July 10, 2014

"Two Important Lessons From Crumbled Crumbs Bake Shop."

"1 – Don’t believe in the myth of passion when it comes to business..."
Rather than investing your resources into something that fulfills people’s needs, you are likely to invest in your passion until you burn through all your resources....
"2 – Trends really do matter..."
Cupcakes were a hot product for a while....

Remember Mrs. Field’s cookies? In the 1980s... It seemed nobody could get enough of those chocolate chip cookies....
Hey, I remember the Chipwich. It was the summer of 1982, and it seemed that the ultimate street-snack splurge had been discovered: an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies as the "bread." I went looking for a contemporaneous article displaying the enthusiasm of the era, and I found this intro paragraph to a July 1, 1982 NYT article informing us that "the akita is the New York dog of the moment, and to have one is to be exceptionally modish":
If fads are not always born in New York, it is indeed here that they fly and eventually fall, only to be replaced by new ones. Down coats and spinach salads, high-tech sofas and sauces nouvelles, Rubik's Cube and the Chipwich, cats and Donkey Kong, Izod shirts and sequined head antennae, sesame noodles and the resurgent miniskirt - all have burst upon us sporadically.
Sequined head antennae... Weren't those called...
... did you remember? Deely bobbers:
Stephen Askin invented the original deely bobber in 1981, inspired by the "Killer Bees" costumes on Saturday Night Live. Askin was a serial entrepreneur who had sold dartboards depicting Ayatollah Khomeini during the Iran hostage crisis of 1980... Deely boppers began retailing in April 1982 at US$3. They quickly became a fad in the United States... At the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, 10,000 a day were sold; total sales by August were estimated at 2 million... The original decorations for the antennae were polystyrene shapes covered in sparkles: spheres, stars, hearts. Flashing lights were added to cash in on the hit movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial...
Here's the June 7, 1982 NYT on the items, which apparently were not yet called deely bobbers, since the article begins "No one seems certain of their name":
The other evening on Fifth Avenue, a vendor named Mark said, ''People smile at these more than they did at the Rubik's Cubes I sold last summer. Everybody wants these.''

Well, not quite everybody. Bruce Fahey said, ''It just wouldn't look right with my Sony Walkman.'' And Sylvia Seitz said, ''It doesn't have a radio in it? Who wants it if it doesn't have a radio in it?''
Bruce Fahey and Sylvia Seitz were, apparently, the cutting edge back in 1982, Bruce with his Walkman, Seitz insisting on a radio.

22 comments:

Will Cate said...

heh - I always called them "deely boppers" ... like teeny boppers, I guess.

lgv said...

The key is to ascertain whether a product is a long haul or a trend. Storefronts require lots of capital. You don't throw lots of capital at trends.

Stephen Askin made money on a trend, because it didn't require huge ongoing fixed expenses. Another example of trend seller is Ron Popeil.

Ever wonder how Snuggy sales are going these days? How about an ab machine? Small investment, ride the trend, then exit. Repeat.

PB Reader said...

I love hearing of people riding a wave talking about how "passion" and "culture" are what's important to success. As if they replace supply and demand.

St. George said...

When the financial history of this era is written, business historians will use the demise of this twee chain as a bellwether event, marking the beginning of the downturn. De-dollarization is well underway, as is a new recession (not that we're not in one now!), and one morning we'll wake up to learn that the dollar is no longer world's reserve currency, and our currency is worth....crumbs!

Nichevo said...

Chipwich shall never die. I make my own. /Homer Simpson drool

Nichevo said...

Also - I won't swear but didn't David's Cookies have those too? At least Mrs Field's still exists.

SGT Ted said...

Rather than investing your resources into something that fulfills people’s needs, you are likely to invest in your passion until you burn through all your resources....

That's what happens when you when running a successful business gets romanticized as some sort of avocation or vehicle for spiritual/personal fulfillment, rather than selling what sells and being ready to change that if necessary.

MadisonMan said...

I also called them deely boppers.

Find the trend before it's a trend and you're golden.

Unknown said...

Some cartoonist (Waterson?) had a day job as a loan officer. On advice from one of the old-timers, passion for a business proposal was actually a negative (unless it was an expansion, I guess) because passions fade or lose out to frustrations. He was told to look for a good business plan and careful research. He noticed that when a business succeeded it tended to generate passion, as in when something you start does well you begin to have an emotional investment because it's your child and doing well, while strong passion at the beginning tends to obscure, occlude, or minimize issues that in the real world need to be addressed.

Caroline Walker said...

I feel quite sure that tattoos cannot be immune to the laws of evanescent fashion. Here in dallas, surely we're approaching tiresome ubiquity.

Lance said...

You don't throw lots of capital at trends.

You've never heard of Sharper Image? Or Brookstone?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Does David's Cookies no longer exist? [No, they're still around -- online, anyway.] Those were/are good. Better than Mrs. Fields'. Not "chocolate chip" but "chocolate chunk," and the chunks were some specialty chocolate (Lindt? [No, they've switched to Hershey's. Rats]), and the surrounding batter was crisp-crunchy.

They never made it out to the West Coast, as far as I know, so I've only had them when I've been back to NYC and to NJ, where you could walk into a supermarket and buy a tube of dough to bake at home. Granted, this was twenty-plus years ago.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Heck even the linked article can't decide whether it's "bobbers" or "boppers," though the former predominates.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Caroline Walker: "Tiresome ubiquity" it is, in Salem (OR) too.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Chipwiches are still around, and for sale. If you had children under 12, you would know this, because they'd be asking for them all summer long.

William said...

I have a likeness of my pet rock tattooed just above my heart. It was my only successful relationship, and I wanted to memorialize it.

SGT Ted said...

Chipwiches are just re-invented Its-Its'.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Lance said...

You've never heard of Sharper Image? Or Brookstone?

Sharper Image and Brookstone do not throw lots of capital at any individual trend. They threw lots of money at a business model that lets them sell lots of trendy items for a small marginal investment per trend.

Likewise, an existing bakery could hop on the cupcake trend by investing in some extra cupcake tins. Sell two or three overpriced cupcakes and you've recouped your investment. When the trend is over, they still have their bakery business.

Ann Althouse said...

I thought it was "deely boppers" too, but the Wikipedia article is "deely bobbers," so I went with that. Wiki does give "deely boppers" as an alternative.

I've got a problem with the "deely" part. The only meaning I have for "deely" is "Dealy Plaza"!

Auntie Ann said...

I liked how someone on NPR phrased it: "We reached peak-cupcake around about 2011."

mikee said...

I remember pet rocks.

And three years before it got big here I unknowingly brought back from a Japan business trip inflatable Pokemons for my kids.

Did not recognize the potential market, failed to capitalize on discovery.

lee said...

It's It has been around since 1928 and is still well loved in San Francisco. The Chipwich was a rip off of it. Maybe New Yorker's just go from fad to fad...