In the summer of 2015 Lug joined the J.W. Oliphant & Associates family of brands at QVC and in less than 18 months has firmly established itself as powerhouse in the QVC luggage/fashion accessories category. With sales soaring and a QVC customer base of “lugnuts” building stronger after every airing the path taken by owners Jason and Ami Richter resembles more of a road less traveled than a populated freeway.
You see, Jason and Ami are travelers by their very nature. From the moment they met at a trade show their relationship has been defined easily by one common thread, their love of travel! So when they decided to start their first business together it was natural that they would focus on their travel experience and as a result Lug, the company, was formed with a simple goal to freshen up an otherwise drab and colorless luggage retail environment with fun, functional and colorful designs. Their tagline... “live life in color” sums it up.
Ami heads up the design department ensuring her bags are always chock full of easy access storage and unique features that just make good sense. She “road tests” each bag to ensure it works just as she expects it to – on the road, at the airport, in the mall and everywhere in between! Her use of color and materials are the finishing touches that make Lug bags so special. From celebrities to moms and even the kids... Lug bags are a true expression of those “lugnuts” that carry them! On air, Ami exudes a fun and relatable style that connects effortlessly with her QVC customers. Her big smile and classy personal style lifts her brand’s prestige value enormously – around the QVC studios and around the country, women are furiously adding Ami’s Lug pieces to their collections!
Ami’s co-pilot, Jason, handles the rest of the business. With their explosive success at QVC Jason immediately chartered a course for future growth and sustainability that will allow Lug to continue to scale its business at QVC and around the world. What once may have been a “follow the North Star” approach has quickly turned into a GPS driven, turn-by-turn map complete with route options and coordinated waypoints!
These days, the pair along with their two little ones, and Ami’s parents can be spotted somewhere between PA, TX and Toronto, that is of course if they are not cruising the seven seas or hitting a theme park for the weekend. Those close to
Jason and Ami know that if they want to spend time with them they better schedule it in advance or be ready to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice!
Through their travels, Jason & Ami have met so many great friends and business partners. While they seem to move at the speed of light, they have taken time to smell the roses and appreciate what their journey has given them. Their regular sponsorship and participation in events that raise money for those living with illness or are otherwise disadvantaged is a reflection of the generosity and the balance they keep in their lives despite the hectic schedules they keep.
Like many entrepreneurs growing their business as fast as a moving train, Jason & Ami are tireless in their approach, always remembering to log their experiences into their daily travel journal... and never forgetting that their secret sauce may just well lie in the fact that regardless of whether they are in separate countries or in the same cab they are always moving together!
In a rare nod not often bestowed on a food brand, KIND Healthy Snacks has been nominated for the Rising Star at this year’s QVC Q Star Awards. Each year, QVC nominates a handful of vendors in a few key categories highlighting excellence in customer experience, product concepts, operations, innovation, teamwork and more.
According to Doug Howe, QVC’s EVP of Merchandising and Planning... “QVC’s QStar Awards program has helped us recognize vendors who set new standards for excellence. The accomplishments of these QStar vendors reflect the best of the best from our outstanding vendor community...”
With the leadership of J.W. Oliphant & Associates, KIND Healthy Snacks has elevated its business at QVC to new heights in revenue and customer connectivity over the past 3 years with a velocity and sustainability that have set new standards in the category.
In 2013, KIND Healthy Snacks enjoyed their first ever QVC TSV and wasted no time selling out earlier than expected. Shortly after, KIND and QVC teamed up with a “first to market” launch of the new KIND Healthy Grains Bars offering QVC customers the first opportunity in the United States to try this new line extension. QVC customers jumped at the chance to try the newest from KIND and they didn’t stop there... soaring numbers of customers signed up for an auto delivery program ensuring that even before they ever tasted a single NEW Healthy Grain Bar that they would have a regular supply every 60 days... WOW! KIND’s year kept on impressing the QStar committee as they drove into 4th Q with a bevy of Gourmet Holiday themed bundles and squarely planted themselves into the customers entertaining mindset as our imagined tagline, “we don’t stop snacking just because it’s the holidays...” became the connected entre to each live sell. The year closed with KIND Healthy Snacks taking the #2 revenue producing spot in the entire food category at QVC and being honored with the 2013 Rising Star QStar Award nomination.
