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Cashing in on Clinton.

State Businesses, Products Are in Demand As a Native Son Goes to Washington

JUST AFTER THE NOV. 3 election, a woman in Ohio placed a telephone order to the Hillbilly Smokehouse in Rogers.

She sent a gift package of meat to a cousin in California and en-closed a card that read, "Down East is out, down South is in. Learn the cuisine."

"I think that is the way to say it. Don't you?" says Penny Wright, the sales manager at the Hillbilly Smokehouse.

National business at the Hillbilly Smokehouse, which has a processing and shipping area next to its restaurant along U.S. 71, has increased this year for two reasons. First, instead of mailing out its usual shipment of 5,000 catalogs, the company sent out 8,000.

Second, owner Tom Baumgartner tested a new approach by designing the catalogs around a theme.

Baumgartner had faith Bill Clinton would be the nation's next president, so he used the catalog to highlight scenic locales such as the Buffalo River and the "Pig Trail" leading to Fayetteville.

Also, he advertised in the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission's "Arkansas Gift Catalog," which was sent to 3,000 in-state retailers, 2,200 out-of-state retailers and 1,800 Washington, D.C., retailers.

"The bottom line is we think that there is some real potential to add to our sales through identifying with Clinton," Baumgartner says. "We just haven't quite gotten there yet."

Baumgartner is too busy taking orders--particularly from the Washington area and the Southeast--to plan other ways to capitalize on the Clinton presidency.

Eventually, he may hire a Washington advertising or public relations firm to help market his business.

And he isn't the only one reconsidering his options because of the results of Nov. 3.

Lehman Fowler, president of Della Gourmet Rice in Brinkley, is issuing a national news release to promote his company.

"There seems to be a magical reaction to three words: Clinton, Little Rock and Arkansas," says Fowler, who sent his release with a Little Rock dateline instead of one from Brinkley. "We want folks to know that the rice the Governor's Mansion has been preparing for Gov. Clinton is Della Gourmet Rice."

So, in the news release Fowler refers to the rice as being "a staple of the pantry" at the mansion.

Other business owners are more careful about exploiting the Clinton connection, even though they admit to profiting from it.

The Hot Springs-based Mountain Valley Spring Co. has been the choice for bottled water at the White House since 1925.

Tom Mitchell, the company's vice president and general manager, says that Mountain Valley was bottling water before bottled water was cool.

He says presidents began drinking it when they traveled.

This continued from 1925 through President Nixon's trip to China, through President Reagan's trip to Russia and includes the many travels of President Bush aboard Air Force One.

"While we've gotten a lot of visibility and a lot of notoriety from Clinton being elected, we're not new to Washington," Mitchell says. "When he gets there, we'll be waiting on him."

If Clinton's photo is snapped with a bottle of Mountain Valley in his hand, don't expect to see it appear in an advertisement.

"For us to say we're Bill Clinton's water ... that's a good way to get in trouble in a hurry," Mitchell says. "That's not going to become a part of our campaign.

"You can't commercialize the presidency."

Or Can You?

After advertising in the "Arkansas Gift Catalog," Kendall Poe of Classic Candies at Ratcliff in Franklin County is receiving requests for "anything with Arkansas on it."

He's custom-making a chocolate bar with a picture of the White House.

Poe then wants to create a phrase to tie the bar to Arkansas.

"We'll try to promote this some way," he says.

Others aren't having to go to as much trouble.

Tina Post at Post Familie Vineyards & Winery in Altus has a picture of Clinton drinking some of the muscadine juice that the company sells.

Post plans to have the picture enlarged significantly so she can take it to The Market: Specialty Foods & Confections next month in Dallas.

She will attach to the picture a sign that reads, "Clinton likes our juice."

Some Arkansas business people are finding this is a good time to begin attending national conventions they have disregarded in the past.

Lisa Kane and Julie Miller, who own the 13-month-old hot drink mix company T & Me Inc., are considering attending conventions coast to coast. Just a few months ago, they seriously debated paying the $495 advertising fee to be in the gift catalog.

"I'm telling you, within the first two hours the ad space paid for itself," Kane says.

T & Me could not have debuted in the 3-year-old catalog at a better time.

The company has received calls from potential customers in Virginia and Massachusetts.

"It's just a wonderful time to be an Arkansas manufacturer," Kane says.

She and Miller expected their business to increase by 400 percent this year.

Instead, it has experienced a 600 percent growth rate.

"This year there's just so much focus on Arkansas, even from Arkansans," says Shannon King of Glynda Turley Prints Inc. in Heber Springs.

Artist Glynda Turley is being featured in one Arkansas publication and two national trade publications this month. King says that's creating even more interest in the business.

