Talk to any financial advisor out there, and he will tell you that the key to financial planning is diversification. Hold that thought!
I just got back from the Chicago Bridal Market and realize that it’s time for another blog post. My last few posts focused on my personal life, but I'm in the mood to pontificate about bridal, so here goes...
I love Chicago. The weather sucks there, but the weather sucks in Philadelphia in March as well so it deserves a pass. Midwesterners are "different" than people in The Northeast, but I say that with affection. The restaurants are terrific, the area around the Merchandise Mart (as well as the whole city) is quite clean, and the hotels are first rate. In short, if I was a city person (which I'm not), I could live in Chicago before I could live in NY, even though I love visiting NY for a few days at a time - but I just couldn't live in Manhattan.
Chicago is not "my" market however, so I'm not as busy there as I am in NY, and I get a chance to walk around and get an overview of our industry (and specifically the fashion). There is so much product out there and I really only get a quick glance inside each booth, mostly because it’s really not proper etiquette to "stare" into a competitor's display area. There are always fashion shows going on, and I have many good friends in Chicago. As I stopped by their suite to chat, I couldn't help but take in a brief overview of their collection(s). Even with only this quick glance, it is striking how much everything looks the same these days. I wasn't 100% sure of this until I spoke to a few magazine editor/friends of mine while I wandered the halls and they confirmed my impression. For an industry that craves new looks, fashion trends and fresh ideas, particularly the buyers - it's really a shame.
Now I'm generalizing a little here (which I try not to do), as I'm sure many lines out there have some pieces that are innovative, and there is only so much you can do with lace, satin, organza, silk, and beading - but an astute buyer won't pick up a new collection just because a piece or 2 looks different (and salable). Especially if it’s from a brand new company, without a track record on timely delivery, quality control, and customer service.
And then I walked back into my booth and realized that everything DOESN’T actually look the same. Now there is no doubt that I am prejudiced in this regard, but what would you expect from the Paloma Blanca and Mikaella rep. I am so proud of my company, its people, and it's product, and I just can't imagine working for anyone other than Marty and The Bernstein Family. We have a unique look that is truly different from most of the collections out there, and most of it centers around the fact that we manufacture EVERYTHING in our own factory in Toronto. Most astute buyers can pick a Paloma "out of a lineup" - we have always had our own look and it’s pretty easy to spot. Almost everything in the market these days is made in China, and while not necessarily a bad thing (I'll leave that debate for a future post), it does tend to make everything look like "it's made in China". I don't want to come off as a bridal gown snob here, but I am partial to the clean, traditional look that we are known for. I even have 2 beautiful daughter-in-laws who were "smart" enough to want to wear a Paloma Blanca, and I now truly understand what is so special about a "Paloma Bride".
After spending 3 days with some of best stores in the country (the rest will be in NY in 2 weeks), it is obvious we have 2 incredible collections this season - and Mikaella is just as nice as Paloma! This may be the best overall product we have come out with in the 10 years I have been with the company, and that is "saying something". There are some very good lines out there - and I am in no way suggesting that every bride is a Paloma/Mikaella customer. What I am suggesting however is that Fall is a great time to evaluate your companies and try to diversify. It's the key to investing, and it makes sense in merchandising a bridal store as well. If you need another beaded imported line, there are tons of good companies to choose from; but the choices are very limited if you are looking for something that resembles our unique look.
If you already carry Paloma Blanca and/or Mikaella you know what I mean. We deal with most of the top stores in the country, and are invariably an owner's favorite company to work with. If you're not currently working with us, take a look at the authorized retailer list on our website and call a few stores. My guess is that they will verify what I am saying - that we make a beautiful product at a great price; our quality and fit are impeccable, and we just don't say "no" to our stores. And what overseas resource can ship any style, any size and color in 8 weeks with no rush fee, and 5-6 weeks with a modest rush fee - every time. One of my accounts refers to us as the "Yes Company"; what better endorsement is there than that!
No line is perfect for every store, and stores know best what works for them. That being said, if you’re looking for something a little different to diversify the fashion on your racks, you may want to consider Paloma Blanca and/or Mikaella this season.