Congratulations to John, Chuck, Marc, Cliff, Rami, Elle, Madeline, Jaclyn & Joanne at KIND and a big hug to Diane Welsh (KIND’s On Air Guest) and our entire J.W. Oliphant & Associates team :)
With 14 nominations and 6 award winners, J.W. Oliphant & Associates set the mark at the 2013 QVC Customer Choice Food Awards!
Throughout the month of August, customers, foodies, friends and family voted for their favorite food brands and yummy items regularly featured on QVC’s live broadcast. Only in its 3rd year, The QVC Customer Choice Food Awards has fast become the most highly anticipated QVC food event of the year... and in a year where the QVC food category grew significantly, J.W. Oliphant & Associates was honored to receive 14 nominations across 20 food categories.
Our standouts included Strawberry Hill Povitica, Sweet Endings, KIND Healthy Snacks, The Authentic Gourmet and McSteven’s
Judy Leibovit and her crew at Sweet Endings took home the award for “Best Newcomer” (A category where J.W. Oliphant & Associates had 3 of the 4 nominees). We are looking for big things this holiday season and into 2014 as Sweet Endings is quickly becoming “THE” layer cake brand at QVC.
KIND Healthy Snacks won the award for “Best Snack” in a hotly contested category. Congrats to John, Cliff, Rami, Joanne, Diane and the entire KIND-QVC team for their great partnership in 2013! KIND has become the predominant snack food force at QVC since their Valentine’s Day debut in 2011 and is considered now and iconic food brand on the QVC menu. KIND is one of the very few food brands that has broken out into a regular bevy of appearances in non-food QVC programming as it continues to ring true with QVC customers wherever and whenever it is aired. Coming off a record breaking January that included the brand’s first ever QVC TSV, KIND will finish 2013 as one of the top 3 revenue producing food brands on QVC - Love this!
The biggest winner at this year’s QVC Customer Choice Food Awards was The Authentic Gourmet. Nominated for 5 awards they cashed in winning all but one including: “Best Buy More & Save Offer”, “Foods That Make You Grateful For Auto-Delivery”, “Most Bang For Your Buck (Bonus Item)” and “Best Breakfast Food” (in a landslide).
Just as impressive, The Authentic Gourmet butter croissants were the #1 reordered food item on QVC in 2012 - looks like they are well on their way to this distinction again in 2013.
Special thanks go to the entire Authentic Gourmet team: Chris, Barry, Andy, Jimmy, Siroos & Richard for their part in making The Authentic Gourmet vision on QVC a reality!
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees this year... and if you haven’t tuned into QVC to check out their unbelievable food offerings... well, you really should :)
The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie?
When we discovered Bart’s Bakery at the Fancy Food Show in Washington DC in the summer of 2012 - it was the farthest eastward the brand and its owner namesake had ever traveled.
Even before we were properly acquainted, Bart proudly declared that his chocolate chip cookie was the “best in the world”
Uh, well, OK... uh we can work with that...
In fact, no one outside of Los Angeles county proper had ever really heard of Bart’s Bakery and as such could not possibly have an opinion on whether this exquisitely hand crafted artisanal dark chocolate filled, Madagascar vanilla laced miniature cookie gem was really the best chocolate chip cookie in the world... or not.
And who really cared anyway?
Well, at J.W. Oliphant & Associates we believed that a whole lot of folks would care. As a matter of fact, we thought that a question such as this would cut right to the emotional heart of of the chocolate chip cookie matter altogether... and with this much emotional charge accompanying a brand onto the live QVC TV arena, one thing would be for certain - Bart’s pride and joy would either be a huge hit or a big flop.
