Archives for May 2012
I lead a very settled life. My friends don’t come over to help me move, but to make sure I’m staying put. I’m comfortable with the brand of disposable razor I feel is less injurious to my skin, and I have all my favourite channels programmed into my car radio. I’ve set up my sock and underwear drawer so that nothing is worn out of rotation, and I’ve added a digital component to the schedule that manages my daily doses of medicines for which I now get a discount at Shoppers Drug Mart, thank you very much.
So it was a bit of a shock to land in New York City for the luxury packaging show recently, because that town is anything but settled. It’s an urban antidote for a midlife crisis. At any time of the day or night, on any street and in any direction, there is a sea of yellow cabs seemingly fighting to get upstream to spawn, and a teeming mass of humanity chasing the spectacle on foot. They say you can tell a New Yorker because they walk on the street instead of the sidewalk. One thing for certain, is their impatience.
I’m walking down Broadway from 24th, headed for Soho, to meet up with an ex-Mink staffer now working at the flagship Aritzia store, when I get not-asked for directions. There’s me, innocent pedestrian, hoofing down the street, when I hear a horn, and all of a sudden some guy is like, “BROOKLYN BRIDGE!” like I was supposed to text him directions and because I didn’t, I’m wasting his time. “C’mon, let’s go, Brooklyn Bridge!” but before I could pull out my walking map of Manhattan and explain that I’m not from there, I get the finger, and he’s gone.
I eschew the GPS function on my phone for the comfort of unfolding a large map on a windy street corner and using a credit card sized pocket magnifier to read the streets, and determine which way I need to walk to get to the next of the many landmark chocolate shops I have to try before leaving town.
I can now see New Jersey, and suspect I’ve walked in the wrong direction, so I phone my wife and ask her to Google directions to Kees Chocolates, and while she’s at it, give me the street view so I can anticipate landmarks.
“Did you go to Max Brenner’s?” she asks.
“Yes, and I bought Levi a t-shirt,” I reply.
“Burdicks, Jacques Torres, Maison du Chocolat?” she inquires further.
“No, yes and yes”, I reply.
“Black Hound, MarieBelle, The Chocolate Bar?” she continues.
“Yes, yes and no, because the Chocolate Bar stopped making those filled pucks you liked so much, so there was no point.
“Who else besides Kees is still on your list?” she wants to know.
“Ever eat so much chocolate that it makes you sick? Isn’t that the best?” I answer.
One of the things I’m specifically looking for at this show, is a way to package Easter eggs so I can sell them year-round, but not as Easter eggs. As a delivery vehicle of chocolately taste and texture, mini eggs are the perfect mouthful, but the Easter connotation is limiting.
I saw Jim Gaffigan do his bit about Easter eggs live at the Vogue Theatre a number of years ago, and have repeated it often:
”Easter, that’s a weird tradition.
In a female voice: Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead. What should we do?
In a male voice: How ’bout eggs?!
Female voice: Well, w-what does that have to do with Jesus?
Male voice: Alright, we’ll hide ’em.
Female voice: I don’t…I don’t follow your logic.
Male voice: Don’t worry, there’s a bunny.”
If you take away all the companies catering exclusively to fragrance and cosmetics, the show is small. I walk it through once for an overview, then go back to each booth of interest and make my inquiries. It seems the tactic of having one buxom mini skirt to hand out samples, flanked by a guy who just last month was running a blogger recovery support group and is now VP of International Sales, is par for the course.
“How many stores in your chain?” is generally the opening comment after reading Mink Chocolates on my lanyard tag.
“Two, plus e-commerce,” I say, at which he turns his back on me and to the model asks her to keep an eye out for the guys from Dolce & Gabanna.
I meet some folks from San Diego who print tissue, and have been to Vancouver. They in turn introduce me to a group from Chicago that make round boxes, and who happened to be hockey freaks, so they too, knew a lot about Vancouver, and both were receptive to my small company stature, and were willing to talk custom packaging even though my maximum quantities are as much as their machines can churn out just in the time it takes to turn the machine on and off.
At this stage of my settled life, if it’s the choice between buying a motorcycle, getting really into skydiving, or going to New York for a trade show, wisdom dictates that while I have the life experience, the confidence, and a steady paycheque to do either of the former, the latter scratches the midlife crisis itch, and is actually good for business.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
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