If you'd like to discuss the collections, including company policies and the availability in your area, feel free to contact me.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I've never really liked fishing.
I think it's because I have trouble sitting still anywhere but on a beach, and I don't love boats. But fishing is a very popular sport, and many of my friends love to fish. I've been asked many times to go, but I usually politely decline.
My best friend Mike Raske loved to fish, and he asked me to go with him many times. I went a few times with him when I was in my teens, but its been a long. long time since I took him up on his fishing offer. I wish I had.
Last week he had a heart attack and a stroke and died the next day. I spoke to a mutual friend at the funeral, and he spoke to Mikey the night before - and he was "fine". Losing a friend (or husband or father or son) is terrible, but somehow it seems worse when you have absolutely no time to mentally prepare.
He was the best man in my wedding and I in his. Yes... that's me in my White Tails (with way more hair) and Mike in the ruffled shirt I made all my groomsmen wear.
It's always been Mike and Cindy as long as Carol and I can remember - for over 40 years it's been the 4 of us. We spent New Years together, and many trips and mini vacations when we were younger. That slowed down somewhat when we both had children, but we talked recently about starting to take some trips together now that we were pretty much empty nesters.
But I talked to him on the phone every few weeks for as long as I can remember, and I can't get a grip on the fact that I'm never going to speak to him again. He was one of the smartest people I knew, and had a law degree (although he switched careers many years ago). Some of you may have known him as the owner of Sydney Bush Slip Company, as many of the bridal stores and designers did business with him over the past 30 years. Whenever a store who knew him found out that we were friends, I always got the same reaction: "Michael was a great guy and a pleasure to work with".
That was the Mike I knew. EVERYONE who knew him loved him, and you could tell by the conversations at his funeral. Sometimes you go to funerals and hear all of the plaudits and praise that gets spread around and you say to yourself..."Who are they talking about"? But not this time. All of the kind words and great stories didn't do justice to the kind of man that he was. He was a terrific family man - a great husband and a loving father to his 2 daughters. And he loved those girls and couldn't talk enough about them. Not in a bragging way (anyone who knew him knows he didn't have a "bragging bone in his body"). But he was so proud of his girls, and they loved to fish with him. He loved dogs, and always had a springer spaniel since the day I met him when I was 15 years old. And yes, even his daughter Dani's brittany Elle was at the funeral! That was so Mikey.
I've been in a funk for over a week now, and I think I'll feel better when I finish writing this blog and get it all "out". But I'll never be quite the same, and I realize that these things happen when we get older and lose the ones we love. And Carol and I DID love Mikey.
Dani and Lauren wrote a beautiful eulogy for their father, and read it grave side. It closed with a poem, and we cried when we heard it. But it was such a beautiful poem, and so fitting of a tribute to my friend - for a life well lived. RIP Mikey, I will never forget you! H
I've finished life's chores assigned to me,
So put me on a boat headed out to sea.
Please send along my fishing pole
For I've been invited to the fishin' hole.
Where every day is a day to fish,
To fill your heart with every wish.
Don't worry, or feel sad for me,
I'm fishin' with the Master of the sea.
We will miss each other for awhile,
But you will come and bring your smile.
That won't be long you will see,
Till we're together you and me.
To all of those that think of me,
Be happy as I go out to sea.
If others wonder why I'm missin'
Just tell 'em I've gone fishin'
It is an oxymoron to on the one hand profess to cherish your privacy, and on the other to host a blog, but in the interest of the latter "bird on the shoulder" winning out, I offer my first post of 2015.
Most blog experts will tell you that its always a good idea to include a picture or 2 in a blog post, but I've "used up" my family portrait, my new grandson, and my summer beach party, so what's a "photographically challenged” man to use for a theme for a post? Then I came upon this picture and it hit me – I should write about my college "career"!