Just to be sure, we built in a significant value story to balance the strength of the emotional brand positioning. Since Bart’s cookies are miniature in size (Bart just doesn’t like large cookies) and given the strength of his baking efficiencies, we created an offer based on quantity rather than net weight. Knowing the QVC customer can more easily perceive a value based on things she sees (and lots of them) rather than the mathematics of net weights... we built the largest cookie offer based on piece count in the history of the shopping channel.
Now, with the expert food stylings of Culinary Solutions, along with weeks of coaching and tweaking to get our delivery just right - Bart himself debuted his self proclaimed “world’s best chocolate chip cookies” on October 3rd, 2012 @ 5pm with QVC show host Jonathan Redford.
With a fun, quirky, cuddly, “mad-cookie-scientist” approach, Bart won over the QVC audience selling out of his original quantity and forcing those that did not dial in quick enough to sign up for QVC’s wait list so that they too could soon have the chance to see for themselves if Bart’s cookies really are the world’s best!
Oh, and if your wondering if Bart’s cookies are really that good... well, you know the routine - www.qvc.com ;)
When a concept is really, really good there is not much that can stand in its way....
Why have a copy when you can have the original?
Our proposal to QVC would be to identify the most time honored classic old world French pastry products... the tried and true favorites that Americans have been enjoying for generations (croissants, eclairs, quiche, etc.).. and have them actually made in France by skilled pastry chefs using original recipes and uniquely French ingredients.. and then shipped frozen to the United States in advance of live QVC airings!
It was late January of 2011 during a record setting snowy blizzard that had nearly the entire state of Pennsylvania shut down... J.W. Oliphant & Associates had key partners already “in house” and samples had been flown in from France the day before... Nor’easter or not we had to execute the presentation. The storm was so severe that QVC, in an unprecedented precaution actually closed its doors. One of the QVC buyers lived close by and was willing to brave the treacherous roadway if we could find another meeting site. The other QVC buyer lived over an hour away and could not possibly attend.. J.W. Oliphant & Associates sprang into action by commandeering the kitchen facilities at the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel, styling out a meeting room with a French theme in under an hour and had all the product samples cooked off and served to perfection with one buyer in attendance and one linked in via Skype on a Macbook AND on an iPhone (when we toured the displays around the room!)
What could have been a missed opportunity instead became a winning product presentation as we successfully pitched
a unique gourmet food concept unlike anything available in the United States at the time and shared a most memorable “gourmet blizzard experience” with the QVC buyers that no one will soon forget!
On September 20th, 2011, The Authentic Gourmet concept on QVC debuted with a sellout of item # M25864 The Authentic Gourmet (26) French Made Butter Croissants...
Après un avant-goût de la cuisine française...J'ai été accroché (After one taste of French food... I was hooked)
- Julia Child
Somewhere around the 200th or 300th visit to my local Starbucks I had an epiphany of sorts... you know the KIND of feeling you get when you finally notice something that has been there all along. Well this particular “aha” moment happened in December of 2010... You see, I was going through my normal Starbuck’s routine... you know, ordering a Grande Pike’s Peak, grabbing a free iTunes pick of the week card and scanning all the socially cool, on trend and totally hip things that surround the cash register... when I realized that these KIND snack bars with their odd “see through” cellophane packages had been occupying this very same prime real estate position for longer than I could remember. I mean these colorful, fruity and nutty healthy snack bars with the simple yet profound message....”Be KIND to your body, your taste buds, and the world” had actually become part of the entire cool, hip socially right - WiFi enabled - “I’m connected to the world” reason that I came to this place everyday... WOW!
Ok - now that the revelation was in full view, it was time to get to know this KIND Healthy Snacks brand, its message - its people...
A quick trip over to www.kindsnacks.com provided all the facts...
