Over 154 Years of Service to the Furniture Industry
 Furniture World Logo

Furniture Retail Tip #38 From Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90 - Multicultural Marketing & The American Fruit Salad

Furniture World News Desk on 3/26/2012

Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90)

One of the endless dreams that was stored away in my little mind as a little, little kid of thirteen was to speak Chinese. I guess, it was because I had also stored the philosophy of the Chinese scholar, Confucius, who said, "That a man who speaks five languages is five persons."

One of my "buddies" was Mr. Z.C.Loy who owned a Chinese laundry in our Bronx neighborhood taught me simple Chinese... Hoy San Cantonese Chinese... and, in return, I handled all the complaints from his American customers in the apartment houses on the blocks adjacent to his laundry.

When Z.C. didn't open his Chinese laundry at noon, then I knew he was asleep in the back of his shop, so my close buddies and I used to sing at the front:

"Z.C.Loy open your Golden Gates
Don't let your customers wait
Outside your door..."

Yes! The popular song of the day was "San Francisco" (try it) made famous by the one and only Tony Bennett who just yesterday hit the same tune, at age eighty-six, in a Central Park, New York concert. Imagine that! Wow-e-e!

I never gave that dream up! It cost me a year or two of college because of all the time I spent in the special Far Eastern Languages room at the famous 42nd Street Library on New York's Fifth Avenue.

There were no textbooks, or CD's in those days, but I uncovered a series of tiny, handwritten, paper notepads there, in dictionary form, put together by Giles Missionaries in their China wanderings. I used them as a textbook with my friend Z.C. who could read the Chinese characters.

For years I never passed a Chinese hand laundry or takeout food kitchen without picking up a phrase or two of Hoy San Chinese.  And ten years later, as a Personnel Officer in the Army Signal Corps Separation Center, I  tracked down Chinese/American family soldiers being discharged and tried to get them to help me practice. Unfortunately, I wasn't very successful, because the soldiers didn't even know the bits and snips that I had taught myself.

Well, I kept on trying through thick and thin... very thin. Just before I was discharged from the US Army, I tried to get a job at the gigantic Yangtse River power project in China.   I was successful in tracking down the chief engineer to try to get a piece of that Chinese excitement but to no avail.

Which finally brings me to you and your dreams... business dreams:

As I've said before, when the French philosopher, DeToqueville, visited our United States in the 1800's he observed and said that the United States is not a melting pot... it's a fruit salad.

It's a big platter and you can see all its pieces. Millions of pieces; millions of forms; millions of colors; millions of dreams and millions of customers. New customers with millions of flavors.

That little kid of thirteen years of age has never changed. He's a people person. He wants to speak every language. He wants to meet every stranger. He wants to dream every dream. And if you are owning and managing a business, this is probably You too! Especially the dreaming part.

DeToqueville is still right about us. Everyday planes, busses, cars , trains and feet are delivering new pieces of fresh "fruit salad" for us to sell to.

Visit a major super market and take a look at all the shopping wagons with little kids in them, mixed in with the shopping bags of goodies. See the grandmothers and papas caring for them so that sons and daughters can go out to attend to their business tasks.

Listen to all the languages spoken at the checkout points. And if they're speaking English, the odds is that they've arrived from India.

Go across the street to the nifty center where the spotless employees are taking care of fingernails and feet with finesse and smiles. They all have Americanized names, speak English and Korean.

And finally walk down the streets of houses where elderly newcomers are meeting the children whose parents come home from a day's work at 7PM or later.

Who are all these grandparents, parents, cousins and relatives? Your potential customers. 

So why aren’t they coming into your stores? Perhaps it is because you are not asking in the right way, in the right languages, through the right advertising media.  A-n-d why is this the case? Perhaps it’s because your advertising agency hasn’t developed expertise in reaching out via hometown foreign language newspapers and websites. Here’s an idea. Do a Google search for “multicultural marketing”, “niche marketing”, and “ethnic marketing”… and expand your horizons. I bet the effort will be well worth your time.  Honest.

Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90

Questions? Comments? e-mail Grandpa Mike-e-e! at grandpamike-e-e!@furninfo.com

About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90) Columnist, Retailer, Author, Composer-Lyricist, Playwright.

  • Emigrated to U.S. with parents at age 3; Graduated high school at 16; Managed a retail/manufacturer at 18.
  • Joined Tootsie Rolls/Sweets Corp. of America at 19 as Assistant to V.P. Purchasing.
  • Joined US Army Signal Corp-Communications; Selected for (ASTP) Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers U. Qualified for Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.
  • Married his sweetheart, Anita, and gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts… after 74 years.
  • Rejoined Tootsie Rolls Corp as Director of Personnel at 24 (500 employees).
  • Joined widowed sister, as President of retail/manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing and custom designing over 20,000 children's rooms.
  • Graduated Hofstra U (evenings) in 1968 at age 47... before all his three kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren graduated with their degrees.
  • Answered 30 day, temporary columnist advertisement by Reed Business Newspapers (Furniture Today) and stayed on for 27 years. Columns were sold from Bangladesh to Belgium to Beijing to Brooklyn. Admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the Furniture Industry." Visited with 3rd/4th generation retail owners throughout the US. Retired from retail after 55 years of management.
  • At age 72: Published his first hardcover book: "Where's The Green Pea?" with vegetable characters in color, original music and lyrics on cassette. Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with Grandma Anita, his partner.
  • At age 76: Published hardcover book/ with color: "Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom That Was All My Own" presented at middle schools with tech info for parents planning a student bedroom. Included outlines for teachers and students in Home Sciences.
  • At age 80: Published hardcover book with color of unique art: "Tzedakah Of Caring and Sharing". A classic original with music for high school chorales. Ossining HS drama staged it and lona College sponsored a presentation as "American Fruit Salad".
  • At age 88: Published on-line book "Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive and L-o-v-e it" for college students, with versions for industry, business schools and entrepreneurs. Includes section for "Wise Women Who Love A Career Challenge", business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experience and business thinking .
  • Invited to address retail salespersons, customers, Furniture Designer Associates ; I.H.F.R.A. sales associations, High Point U. students and F.I.T. retailer sessions.
  • At Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90: Writes a weekly column for entrepreneurs, sales representatives and furniture management personnel in Furniture World - a trade publication for 140 years.
  • Grandpa can't play an instrument nor read music. But you can see and hear his You Tube music video starring him with his granddaughter Becca at: http://bitly.coni/qALkrX.

Grandpa Mike-e-e

Articles in Grandpa Mike-e-e