Alas… writer’s cramp immediately set in as I sat down to begin, as I realized that I have no story to tell. Can you really call 4 months at Penn State a college career? Me thinks not. Especially when I "majored" in ping pong, teaching myself to play the guitar, and doing all of the experimenting a teenager of the 70s did back in the early 70s. No, it is not my proudest moment. I had a sign permanently pinned to my bulletin board that read, "Classes Cancelled Today”, and when my friend Mikey asked me how “officially dropping out of college” went, I proudly answered "No Red Tape". Happy Valley was a GREAT place to be under any circumstances (and still is), but it is much better suited for someone who wants be in college, and I unfortunately was not that someone.
As Forest Gump said "Stupid is as Stupid Does", but truth be told I was no dummy. I was accepted to Brown and Cornell for engineering, and my mother (God rest her Soul) still probably rolls over in her grave when she recalls the day I told her I wasn't “cut out” for college, and that I preferred to head for Key West in a VW Camper with my other good friend Bob - where I would surely "find myself". We had a GREAT time, but I never did "find myself" in the Keys - choosing instead to do all of the above mentioned experimenting, and more. In the interest of journalistic integrity... both Bob and Mikey will be reading this blog and can profess to its accuracy (and hopefully not add anything to the story that may actually embarrass me – but I don't embarrass easily). To punctuate this part of the story, I actually had a rich uncle who had long ago agreed to pay the full 4-year ride for any of his nieces and nephews to the college of their choice. My sisters both took him up on his offer - their brother "knew better".
So this Account Executive in the bridal/social occasion industry stands before you with a High School Diploma, and nothing more. The degrees however don't make the man, and I apologize for nothing. Whatever shortcomings as a rep the rare misguided storeowner may perceive, my hope is that lack of intelligence is not one of them.
The picture above is of my youngest son Michael with his Diploma in hand from Millersville University taken back in December. He is the third Grass Boy with a college degree - and that is something Carol and I are immensely proud of. Just like my uncle offered his family back in the day, any Grass Boy who wanted to go to college was encouraged by his parents to do so. And all who graduated did so with zero college debt, and that is also something we are very proud of. The burden of student loans is a tremendous load that many graduates have to overcome as they start their career, but that will be the subject for another post. No one need feel sorry for the parents here, but we did sacrifice things along the way - and would do so again as it was something we felt very strongly about. My older 3 sons have terrific careers, and I have no doubt that Michael will be successful (in whatever means you choose to define success) as he sets out this month to follow in his brothers' footsteps and begin his career.
But wait you ask. The title of this post is "My One Regret", and I've fessed to nothing approaching a lifelong regret. Truth be told regrets are not my style. I'd change places with no man on earth, nor any who've lived before me! But I would love to have dinner with some famous people past and present, because there are so many things that I wish I knew that I don't. A lot of these things I would know without needing to ask if I had only gone to college, and that I DO regret. Knowledge is a powerful thing, not as in the power one can use against his fellow man, but for the personal “power” one feels by knowing more “stuff”. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I wish I knew a lot of things about way more stuff. At 60 I'm still hungry for knowledge; I learn something new every day and I believe with all my heart that this thirst for knowledge makes me feel young and strong, and keeps me healthy of body and mind.
Perhaps one day I'll go back to college - one could reasonably assume that even if I wasn't ready for college right out of high school, that by 60 I am surely ready! If I don’t ever get a degree, that's OK too. If I die with my only regret being that I didn't go to college... I feel pretty certain it will be with a smile on my face and the comfort of a life well lived. HG
It’s the day before my favorite holiday, and most bloggers are probably “scrambling” to finish their Thanksgiving Blog. Seeing how my last few posts talk about all I that have to be thankful for (Career, Family, Namesake, Health, etc) – I’ve decided to go in another direction and tell you a story…
It’s almost a year now since I started my Private Facebook Group Grass Clippings by Howard Grass, and I really am not even sure where the idea came from. I knew Social Media had "arrived", but Facebook was really not "my thing". I guess I'm just too private of a person, and still prefer the phone if I really care to interact with someone. I use a ton of email in communicating with my stores (although email is often overused in areas where a phone call is a better medium), and anyone who knows me knows how often I still use "snail mail" - whether it's a Newsletter, a Thank You Card, or a Holiday Greeting.
