In 1964, when I was seriously thinking about starting an Artificial flower company of my own, I was introduced to a man who was a regular customer at Goldfarb Novelty Co. the company where I was presently working. He was presently buying small containers with Souvenir Decals on them, that were then sold to his companies different customer around the United States that were located in popular tourists locations. His name was Jim Messmer, and he asked me if I could design and sell to his company, FTD, Florists Transworld Delivery Co., something his florists could use on Valentines Day in arrangements, His company represented over 10,000 florists across the country. and they would buy whatever holiday promotions FTD presented to them for each holiday. He explained that florists didn’t need artificial flowers, but rather the accessories portraying each holiday to enhance the fresh flower arrangements they made. The containers he bought from Goldfarb were used to offer to these same florists, who would then sell them locally. He said he was looking for something new he could offer to them for the next Valentines Day holiday, and could I come up with something that would fit the bill, as a big TV advertising program will be planned.
Going back to Goldfarb, I explained what their customer, Jim Messmer, wanted me to do him to Mr. Joe Young, who was my immediate boss and who reported to Josh Rothstein directly. If you remember from the story about my first job in New York,, it was Josh who was forced out of Zunino Altman Flower Co. and I, a few months later, was asked by him to come work in his new company, Goldfarb Novelty. I was doing very well there. because I knew many buyers at The F. W. Woolworth Co., and was able to increase Goldfarb business in other departments. It was after I explained what the FTD buyer wanted, and how I should begin, that Joe Young, stopped me and said that I should develop it myself, in my own company, and that it was time for me to move up on my own. Taking Joe’s advice, I did just that and I flew on my own time to FTD’s head Quarters in Troy Michigan, and asked Jim Messmer if I could offer my ideas and products directly to FTD. he agreed, then asked what I had in mind. I explained that I would prepare samples for him and make a presentation to him in three weeks. He asked what holiday I was shooting for and I told him… “Christmas”.
After preparing samples of the idea I had, sending a set to my new employee, Mr. Yeung, a young Chinese man who was working out of a small office at a rented desk in Hong Kong that belonged to his friend, a Mr S. Wong. I had originally used him for products I designed for Goldfarb and asked him if he would work for me directly in my new company, Sal Bianco Inc. He agreed and then got back to me within 10 days, as Telexing was the only way of communicating at that time.(Read the story call “The facts about faxing”). He said that he had prepared samples from three different manufacturers and was sending them to me,and I should decide which were the best in quality and price. When I received them, I chose the best, not on price, but on quality and appearance. They were my really first attempt at importing on my own. It was ideal to have FTD as my customer, as they had a very large warehouse in Michigan where I could ship direct. The samples I made were of assorted artificial fruits, a plum, apple, pear, orange and grapes, with each covered with very bright (sea-salt sized) clear crystals that made each fruit look like they were sugar coated in very bright colors, colors that each fruit came in naturally. They came out perfect, and I designed them to be easily inserted into arrangements by the florist. They inserted a thin green wooden spike into each fruit so that they could be easily inserted into the foam the florist normally used when making floral arrangements. The spike had a mini arrow at it’s tip to hold the fruit firmly in place, so as not easily fall out.
I made a special presentation in February to a committee made up of the ten top large florists that helped to develop the promotion for FTD, that would be used for the following Christmas holiday. Beforehand, I had already made a private presentation to Jim Messmer who went wild for the idea, and he asked me what was it going to be called? Well I said “how about”… “Sugar Plums”. The committee went wild for the samples presented, and especially it’s name, even more, as it opened a new area for them to offer to each florist. Now all their florist would be ready and willing to be part of the large advertising program they planned for each holiday. It was a great success that Christmas, as well as many, many more to come! Because of it’s success, that same committee and Jim came back to me and asked for more products, and the next one they wanted was for the next Valentine Day
So, back to the drawing boards! Not really true, because design comes from within, so what and how was I going to come up with what they wanted? Then Wow! I had it!… but how to make it happen? First thing is to make samples, and how was I to apply my idea from the one that gave me the idea in the first place. At the time, there was a very popular item selling to just about everyone. It was held in the palm of your hand and as you shook your hand up and down, little balls on the end of 8 stiff 12″springy wires, hit each one another. All were connected on the bottom, that was shaped into a handle. So, the balls as they would hit each other then bounce back and forth they made loud popping noises. It seems all children as well as many adults had one. So, I bought a few and adapted them to meet the idea I had come up with. I actually made little wooden hearts that I carved to be about .5″high and .5″ wide. I painted them bright red and drilled a very thin hole through the center down through the top down going through it’s point. I then placed 3 hearts on each wire and glued them equidistant, one on top, one in the middle and one 2″ to where they were all connected, which was just a stem that all the wires were firmly set into. It had an arrow point at it’s tip to make it easily able to push into the foam in an arrangement. Ok! What should I call it? Think? Think! Ok, what was it going to be used for? Valentine’s Day! I got it, I got it… “Heart Throbs” Heh!What’s Valentine’s day all about but one Heart Throb to sending another! Say no more! I sold Millions and Millions for years to come. I have a sample… somewhere! Wait! Wait! Claire just found one sample and here is it’s picture.
I’ll need to try to make a video of them shaking to really show the idea better. With my success came Jim Messmer’s success, so we started doing more together as he asked me to meet him in the different countries he traveled when he was buying his ceramics and I would then offer different accessories that I developed. It was very easy to convert “Heart Throbs” to a Christmas theme by replacing the hearts with Christmas characters like: Mini-Santas.snowmen and Mini Multi colored tree balls, called Dancing Christmas. they too were very successful and thereafter, I made individual floral picks of different characters Little mini Santa’s, snowmen, nondescript little animals, all on a single wire pick.
At the same time Jim Messmer had a friend and supplier who sold FTD all their ceramics. We would meet in The Philippines, where I would develop rattan baskets for his customers floral arrangements, and for my other customers I developed chairs, hammocks, carpets, using all dried grasses and rattan. I loved the Philippines and did a lot for some of the people there, so much so, that I made enemies of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the dictator of all the Philippines, and his wife. Another story for another Post! I’ll continue this in another story to tell what happened and how I was subpoenaed to a court case in Federal court and charged.