An all natural Fruit & Nut Snack brand with ingredients you can actually see and pronounce... Yup that works!
A who’s who of national media coverage - Check!
Awards from experts in health, food and social responsibility. - Sweet!
A bonafide social entrepreneur in Daniel Lubetzky, who leads the KIND movement - Founded PeaceWorks a “not-only-for-profit”® company that fosters economic cooperation among neighbors striving to co-exist in conflict regions worldwide - Landed on the TIME Magazine “25 Responsibility Pioneers” list and received the 2010 Entrepreneur Magazine “Entrepreneur Of The Year Award”... and that’s just the beginning - Whew!
Sure, KIND Healthy Snacks checked out very high - BUT were they really a good fit for the QVC demographic?
QVC and KIND Healthy Snacks were unknowingly headed on a collision course, one that would combine the fast trending sales strength of the gourmet, healthy snack category with the enormous game changing leverage of targeted brand specific social communities that both companies were fully engaging!
J.W. Oliphant & Associates need only bring these two perfectly matched companies together...
On Valentine’s Day 2011, QVC and J.W. Oliphant & Associates, in a “not so” random act of kindness, launched KIND Healthy Snacks with great success - selling out entirely in less than 6 minutes!
More than a few “sell outs” later the KIND Movement on QVC is well on its way to becoming that “aha” moment for QVC devotees across the country who, while tuning in to shop.... are enjoying the wonderfully empowering sensation of KINDness!
On July 25th, 2010, after months and months of planning and strategizing, J.W. Oliphant & Associates saw their hard work and brand vision pay off with the celebrated launch of legendary gourmet food company, Harry & David on QVC.
Long known for their high quality gift baskets and towers, the Harry & David brand has earned their reputation as a truly aspirational, top-shelf brand for over 75 years.
Marrying Harry & David’s deep routed brand recognition in the marketplace with QVC’s capabilities as the leading multi-dimensional electronic retailer in the world was an exciting opportunity and one that required a unique “hook” in order to compliment the existing Harry & David retail product mix and not compete with it.
After several visits to Harry & David’s corporate headquarters in Medford, OR we learned that this gourmet food giant is a completely vertically integrated manufacturer. They make, bake or grow over 85% of all 4,200+ items in their product assortment. This means that Harry & David is one of the only and certainly the largest gourmet food companies in the world with significant control of their manufacturing process!
We were now on to something...
As the product opportunities were swarming in our creative heads we further realized that Harry & David has two distinctly different sales/distribution models. From their famous Fruit Of The Month Club to their historic Royal Riviera Pears and the game changing Moose Munch the Harry & David print and web based offerings are a collection of completely recognizable iconic brand offerings. But what about the items sold at the over 160 Harry & David stores nationwide? After visiting a number of these store locations we came to realize a quite different assortment of products were offered beyond the traditional products found in their catalogs and on the website. At the store level, we found, that the customer was making a self-consumption purchase more often than a gifting purchase (Now our heads were really spinning). We had discovered an underlying brand story that was laying dormant...
We had found our hook!
After careful analysis and research in the field we now knew to build the Harry & David / QVC strategy to speak to the “self-purchase” first and the “gifting” purchase second. This opened the door to significant changes in how the products are bundled and presented on QVC vs. traditional Harry & David sales venues.
Our first two items launched on July 25th, 2010 and were huge successes! Subsequently, we have built Harry & David themed shows and extended the QVC on-air and online assortments to include offerings from just about every gourmet food category… no other QVC gourmet food brand has done this!
The new Harry & David brand slogan… “Happiness Delivered” is rolling out to perfection with the perfect brand partners… J.W. Oliphant & Associates & QVC!
In the summer of 2009 J.W. Oliphant & Associates, as part of their ongoing business development responsibilities for Cushman’s Fruit Company at QVC, set out to create the “Honeybell Hero” key item and concept for the fast approaching 2010 season. The famous Cushman Flight Pack was the result of yet another exciting collaboration between J.W. Oliphant & Associates and Cushman’s Fruit Company.