But Facebook is here to stay, and it may have been my friend Laura (when we were brainstorming about my new website) who mentioned that there was such a thing as a "Private Facebook Group", and that it might help supplement my newsletter Grass Clippings to stay in touch with my stores. And so Grass Clippings by Howard Grass on Facebook was born.
I have to admit that I envisioned the group as a kind of business self-promotion, but it really has morphed into something beyond that. Since only bridal and social occasion storeowners are allowed to join, it has really ended up more as a "safe haven" for stores to connect with one another. I rarely post anything about my lines, but do occasionally "share" something newsworthy to our industry - or something interesting to me that relates to business in general.
Formalwear storeowners have so much in common, and since it is such a unique subset of the world of retail, their problems and concerns are unique. I love it when someone starts a thread on a particular problem they've encountered, and then see 20 - 30 comments from other stores who "chime in". Sometimes its a great idea on how to handle a specific situation, and sometimes its just an "aha moment" when people get to laugh at the brides (or even at themselves) on what it takes to run a bridal store. My sense is that a camaraderie has developed between the group members who have become quite friendly, despite having never really "met". My decision to not allow other sales reps or owners from other companies to join does seem to make people feel "safe" about speaking their mind.
But something happened early this season that was totally unexpected, and it is what leads me to my story. Without getting too specific (you should join the group and read the whole thread - its worth the price of admission)… Kay - a woman who owned a store in my territory and whom I am very fond of had something tragic happen to her; and I ended up being involved in her life for a short period of time. She lost her husband suddenly and totally unexpectedly, to a massive heart attack while they were on a business trip together. She has 2 young children and decided that she needed to stop being a bridal storeowner, either by selling the store (her preference) or by closing it if she couldn't find a buyer. Now anyone who has ever “wanted out” knows how difficult it is to sell a store in this business climate, and the chance that she would both find someone interested AND have the financial means to purchase her store were slim at best. Especially since she wanted to get out so quickly so that she could begin the next phase of her life, which was putting her family "back together" and beginning to heal.
This story does have a "happy" ending (although Kay may question my use of the word "happy"). Kay was one of the first members of the group, and initially she used it as a place where she felt "safe" in talking about her grief. The outpouring of support and compassion she received from so many group members warmed my heart; she got tons of advise on selling the store right in the forum, and my take was there were many additional private messages, texts, and phone call behind the scenes as well; both with advice on areas of concern in the transaction, as well as some phone calls "just calling to see how you are holding up".
I'm happy to say that Kay posted in the forum last Wednesday evening announcing that she had found a buyer, had closed on the sale that afternoon, and was no longer a bridal store owner, which although bittersweet was what she felt was best for her family. She is a very good writer (many artistic people are), and her posts were touching. I am including an excerpt of the posts below, and encourage you to read the whole thread on Facebook. She thanked everyone in the group for their help and support, and wished everyone in the group "all the best". There were many subsequent follow-ups to her post with heartfelt warm wishes from other group members, and they brought a tear to the eye of this group moderator. Partly for the sadness that Kay still has to deal with, but equally for the sheer outpouring of humanity that "my" group showed throughout Kay's ordeal.
And lets face it.... read the papers any day of the week and its pretty obvious that the world could use a little outpouring of humanity. So I want to publicly thank my group members for what they did for Kay. Some members post more than others and that is fine. As administrator of the group I do "see" how many people actually followed Kay's story by either reading it or posting to it, and it became the most "followed" story all year. The group is only as good as its members. They made a real difference in the life of a friend, and they should all be very proud of themselves. I certainly am proud of them, and of the little “family” that has blossomed here.
So in closing, I want to extend an invitation to all of the stores out there who are not yet members of the group to please join. Click here to send me a short message, and I will email you a link to join. I assure you it will be both informative and entertaining. And to Kay from all of the members of Grass Clippings… “We wish you all the best in the next chapter in your life, and hope that you keep in touch and let us know how you are doing”.
Peace, love, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Kay Bigelow Kirkland
November 19th at 7:30 PM As of 4:15 today, I no longer own The Paisley Bride. I had settlement & then had a good cry. This marks just another thing gone from my life since the very sudden and unexpected death of my husband, Dwight.
