How did you get your first job?
by Sal Bianco Jr on January 20, 2022.
My First Job after returning to New York
In 1961, I returned to New York after attempting to start a trucking business delivering fruit, with my brother Al, and brother in law, Dominic Guerriero, which failed due to 3 solid years of crop failures in California. I was then able to find a job at a low end retail store, making flower arrangements (a story about this time is in the works) and worked at it till my wife, being tired of California, left suddenly for New York with my two sons, unbeknownst to me. After following her, and once there, I looked for work and finally found a job working for a company called First American Natural Fern Co. They had heard about my abilities from their artificial flower wholesale customers in California, and how I had built a small business into a large volume customer of theirs. So First American hired me at $100.00/week, but promised after 3 months they would raise my salary to $200.00/week. So, they had me do the same thing I had done in California, but now at Bloomingdale’s in Brooklyn, that is, making flower arrangements in it’s Gift Department, for their customers who would either bring in their special containers, or buy those available, that I had made for sale. It was so busy all the time that one day I actually keeled over from exhaustion, and wound up in a hospital. When first hired at First American, I was promised by its owner, an increase in salary after three months from $100.00/week to $200/week, so when the time came and upon receiving my paycheck, just after my fainting incident at Bloomingdale’s, I asked for that raise. The owner of First American said “Oh no, not yet, but after another 3 months he would give me the raise”. Naturally, being Italian, I blew up as he had broken his promise to me. I told him to get someone else for Bloomingdale’s, cause: ” I quit”. I said it so loud, that he actually flinched and was very frightened, as I stormed out.
I went directly to his competitor, Zunino Altman Inc., another Artificial Flower company, larger and owned by Revlon Cosmetics. (Note: After a few days, the son of the owner of First American, called me and asked me to come back at $200.00/week. I said “No thank you, as I’m now working for ZA, and by the way, watch out at Bloomingdale’s.” Since I knew the buyer there and he knew it was me that made his business grow, eventually, ZA became the company now selling Bloomingdale’s.)
When I arrived at Zunino Altman’s showroom, there were two salesmen talking and laughing, so I excused myself and asked to see the owner, as I was looking for a job. Laughingly, they said that there were no jobs available, but luckily just then, a man entered the showroom. He looked at us and turned to me and said: “Aren’t you the young man who works at Bloomingdale’s?” I said yes, and he then asked me into his private office. He then explained that he went to Bloomingdale’s because he had heard of a young man doing outstanding business working there with a new approach at selling flower arrangements. He asked why I was now in his showroom and I explained it all about the owner of First American and his broken promise. He immediately said “Well, you’re hired here and at $200.00/week, and after 3 months I’ll increase your salary, again”.
Zunino Altman (“ZA” as it was called then) and this man, Josh Rothstein, who had faith in me, gave me the opportunity to be who I became. From the first day I started till the day years later when he contracted Alzheimer and completely lost his memory, and died, we had become close friends. He allowed me to spread my wings to create a New Flower arrangement division that became very successful, as well, I set up a team of designers to teach Flower arranging to all ZA’s customers. Every day we traveled together in his car to our homes in Scarsdale, New York. “ZA” was actually owned by Revlon who had owned many smaller companies and each one had to report at an annual meeting to Charles Revson, it’s CEO and original owner, at his building famously called “666 FIFTH AVE”, or “Top of the sixes”
After about a year of working there, Josh asked me to go to this meeting with him and when we arrived, As it was filled with the President, Charles Revson, and the Presidents and Vice Presidents of all his companies as well as many of those other executives from Revlon. As the meeting went on, both Josh and I realized that he was being ridiculed about how the company profits were not up to par. Actually, Revson was in the process of selling Zunino Altman to a competitor called J. Markovits Inc. and was playing with Josh, trying to intimidate him into quitting. He actually picked one of the Flower samples we had brought and told Josh to name it. It was a daffodil and Josh said so, but Revson said to all present “OH no it wasn’t, but that it was a rose”. He then asked all present in the room to tell him what it was and all yelled “A Rose”. He said to Josh how could you run a flower company if you don’t know the name of a flower. I then stood up and yelled “It is a daffodil and I should know as I’m the designer who creates them”. Everyone in the room was shocked, but I stood my ground and then Josh stood up and said “Sal lets leave this bunch of losers. Naturally he didn’t last a week. After a few very uncomfortable months under a new President assigned by Revson, I got a call from Josh and he asked me to come to work for him at a company he had just bought, called Goldfarb Novelty. Happily, I said yes and went directly to the new president of “ZA” and told him I was leaving after giving two weeks’ notice. His name was Irving Bottner, and he was there to destroy the company under orders from Revson, as they wished to write off “ZA” as a big tax loss. He couldn’t believe I would leave and neither did the two salesmen, Ira Kleinberg and Bernie Rosenburg, who I had met originally. They too would eventually have to look for jobs at other flower companies, and later worked for my biggest competitors, when I formed my own company, White Knight Adventures LLC. , and was able to bring with me The F.W. Woolworth Co’s business, as they knew that I had made Artificial Flowers successful at their stores. This set the direction of my own company, White Knight Adventures, but at first, it was called simply Sal Bianco Inc.
Sal Bianco Jr, January 20, 2022With my volume increasing I needed to go directly to the manufacturers in Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and in doing so, I opened a new door by developing a new kind of flower, They were presently made with hard plastic and didn’t truly feel like flowers, until I went to Bangkok, Thailand and developed a new material called polyester, and designed my own flowers with the real feel and look of flowers, designing each petal and leaf. I actually created a Boston fern that today is still the method to produce them, using my styling and design. From there I designed the first poinsettias for Christmas!
The easiest part of my business was designing for FTD, Florists Transworld Delivery. At first I designed wicker baskets for flower Arrangements that I had made in the Philippines, mainly to help two villages that had no way to earn money. After designing thoses, I made hanging baskets made only of seashells for two other villages near the ocean to make. Then for their large Christmas promotion, I designed “SUGAR PLUMS”, which was a cluster of red plastic plumb’s in a bunch, coated with clear bright mini plastic crystals! Florists used them in Christmas, arrangements that were designed for FTD. Both these promotions were used for years to come. I was then asked to design and sell to them a valentine product. Again I came up with a great idea. At the time children had a new toy that was a very big hit. It was a handle that had wires coming from it that had on the top of each a plastic ball. when the children shook the toy the balls would hit each other and make a crackling noise, and different ones made different sounds. seeing this idea, I came up with one like it but for my florists on FTD! Instead of a wooden handle mine was plastic shaped like a spike with little plastic rod sticking out its sides, for the florists to be able to stick into foam for making arrangements of fresh flowers. From the top of the spike came 12 springy 10”wires spread evenly around the top each having 3 clear ½”red hearts shaped with one on top one 2” down and another 2” down. When put into a FLOWER ARRANGEMENT , each wire would come out around the flowers making them move, so I called them “HEART THROBS”.