As the story goes...
A long time ago, in around 1975, before computers, the internet, email and even fax machines, the Cushman family relied on a business model that was very simple. You see, down here in south Florida so many folks would come each year to visit on vacation. Many would come to the Cushman store on Forest Hill Blvd., not far from the International airport, and ask for a box of fruit to take back home with them. Of course, in January fruit really meant Honeybells! So, the Cushman family happily obliged and filled up any available box that they had laying around, weighed it, gratefully accepted their customer’s payment and wished them a good trip home...
This was a pretty good business model, one that could be counted on year after year. Now the Cushman’s were never satisfied with "pretty good" so they got to thinkin' in about 1975 that they could do a couple of things to make buying the Cushman fruit and their beloved Honeybells easier for their faithful customers. The first thing they did was setup a fruit stand of sorts right there at the International airport in West Palm Beach. You see people were flying now more and more. With a stand right there at the airport their customers were sure not to forget them before they left and would find it much easier to carry their box of fruit right onto the airplane with them.
Well that wasn't all. Allen and his team designed a box with a carry handle!.. That's right they went to their local box guy and asked him to create a box that could hold 14 lbs of their precious Honeybells and they insisted that this box have a carry handle and that it would fit easily in the overhead storage compartment and under the seat in any commercial airplane! Pretty soon, this special box became known as the Cushman Flight Pack. Sure enough the Cushman Flight Pack loaded with Honeybells straight from the groves was a big hit... and for many, many years.
But just like anything else, times changed and for some reason or another around 1985 the family was no longer operating an airport fruit stand and eventually stopped offering the celebrated Cushman Flight Pack. Allen and the gang started creating all sorts of other boxes for their delicious and fresh fruits. Catalogs, websites and all kinds of new technologies kept the family busy and connected to their loving customers.
Well its 2010 and the Cushman family is very pleased to be re-introducing their most famous box of Honeybells ever just for their loyal QVC customers. The box is exactly the same as it was when they created it in 1975... they’ve added a few historical pictures and will fill it with their very best Honeybells just for you, your family and your friends.... You’ll have 3 ticketing options for your flight: Cabin Class (7 lb), Business Class (14 lbs) or First Class (21 lbs).
When your Cushman Flight Pack arrives to your home Allen, Sharon, Michael, John and Ann hope you'll recall the fond memories you might have of time spent in south Florida or harken back to a time when you may have been the honored recipient of a Cushman Flight Pack. Whatever your recollection of this famous Florida "takeaway" Cushman's is proud to know they are starting new memories with the very same time honored values they’ve been putting into every box of fruit for over 60 years.
Many of us are more than aware that the economy is in the tank. I mean, you’d have to be a hermit living on a mountain top in Tibet not to know that every business across America and around the world is affected in some way these days.
The interesting question then is “what are all these businesses doing to help themselves out?” - Well one business in Northern California has made cents out of well, Sense! That’s right Sensible Foods introduced a tremendous value bundle of their delicious and healthy Crunch Dried Fruit Snacks on QVC in March of 2009. With guidance from J.W. Oliphant & Associates, they SOLD OUT in their debut airing.
In just a few short months, Sensible Foods has grown their sales significantly, increased their manufacturing capabilities, added production space, hired employees and engaged the world’s largest electronic retailer without missing a step. Not bad for a company facing the worst economic climate in recent history!
What’s next for Sensible Foods? They will be the featured QVC Food Of The Month for September ’09, they are working on expanding their line with new Crunch Dried blends and will continue to put their good sense to work!
When QVC came to J.W. Oliphant & Associates and asked us to create collectible memorabilia to capture the historical significance of the 2008 presidential election, we were honored to oblige.