Not sure if I should be happy or sad, but I will say that I am grateful to have sold my business instead of the nightmare of trying to close it. But still, it was hard to walk away from all that I have worked so hard for.
I want to publicly thank Howard Grass…. He and I go back a long, long way. His professionalism goes without saying. More importantly, his kindness is above measure.
Dwight and I were at market and spoke with Howard mere hours before his passing. Howard has been in constant contact since..not just as my rep, but as my friend. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
So to all of my colleagues out there, both known and in cyber land, I wish you all the best.
The Paisley Bride
Kay Bigelow Kirkland Thank you all. This has been one of the hardest things I've ever been through. My heart is broken and life is so very different. Just trying to find my way. It helps to know people care. What a wonderful group you are
November 20 at 7:59pm · Like · 2 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
One of advantages in having your own blog is you get to “say” what’s on your mind, and I will attempt to do that without offending anyone.
My accountant told me a long time ago - "If you put 10 business owners in a room together, they will all argue that THEIR business is the toughest." That being said... Retail is a very hard job (I’m an ex-retailer) - and the bridal business may be the most difficult of all retail businesses. And it seems to only be getting tougher. I have relationships with most of the top bridal stores in The Northeast and I hear it all the time: "The brides are getting more difficult every day. They are so demanding, and expect a "deal" on everything." The demanding part is a sign of the times, and is by no means exclusive to bridal. Walk around a grocery store and listen to how parents speak to their children (and vice versa), and its no surprise that there is little respect for a store owner, her staff, or her property - or for elders in general. But the "deal" part is something quite different...
The Internet is here to stay, and brides are much more informed shoppers than they ever were. As opposed to 25 years ago when I started in this business, Bridal Magazines are becoming less relevant; brides-to-be are far more likely to walk into a store with printouts from designers' websites than with torn out pages from a magazine. An educated consumer is not a bad thing, especially if you have quality sales consultants who know how to turn the preconceptions of what a bride "thinks she wants to wear", into what she REALLY wants to wear (and that you carry). LOL
Where it gets a little dicey however is with price - and how that relates to the world of e-commerce. Pick a line: A & B, C. D. Bridal, E and F Couture .... - chances are you can buy it on line from an e-commerce website. An MSRP set by the designer to “support” their retail partners? Meaningless when the collection is available on line. What bride in her right mind would buy a bridal gown from a website for the same price that she could get it from your beautiful salon and its knowledgeable staff, with all of it’s full service amenities? The answer - "she's NOT paying the same price". I don't care what the posted price on the website might be, all it takes is a quick email to the e-commerce site to find out what the "real/best" price would be, and your sale is lost. The brides these days have no compunction about booking an appointment in your salon, "wasting" 2 hours of your consultant's time to find their dream dress (AND the size she would need to order), thanking you for your time, and then running out to the car to order it from HXXXE of BRXXXS on her cell phone. And if you're lucky.... she may even have the gall to tell you that's exactly what she plans on doing as she thanks you for your time and leaves the salon. An easy business.... hardly!
And speaking of "ordering it from a cell phone", don't these designers have any pride in their brand. They spend all of their time, energy (and money) to build their name into something "special", and then make it available on every schlocky website run by <<pick a name>> and his wife from a desk in the corner of their kitchen... but I digress.
Now don't get me wrong; this is America and I believe in the free enterprise system. There are some very professionally run e-commerce bridal sites out there, and they have every right to choose their business model and run their business any way they see fit. All I’m saying is that you have just as much right to choose who you do business with, and you DO have choices.
There ARE designers out there that do not allow their brand to be sold on line, and I am proud to say that Paloma Blanca and Mikaella are one (two) of them - and there are others. I love it when I hear the following from a store owner:
Howard, I called the owner of XXXX last week because I had enough of this bullshit about them selling to all of the e-commerce sites. The answer I got from him was "I know it makes it hard for my brick and mortar stores, but I do so much business with these sites that I just can't stop working with them".
