Happy Monday to all and #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you! Even though this is the last Monday of 2020, I am looking forward to 52 more chances in 2021!
It’s still December for a few more days. That means it’s still National Write A Business Plan Month! The pandemic effect on 2020 has left many people out of work and others having to close their businesses for good. And, as we start planning our resolutions for the new year, what a great time it is to think about starting a small internet business venture.
There wasn’t internet around when Mom suddenly switched gears and went from a syndicated columnist to a self-published journalist. Additionally, the 1970s were going through major challenges – food shortages, paper shortages, sky-rocketing unemployment, and so forth. But FATE was steering Mom into a particular “business plan”, even though it wasn’t exactly what she had planned for her future writing career when she was young.
‘It was all leading to my eventual work in the food industry – but I couldn’t see that at the time – I could only see that I had to write and with any luck at all, luck would be when preparation and experience met opportunity. The opportunity was close at hand.’ – Gloria Pitzer [As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 294)]
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it was almost half of a century ago when Mom left her newspaper job and began her own family owned and operated, cottage-style, dining room table business. In the fall of 1973 Mom started putting together her first newsletter, titled Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter, following the earlier release of her first, self-published, cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (1973), which was compiled from a collection of recipes she had developed while writing her syndicated, food-for-thought and recipe column called “Cookbook Corner”.
The following excerpts are Mom’s account of how her fate-driven business plan came about…
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 296)
[MY] FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE 
IT WAS THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication. It was something I had always wanted to do. I couldn’t tell Paul. I knew that! He would have been far too practical to have approved of my starting my own paper, so I enlisted the help of our children.
I was taking in ironing at the time, at $5 a basket, and sometimes earned as much as $50 a week. The money was supposed to supplement Paul’s paycheck, which – as soon as we found could make ends meet – we discovered somebody had moved the ends. So, I took what money I could from the ironing earnings and bought a mimeograph. I kept it in a big box in the utility room under my sewing table. Paul would hardly pay attention to what I wanted him to think was only sewing paraphernalia.
For 9 months, I mimeograph, assembled and mailed out about 100 copies a month of my newsletter. Bill and Mike helped assemble it and Debbie help me test the recipes and address the copies. I don’t know how we ever kept it from Paul for that long, but I couldn’t tell him what I was doing until I could assure him that I could make a profit. All I was doing was breaking even.
Then Dennis Wholley, at Channel 7 in Detroit, called and said somebody had sent him a copy of my newsletter. He was tickled with the crazy names I gave the recipes and the home-spun format. He wanted the entire family to be his guests on his “A.M. Detroit” show on November 14 – which was also our Laura’s birthday.
I couldn’t keep it from Paul any longer, because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote the paper on a popular local television show. He took it quite well, considering the state of shock he must have been in at my announcement. But we took all 5 of the kids with us across town, in a blizzard yet, with Laura having a bout of car-sickness during the hour’s drive there.
And, during that experience, we met Coleman Young, the recently elected mayor of Detroit, who was also a guest on the show. All of Pearl Beach must have been tuned into a.m. Detroit that morning, with half of the population gathered at the Pearl Beach post office, watching the portable set there.
It brought us many new orders for our newsletter, and it wasn’t long before CKLW’s Bob Heinz asked us to appear on his show on New Year’s Day. We, again, took the family over to Windsor, Ontario – across the Detroit River – for another exciting experience and hundreds of letters that followed, wanting to subscribe to the newsletter. By that time, Paul was giving me every evening of his time when he came home from his own job at the sign company, plus all the weekends just to fill the orders.
My list of ‘Secret Recipes’ had grown to 200 and we offered them, on 4×6-inch cards [that I printed on my mimeograph], at $.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders, so I put all those recipes into a book. It was going to be our only book on the subject, since most of the recipes were fast foods – but, as it turned out, it was only the first in a series of five books. After ‘Book One’ took off and became a very good seller, I did a Bicentennial American Cookery book as a limited edition and was pleased when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan ordered copies for their Bicentennial collection. That was July 1976…
‘Apparently, it’s true, that LIFE is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.’– Gloria Pitzer [As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 292).]