The challenge was to create from scratch a variety of products including apparel, collectibles, memorabilia and fine art. Given only four weeks to secure manufacturing, source deliverable hard goods, apply unique designs and provide QA sampling required our full range of talents and resources. J.W. Oliphant & Associates rose to this challenge producing 20 original products with 172 line item variations! Each product was modeled for evaluation and nurtured through the stringent QA process and as promised, QVC was given loadable inventories on time and within defined margin structures.
On October 3rd, 2008, QVC broke new ground in live television programming by offering their customers a “choice” of candidate inspired products all guaranteed to deliver two weeks prior to the national election.
VOTE 2008: Presidential Collectibles And Gifts with host Bob Bowersox and guest Jeff Oliphant went off without a hitch thanks to the combined efforts and expertise of J.W. Oliphant & Associates and many talented individuals at QVC!
The limo rolled up to the front steps of the QVC Studio Park headquarters a full 30 minutes past its scheduled arrival. Under normal conditions, this faux pas would have resulted in a cancelled meeting and a missed opportunity. But today, the buyers waiting inside were not flustered by the change in schedule...I mean don’t all 8-time Grammy winning divas sing to their own tune?
As the chariot door opened I anticipated how our first encounter would go... would she be standoffish, full of herself or any combination of the celebrity personas we see glorified on TV?... the answers came quickly as a larger than life quaff of black curly hair peeked out of the passenger side door followed by its smaller than expected owner.
“Sorry I’m late”, she said.
“No problem at all”, I responded
As the legendary diva, Chaka Khan and I easily walked up the steps toward the front door we made a quick connection that assured us both that we were on the same page.
“I get a good feeling about you”, Chaka proclaimed as I held the door open.
“I get a good feeling about you too”, I countered and we had made our connection.
The meetings went very well and Chaka and I left with a great feeling about our QVC projects. On the way back to the limo, Chaka asked if I wouldn’t mind driving her to the airport as she had lost faith in the limo driver some time ago. I agreed without hesitation and Chaka and her entourage climbed into my truck and we headed for the Philadelphia International Airport... the limo and Chaka’s bags in tow.
En route, Chaka and I had some time to chat and get to know each other. She revealed to me some rather insightful nuances about living the life of a mega-celebrity and we shared some heartfelt thoughts about life and parenting. She was most excited about her new music project with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis back in Los Angeles. They were planning a new album with music inspired by her funky beginnings with Rufus... songs like “I’m Every Woman”, “Through The Fire” and “Tell Me Something Good” quickly came to mind... at the next stop light, I turned to the Hall of Fame music icon sitting to my right and said... “Chaka! I’ve got it”.
“Got what”, the diva replied
“The title to your new album”, I countered
“Oh yeah... “ (she was by now more than interested)
“FUNK THIS!”. I stated with a defiant attitude befitting the queen of funk herself.
Without so much as a pause, Chaka lurched forward in her seat, flew her hair to the side, laid her big brown eyes on me and screamed.... “I LOVE IT!”
Well, a year later Chaka’s album FUNK THIS was released with widespread anticipation, an advanced copy came to my house with a special note of thanks and when I opened up the package I was further honored when I spotted my name in the album’s liner notes!
FUNK THIS earned Chaka two more Grammys (including R&B Album Of The Year) and a life-long friend (that would be me). Chances are that Chaka will follow up her success with FUNK THIS by producing another musical tribute to her soulful roots... I’m pretty sure that when she does it will be titled “FUNK THAT!”... let’s just say a little birdie told me ;)
It was a cold and blustery winter day in West Chester, PA... Allen Cushman had just arrived from West Palm Beach and he brought a little secret with him.
You see, Allen and his family are the largest providers of a little known gourmet citrus fruit called a Honeybell. What’s a Honeybell you ask? Well, its a cross between a Dancy Tangerine and a Duncan Grapefruit. What’s more, this little fruit gem is only harvested for 4 short weeks in January and that’s it! The Cushman Honeybell is sweeter than the sweetest fruit you’ve ever tasted and the juice it contains is well, legendary! In fact, there is so much juice in a Honeybell that Cushman’s always ships bibs along... just in case!