Trust me, when Marty made his decision 5 years ago to stop allowing ANY of our gowns to be sold anywhere in the world on line, we lost accounts that did big business with us - and some of them were in my territory. But you either support the full service bridal store or you don't – it’s as simple as that. Kind of like "being pregnant" - you either are or you're not!
Now I’m not suggesting that any store should totally eliminate these lines that work with these websites, but you will limit your frustration if you limit the number of them that you carry. Hell… the 4 or 5 biggest “culprits” all look pretty much the same and are all in the same general price range. And don’t be afraid to tell your sales reps and the owners (if you can get them to take your calls) what you think about this. We do live in a democracy and we should celebrate our freedom of speech.
If I go missing in the next few weeks, you’ll be sure to know where to point the finger
In addition, don't shy away from explaining to your brides the pitfalls of buying their gown on line. Who's going to alter it? What happens if it comes in wrong - or needs last minute repairs? And don't apologize that your price is higher than the websites...celebrate it! Explain why it's worth every penny of the few extra hundred dollars you charge, and why they'd be a damn fool to deal with anyone else (especially someone they can't even look in the eye to decide whether they'll "be there for them" on their special day - if need be.
I know... It's easy for me to stand on my soapbox and preach - I don't have to deal with the brides day in and day out (and I'm thankful for that). Like I said, "What you do isn't easy”, and I have the upmost respect for all of you. But you do have choices, especially in your business partners. Choose wisely. IMHO…
Even though my wife surprised the crap out me with a surprise party back in July, I turn 60 on September 16th. If a man can't reflect on his life at 60, then when so here goes...
I never liked the word "lucky". It implies somehow “getting something you had no business getting”, like winning 50 million dollars in the lottery. I prefer the word "fortunate" (or even "blessed"), because somehow those words imply that one had some small influence in an outcome.
A salesman friend once said to me "Stanley is so lucky to have gotten Maggie Sottero” (one of the hottest bridal lines a few years back - for my non-bridal friends reading this). I replied, "I totally disagree! Not only did he pay his dues by being one of the most respected reps in our industry for 40 plus years, but also he was smart enough to see the potential of the line long before it was anything "special". Getting the line had nothing to do with luck.
I am including a few pictures from our family vacation at the beach in The Outer Banks, NC last month, where we have been "fortunate" enough to be able to rent a beach house for a week for the past 15 years. It is the highlight of The Grass Family Year - mostly because we get to spend 7 days together as a family again - it’s almost like being able to go back in time! And to think that our kids want to spend a week of vacation with their parents humbles us. I sure wouldn’t have when I was their age.
The up-to-date family portrait now includes a beautiful wife, 4 sons (who are my grandest achievement), 2 loving Daughters-in-law, 2 "significant others", and the new loves of my life - my 3 grandchildren. Now I have posted family pictures before, and I DO appreciate the comments I get about "how beautiful of a family I have". They have great genes (LOL) so of course they are beautiful, but its what you can't see in the photo that makes them all so special. These are the finest young men you will ever meet, and my heart soars when I get to "talk" about them. They learned from their Mother early on what a wife should be, and they chose their spouses well. 2 of them are the heads of their family now, and they are experiencing first hand what a joy (and how difficult it is) to be parents - and they seemed to have "paid close attention" growing up in our home.
Carol and I made a decision 35 years ago that we wanted a stay-at-home Mom in our family, and we sacrificed much to make that happen. Now I totally respect any woman who chooses a career as a life path, and I'm sure there are tons of GREAT mothers reading this who either out of choice or necessity sent their kids to daycare. But we decided early on that for us, it would be better for our boys to have their mother be home 24/7. The plan was supposed to last until they went to school, but the plan WASN'T having 4 kids, and every time it was possible to consider going back to work, Carol announced that she was pregnant again; and things just kind of self-perpetuated.