If someone were to copy our so-called ‘success’, I could give them no blue print for that condition. Each one of the little steps that we had to take to develop the kitchen table activity into a professional business operation, are like the grains of sand that the oyster requires in order to form a pearl. – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 25)
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 42)
HOW IT BEGAN (1973 – 1974)… CRITICAL EARLY ADVANTAGE
THE MIMEOGRAPH did give me the advantage of being self-sufficient without having to go into debt. Paul failed to see the importance of my having to have this, until I showed him the receipt for it having been paid-in-full, and the bankbook that showed him exactly how much I had earned from having printed a newspaper column on the machine, then selling them to 11 newspapers around the state.
John McPartlin had loaned me his newspaper directory, from which I drew the names and addresses of those weekly papers that had a circulation sufficient to afford a dollar per column, per week. Considering the mimeograph only cost $79.95, I feel I did pretty well, skimping and scraping to get it paid for. Paul was skeptical, however, that it would ever be anything then an expensive hobby. I think I must have tried so very hard to be the best I could be, to prove to him that he was wrong about me.
THE NEWSLETTER BEGAN with the mimeograph in our utility room where I cut the stencils, inked the drum by hand, applied the stencils and ran the copies off, a few hundred at a time, allowing them to air-dry on the dining room table in the next room. The dining room table was a door to which Paul had affixed four table legs. It was seldom clear of our work. I never gave any thought, then either, to the number of hours that we put into producing the newsletter. We simply worked until the work was finished, or we found a good ‘breaking-off’ point.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 43)
To make the mimeograph pay for itself, I even printed up my own business cards on it, using dime-store construction paper and then cutting the cards apart with scissors until I had neat little stacks of about 50 and a total of 200 or 300 cards. These I distributed at the mall whenever and wherever we might be in one. Paul did not know I was doing this, at first, either, or he would’ve disapproved.
It was unprofessional and risky, but I thought anything was worth a try and what I could do ‘quietly’ until I could prove it was either a mistake or a benefit, would have to be my little secret. Well, actually, the kids were a part of that secret too. I had heard an interview on TV or radio with ‘the world’s most successful salesman’, who was a Chevrolet salesman in Detroit and who believed heartily in business cards, placing them everywhere and anywhere that it was allowed.
From his story, I found it was easy to drop my card into the pocket of a bathrobe in the ladies’ wear [areas] in the department stores and in the purses and tote bags, on public phone booth stands, [in] restaurant restrooms, even in cookbooks in the bookstores.
From these, you’d be surprised, we DID hear from people who wanted to know about my recipes, which was the first experience I had with public response. What I had at that time was a little book entitled ‘The Better Cookers Cookbook’ , as opposed to our current popular book, ‘Better Cookery’. [May 1983, 3rd Edition – the one I rewrote for Mom.]
The distribution of information on the book included my mailing a copy of it along with a letter explaining how and why it was written, to several of my favorite newspaper columnists and friends. One with whom I had contact on various subjects before, was Bob Talbert of the Detroit Free Press. He mentioned this little book in one of his columns as ‘for a buck-and-a-half-and-a-belly-laugh’. It worked!
Since today is National Chocolate Candy Day, here is Mom’s imitation for making homemade ‘Mounds’ candy bars, which she called ‘Patter Paul Ounce Bars’; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 223). Enjoy!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Learn something new every day!
Some other celebrations for this week include:
Tuesday is National Pepper Pot Day!
Wednesday is Bacon Day! Here’s an encore posting of my Aunt Hazel’s Hot Dog & Bacon BBQ… Enjoy, again!
Friday is New Year’s Day 2021 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Today would be my regular monthly visit with Kathy Keene on WHBY’s “Good Neighbor” show – but it had to be postponed to Thursday, the 31st. I will still be on during the first half-hour of the show – starting around 12:08pm (Eastern Time). Check it out live, on New Year’s Eve, (or later) through the station’s website at https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/!
…52 down, a whole new year to go!
Happy 2021 to everyone! May it be a more contented and healthier one for all of us!