The catalogs of November clog the mailbox. Who needs another sweater in quarantine? I feel fleeced already.
Yet occasionally a catalog does wander in that really does offer unique merchandise and the aroma of genuine value. I read and re-read the Garrett Wade catalog last night and then presented it to Risa, who also got into it for a half hour before bed. It has no gadgets, no apparel, just interesting stuff that you could imagine holding onto for decades or giving to a grandchild who would probably think you were nuts. But then they start to use the item and remember you fondly a decade later for being prescient enough to give it to them.
On page 3 is a “Baker’s Gift Set” of three stoneware mixing bowls, a rolling pin, and dough scraper. Then there is a rattan fermenting basket that “breathes.” The copy reads “for allowing a more controlled second rise.” The rolling pin is made with beechwood.
I probably won’t bake with it myself, but I can think of half a dozen people who would adore it. I do not know the difference between beechwood and maple in a simple implement.
What thrilled me about this 56-page piece of thoughtful literature was its variety and precise detail. The photos are compact, but informative. No background distraction. No extravagant drool about the products, yet they are attractive in their simplicity.
On page 6 I was captivated by an insulated stainless steel coffee mug, which says it will keep coffee hot all morning. Another set is on page 9. They seem expensive, but they will never chip. What is that worth to me?
On page 13 is a Gerstner 6 drawer tool chest. I have admired Gerstner products for many years. I gave one to the head of our shop, and I think that he valued it more than the yearly Christmas bonus checks that he came to expect and treated as a deferred wage.
The value of a present like a Gerstner box to another person–or to yourself–is that it embodies handmade beauty and caring. It is so much more than a pair of Nikes.
For a person in business, the Garrett Wade catalog is a primer on how to impart value to your truly valuable products.
On page 16, the essence of how to sell the seemingly mundane comes alive with doormats. “Exceptionally Good Coir Doormats.”
I thought my vocabulary was pretty good, but I had no idea what coir was (the interior fibers harvested from fully ripe coconut husks). The copy went on to tell me that typically coir is processed to make it softer, but this takes some of the properties of toughness, durability, and abrasion resistance out of it. These mats are the real things for scuzzy boots.
I slowly paged through the Garrett Wade pages until I reached page 37, the showstopper for me. I am a person who has spent a lifetime selling National Acme and New Britain screw machines to folks who banged out millions of brass fittings, hoping to harvest their meager profit from the chips from which they centrifuged the oil, until the business all migrated to China and India.
“Solid Brass Quick Change Hose Fittings” is the heading. The catalog tells the reader that “solid machined brass fittings are infinitely superior to commonly available plastic. These convert standard screw-on fittings to quick change fittings, allowing rapid changing of watering accessories and easy movement of the hose.”
In one simple paragraph, a commodity became a highly valued, beautiful article for the gardener. A set of four fittings is on sale for $29.95, normally $36. They are artfully photographed as individual products, male and female. The hose fitting becomes something special.
For people in the turned parts business, I think there is a real lesson to be learned by the pros at Garrett Ward.
It takes tremendous talent to make machined products well. Our task is to explain their value as they do in the catalog, and to find the customers who value the artistry in each fitting, both male and female.
Just as I learned about coir, our task is to bring the beauty of our products to the attention of potential buyers with passion.
We need to teach them about the value of a beechwood rolling pin, and the beauty of a perfect thread in a brass fitting.
Question: What is the most memorable gift you’ve received?