Our first Christmas at Levenger was twenty-one years ago. Lori and I were still working out of our townhouse in Belmont, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. We had a total of 46 customers, having just started in October with a Tiny Tim of an ad in The New Yorker.
When your customer base is a mere double digit, it’s easy to recall their names, even years later. Henry A. Scheel, N.A., for instance. I remember his name because I hadn’t known what N.A. meant when his catalog request arrived, and curious, I called the library reference desk (this was before Google). It means Naval Architect. Mr. Scheel and I had had an engaging conversation when he called with some technical questions about his reading light, and I learned he was a stickler for good design. I’m sad to say he passed away a few years later. His obituary mentioned his highly respected Scheel Keel design for boats, and that he had designed all the boats for Disney World.
That first Levenger Christmas, Lori and I wanted to thank Mr. Scheel and those 45 other customers. We remembered an exhibitor we had liked at one of the local gift shows who made pretty little nightlights from seashells. We called and ordered 46. A few days later, working at our dining-room table, we carefully packed the nightlights into boxes with our handwritten notes of thanks. I loaded them into our creaky VW station wagon and delivered them down the hill to the post office.
In the intervening years many things have changed at Levenger—our merchandise for one, and our big distribution center in Memphis. And fortunately, we have more than 46 customers.
What hasn’t changed is the gratitude I feel for each customer, and the delight I take in getting to know as many of you as I can. When describing Levenger customers to people, I say they are the Who’s Who of America—the people who, if our world can be saved, will do the saving.
Am I obsessed with our customers? Yes, guilty. I’ve met so many of you, and corresponded with thousands more, to know I’m right to feel in awe of the august Americans in the Levenger customer file.
My obsession, I’m happy to say, is shared. There’s an expression in our business, “retail is detail,” which roughly translates to sweating all the little things that make the big thing work out right. At Levenger, we’re blessed by a staff of professionals who sweat the details. They are a driven bunch of believers, and I am grateful to them.
Together we obsess and, at holiday time in particular, hope that the gifts your loved ones and colleagues receive from Levenger meet your, and their, full expectations.
What would Dickens do?
My good friend Les Standiford, a bestselling author, has just published his newest work, The Man Who Invented Christmas. He tells the true tale of how Charles Dickens’s newly penned Christmas Carol breathed new life into the holiday.
As a retailer, I tip my hat to him. But I wonder if he’s also why I’m visited by my own Ghost of Christmas, one I suspect other customer-centric retailers see as well.
This ghost comes every year in the form of Christmas Eve Stage Fright.
It happens just about the time I take a last look at our tree before heading to bed on Christmas Eve and remember the tens of thousands of Levenger gifts under Christmas trees across America at that very moment. In a matter of hours, our curtain will rise as people wake on Christmas morning and begin unwrapping Majorca Briefbags and Shirt Pocket Briefcases, Bomber Jacket Desk Sets and True Writer pens, lap desks and Levenger Press books.
I want your loved ones to rush up to you on Christmas morning—or on Hanukkah, or on whatever day you celebrate this special season—throw their arms around your neck and say, “It’s perfect! How did you know that’s just what I wanted?”
Lori and I won’t be packing up seashell nightlights this year, but we’ve been sending other little gifts to you, which you’ll find in your Levenger emails (click here if you don’t yet subscribe) and inside our shipping boxes if you’ve ordered recently—all ways to say that we care deeply about your business.
Thank you for giving us your custom for twenty-one holidays. And do let me know if there is something else I can obsess over to serve you better. Just click on the Comments link below. (If you’re reading this as an email, click here and you'll connect to Comments.)
Happiest Holiday ever—