we ever rented lists. Prior to that was all space advertising. The catalog during the mid-90’s was statuary and domestic products. We were using a consultant at the time, John Semmelhack, who’s president of Personal Creations now and was the president of Hammacher prior to that. He gave us the analytic background of cataloging, which I had the skill set because that’s what I did. In this process John said, ‘You know you’re selling European products, why don’t you go to the European gift shows?’ I sort of hit myself and said, ‘Why don’t we do that?’