So here is Allen, with his “January Sunshine” in hand and about to go on national television to sell his little secret. When it dawned on him that he really did not think about what he would wear. “A guy from Florida couldn’t go on TV in front of 90 million homes to sell citrus and not look the part!” So, off we went to the local mall in search of the perfect “sweater” (it was cold after all). As luck would have it, we were spared the drudgery of mall shopping as it didn’t take long at all before we spotted a perfectly “orange” Izod. In fact, it was darn sure “Honeybell Orange”.... we could not resist.
That evening, Allen donned his new look and launched his precious Honeybells on QVC in a pioneering TSV to a rave review. We moved over 65,000 boxes of Honeybells in one day and started then what is regularly referred to today as a true “QVC tradition”.
The “Honeybell Sweater” is now kept under lock and key and Allen is greeted with hugs and kisses at QVC studios each season when he arrives with his “January Sunshine”.
New technologies come to market from a variety of angles these days. What tips a product in the market can often be the story and buzz that brings attention to it. This is exactly what happened when inventor and sage David Allen came to QVC all the way from Blatchly, Oregon. David created the world’s first miniature LED micro light. His Photon class of lightweight, powerful and long lasting personal Light Emitting Diodes were the first portable consumer products using the new LED technology. LED’s were about to be implemented across a wide spectrum of products and China was on the verge of flooding the marketplace. Yet, here in America we scarcely used this new technology.
However, David’s Photon Micro Lights were standard equipment for a different demographic than that which QVC serves. The Photon class of micro lights was being used by law enforcement professionals, military personnel, the U.S. Secret Service and had even made their way onto the Space Station!... it was this very story of quality, usefulness and indispensability by association that we told to QVC customers in the fall of 2005. After five consecutive sellouts and over 50,000 units sold, the QVC vendor community took notice and by the first quarter of 2006, LED enhanced products were all the rage. A new technology had created opportunities across multiple categories at QVC and the mighty little Photon had started it all!
It was a record hot day in Connecticut. The only thing I wanted to do was stay inside and “chill” literally. No one in their right mind would venture out in this sweltering heat.. well, except me of course. You see, Erika had her mind set on going to the Milford Oyster Festival with its live music, fresh artisan foods and the myriad of crafts, clothes and what I might refer to as “junk”. But after 14 years of marriage , I learned that sometimes the heat outside is not as bad as the heat in the kitchen...So, with a long face and no expectations I agreed to this afternoon foray and grabbed my wallet.
We were already well fed and thoroughly satiated with the droning vibes of one 80’s rock band after another as we made our way down the very last aisle amongst what seemed like 5,000 craft vendors (all with the same stuff!)... when I did a legitimate “double-take”. You know the kind that makes your neck twinge in pain because of the velocity inflicted... up about 40 yards was a sleek black sign. It stood about 6 feet tall and swayed casually in the stifling breeze. There was an indistinguishable picture and two phrases... One of these phrases caught my attention... “Played For President George W. Bush” and “Composed For Sex In The City”. (I’ll leave it up to you to determine which phrase did the trick).
I made up the last 40 yards in no time and soon found my self in conversation with the only person at this vendor’s booth, a beautiful young lady named Annie. We spoke for about 10 minutes and in that time I had learned all I needed to know about The O’Neill Brothers.... two guys from Minnesota...playing dueling grand pianos...with no major record label...inspired by their mother...with a catalog of 18 finished CD’s. (Hmmmmmm)
After a debut “sell out” of their 3 CD collection of love songs (From The Heart) Tim and Ryan O’Neill would go on to become the best selling musical artists on QVC for the next 4 years, selling over 1 million CD’s and hitting the Top Pop Catalog Album Billboard chart in May 2005 at # 31 just below Elvis Presley... It must have been a sign!