Media attention is proving to be a facilitator for some Arkansas businesses looking to make a move to Washington.

George Eldridge of Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock says he considered going to the nation's capital even before the deluge of national press his restaurant received during the campaign. Now, Washington-based reporters and former campaign workers are anxiously awaiting the Doe's opening on the East Coast.

And Arkansas companies are now calling Eldridge to cash in, too.

For instance, Fowler spoke to Eldridge about serving Della Rice at the restaurant.

Mitchell dropped by the Little Rock Doe's with some complimentary Mountain Valley Spring Water for Eldridge to sample.

Fowler even suggested Eldridge set aside a room at his new location to sell Arkansas products, and Eldridge thanked Fowler for the good suggestion.

The President's Pick

When Jimmy Carter became the 39th president of the United States, the peanut took on a popularity it had not experienced since peanut butter was invented.

Plains, Ga., where Carter operated a peanut warehouse, became a boom town, and the peanut became forever associated with Carter. Carter's caricature often was drawn with peanuts.

Linton Broome, the vice president of the Georgia State Chamber of Commerce, says Carter's presidency called attention to the fact that the peanut is the No. 1 product the state produces.

"Even though peaches get more publicity, the peaches were sort of overshadowed by the peanuts," Broome says.

Does that mean watermelons, for which Clinton's birthplace of Hope is famous, are going to become the country's latest craze?

Or will a simpler treat like Reagan's jelly beans rule for at the least the next four years?

While there are signs that University of Arkansas Razorback paraphernalia is becoming popular, one Washington resident cautions that the capital city is still a political town.

Even the beloved Washington Redskins of the National Football League get short-shrifted on publicity in some of the more exclusive Washington establishments.

But some Arkansas products have a chance to make their mark in a few of the more uptown businesses.

York Red River Pecan Co. has received 250 inquiries from advertising in the gift catalog. Owner Mary Shermer says several of those calls are coming from gourmet markets and boutiques in the Washington area.

A spokesman at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel also has called to sample some of York's pecan products.

Richard Kline, materials manager at the Willard, says he originally spoke with the AIDC about finding an Arkansas candy or something indicative of the state with which to fill candy jars. Such a familiar candy will serve as a welcome in hotel rooms during the inauguration next month.

When Kline was sent the "Arkansas Gift Catalog," he found more than just candy.

He's been looking for a company to build butler's trays for the hotel. So, when he saw the ad for Morphis Enterprises in Horseshoe Bend, he had the idea of working with a small company.

"If these butler trays work out for us, I can imagine doing business with this gentleman for years to come," Kline says.

That's something with which nationally established Arkansas companies already are concerned.

"We don't want to get tossed out eight years from now when he can't run again," says Mitchell at Mountain Valley.

It is true that Arkansas companies now have an "in" nationally and especially in Washington because of Clinton. However, when he leaves office, that does not necessarily mean they will be coming back to Arkansas with him.

Staying Hot

For instance, Barry Scher, vice president of public affairs at the Washington-based food chain Giant Food Inc., says his company has decided to carry McClard's barbecue sauce made famous at McClard's restaurant in Hot Springs.

It was a move brought on by Clinton's impending presidency.

But if the product does well for the chain, it would not discontinue buying the sauce when Clinton completes his term, Scher says.

Last week, Giant purchased its first shipment of the sauce -- 250 cases with 12 containers each of the 18-ounce bottles.

The chain will act as a broker for the sauce in the store's trade area.

This is a big step for Alex's Food Co., which markets the sauce. Stockholder John Cox says he originally advertised with smaller ambitions.

"My interest was to try to reach as many Arkansas companies as I could," he says.

He's thrilled with the national attention.

Cox doesn't have the only popular barbecue sauce in the state.

Ray "Red" Gill at River City Spice in Blytheville says of the national requests he's receiving, "They're working us to death."

A broker is talking to him about selling to four food chains, including IGA Inc.

Gill says he did not catch the other names when the broker called because "he talked so fast, that Washington talk."

The talk isn't scaring Gill away, however.

He's headed to a Washington restaurant for the inauguration because "they even want me to come up there and show them how to cook an Arkansas meal."

It's too early to tell how much extra business Arkansas companies are going to do or at what dollar volume, but it does look like the earnings will be shared between many.

Arkansas business people are beginning to realize this.

"You wouldn't believe the number of calls," Cox says of his national business in the last month or two.

He stops, quickly reflects and then says, "Well, maybe you would."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Bill Clinton's poll victory as a boost to businesses in Arkansas
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Dec 14, 1992
Words:1795
Previous Article:Morrilton Packing executive named to industry board.
Next Article:On the cutting edge.
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