As a side note, our son Andrew approached Carol 4 years ago right after Devyn was born (and right before Lindsay had to go back to work after Maternity leave) to find out if she would be willing to help out a few days a week by taking care of Devyn (and then Devyn and Madison) when Lindsay went back to work part time. His pitch was "We all experienced first hand what it was like having you at home all the time when we were young, and I would like my girl(s) to be able to have that as well". Like I said, “my boys paid attention growing up in our home”, and obviously Andrew developed some "serious sales skills" to come up with that sales pitch to Carol. He "closed" that deal immediately as Carol "volunteered" for the babysitting gig, and she still gets up at 6:45AM twice a week to watch Nanny’s "girlies". In fairness, it is the highlight of her week! She starts next week watching Sullivan (our 10 week-old grandson) one day a week as well. Bottom line is she was born to be a Mother (and a Grandmother).
Further reflection finds me in good health living in a nice home in a beautiful neighborhood in Chester County, PA. I have a job I love, am able to be off every summer and every winter, and Carol and I are quite happy to be the only 2 people living in a 5-bedroom house. We have no interest in downsizing to a smaller home, as this house is where we raised our family (and grew up together). We are also blessed that for the time being...all 4 of our sons live in Chester County - something that we don't take for granted as they all live within 30 minutes of us. Our plan is to stay here as long as we can take care of the house, and hopefully watch our grandchildren spend most Sunday Afternoons in the summer swimming in the pool and watching their Fathers barbecue at PopPop's outdoor kitchen (watching the 4 boys take over for their dad as Grillmeisters cooking dinner with a beer in their hands and talking fantasy football is worth the price of admission).
Speaking of "health", I am a Kidney Cancer Survivor and just had my first 6 month Cat scan, which came back "perfectly clean". I am in the best shape of my life practicing Bikram Yoga 2-3 times a week, and it saved my life a few years back when I developed a very serious medical condition (Google “Bikram Yoga” some time).
I have a small group or really close friends who I cherish, and I have 2 sisters and a brother-in law and their families whom I adore. I have another huge group of the best bridal/social occasion store owners in the Northeast who I am also proud to call my friends, and the way they have treated me over my 25 year career can not be put properly into words.
And finally I am truly "blessed" to have found someone like Carol to share 40 of my 60-year ride with me. A friend once told me that I am not the easiest person to live with (as did my Doctor), and although difficult to admit, they were probably right. She has supported me through good times and bad, taken care of me when I was sick, did a huge part of the parenting while I travelled (and changed ALL of the diapers), and has been my biggest cheerleader.
Lucky? Fortunate? Blessed?
Maybe I was wrong...
I AM the luckiest man in the world.
When you host your own blog you get to write about whatever you want. I love telling stories, and this is a beautiful one with a special ending.
My oldest son Justin and his wife Kate were married last May in a beautiful ceremony on the Main Line and yes... Kate WAS a Paloma Bride (besides being loving and beautiful she is VERY smart ). In October they informed us that they were expecting their first child, and Carol and I were overjoyed.
They chose not to find out the sex of the baby beforehand, and so all through the Spring there were discussions about name possibilities for both girls and boys. Now I've been through this before having 2 granddaughters from Andrew and Lindsay. I vaguely remember the weeks leading up to the births where name possibilities were discussed - but it was ALWAYS about the "first name" only. Never once with my 2 girlies nor with Justin and Kate was there ever a mention of a possible middle name for the newborn.
So by the time Kate's Family and Carol and I were patiently waiting in the Waiting Room in the Maternity Ward of Paoli Hospital (maybe it was "impatiently waiting"), it had been narrowed down to 2 possible girl names, and either Caleb or Sullivan if it was a boy...and that they would decide on the name after they "saw" him or her. At about 9PM on June 26th, Justin walked beaming into the waiting room to announce that Kate had delivered a 9 lb. 10 oz., 23" baby boy about 30 minutes earlier. A GRANDSON, and our first one. And from our oldest son, and Kate and the baby were doing fine, and we were overjoyed. But wait... what was his name? And then Justin told us "Sullivan Howard Grass". The middle name often gets overlooked, and rightfully so. But this one had a familiar ring, and then it dawned on me - THEY NAMED HIM AFTER ME!
Never in my 59 1/2 years did I once consider the possibility that a grandchild of mine might be named after me, and when it hit me - tears streamed down my face (and I don't cry easily). I'm "only" an Account Executive in the Bridal B usiness. I'm never going to win an Emmy; I'm not getting elected into Cooperstown; and I have no shot of winning a Nobel Prize - and that's fine by me (I'm a very private person anyway). This is just about as good as it gets for someone like me. Now I do expect to have more grandsons than just Sullivan having, 4 sons of my own, and Nanny and PopPop have already been blessed with 2 amazing granddaughters - Devyn Leigh and Madison Rae. But I now am assured that The Grass Name will live on for another generation, and that makes me very pleased indeed.
And maybe just maybe... one day in the future when I'm "long gone", a young child will ask at a Family Get-together "Where did Sullivan get his middle name?". My hope is that someone will answer that he was named after Howard Jay Grass, and that he was a good husband and father, a gentleman, and a kind and decent Human Being.
The Grass Family in general, and Howard Grass in particular are truly blessed. HG
This is my first blog post, and I am very excited about being able to express myself more than once every 6 months through my Newsletter "Grass Clippings". In my 59 years on this earth, I've encountered a ton of mediocrity in this world, and it is one of the few things in life that bothers me. My good friend (and the only person who has cut my hair since I was 16) Clem and I often discuss the "meaning of life" in his barber chair, and he told me once that he gets really bothered when he sees his trash man spilling garbage or leaving his trash cans in the street. "Howard" he said, "It doesn't matter what a person does, but he should do a good job at it - even a trash man", and he is 100% right! That goes for bridal store owners and it certainly goes for Sales Reps.
What makes a good sales rep? Is he responsive to his customers? Does he follow up in a timely fashion. Does he support his stores' best interests in dealing with his companies? Is he knowledgeable about his product and his industry? Is he professional? I'm sure you could add a lot to this list, and I hope that I would get a "good grade" in this regard. But something happened last week that led me this theme for my first blog post…
I live in Philadelphia, and only have a few accounts in upstate NY, which is the most distant part of my territory. I usually save this area for the end of the Fall season, partly because of the weather and partly because I am a creature of habit and have always travelled my territory this way. Having higher priced bridal lines like Paloma Blanca and Mikaella, combined with the fact that I see a few of my NY stores at market, I ended up with only 3 stores I needed to visit last week - one in Syracuse, one in Rochester, and one in Buffalo. So I scheduled all 3 appointments for Wednesday and Thursday, and planned on leaving Tuesday in my car for my first appointment on Wednesday. On Tuesday morning (within 30 minutes of each other) I received 2 phone calls canceling my Syracuse and Rochester appointments, leaving me with one appointment in all of upstate NY - and it was in Buffalo! Take a look at a map… West Chester, PA to Buffalo, NY is a 9 hour drive, and I would have had to turn around and drive home 9 hours right after the appointment .
I knew that if I called my Buffalo account and told her I would need to drive 18 hours in 2 days to see only her, that she would have ABSOLUTELY told me "we could do it over the phone". When I was very sick 3 years ago and was not able to get to Buffalo, we did work over the phone - and it sufficed under the circumstances. But I was not sick last week and this is a very important account (all of my stores are important). Anyone who has seen the type of presentation materials Paloma Blanca and Mikaella gives me to allow my stores who don't go to market to make good buying decisions know that it it is MUCH more advantageous to use my folders to pick their samples in person - as opposed to ordering from a catalog.
To be truthful, I didn't drive 18 hours in 2 days to see one store, but I DID keep the appointment. I ended up booking a last minute flight from Phila to Buffalo (through Detroit), rented a car (which I never do), arrived at my store at 9AM and had a very productive meeting. I then drove to the airport, took 2 weather delayed flights to get back to Philadelphia, and got home around 2AM. Now no one needs to feel sorry for Howard Grass. He has a great job that he loves, works for 4 great bosses, and earns a nice living. I don't regret for one minute the decisions I made that Tuesday - to keep the appointment instead of canceling it and working over the phone, nor the decision to book a flight last minute rather than drive - because it allowed me to live up to my own standard for life in general - and for work specifically: Do things THE RIGHT WAY! HG