After years of hearing my father Arnie talk about our long-time customers Kathy and Bob Lowe, the owners of Russell-Hampton, I finally had the opportunity to fly out to Kansas City to meet them. Russell-Hampton creates the official merchandise for Rotary International, a global group to do good around the world. Meeting these people we’ve been working with for so long left me completely jazzed about the relationships we have developed with our customers over the years.
I drove out to their headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, where I was immediately greeted by Kathrin, their purchasing manager. It was great to meet after we’ve spent so much time working together over the phone. Then I met Kathy and Bob Lowe, who gave me a big hug and a warm welcome. They then showed me around their operations to see all of the amazing things they do in house, as well as all their incredible amounts of inventory. Joe, Kathy and Bob’s son-in-law and President of the company, was in the warehouse organizing the displays. He pulled out their tie and scarf display so I could see how all of their products that we have created are laid out at their tradeshows.
Next, Kathy and I went over the latest fashion trends for ties and scarves and our upcoming projects. She also told me how her great-grandfather started the company in 1920 in Chicago. He started the company as a Rotarian, frustrated that he couldn’t source good quality Rotary gear, so he decided to start offering his own. They even still had their first catalogs dating back to the 1920s. Now they are almost approaching their 100th year anniversary — pretty impressive! For four generations the company has been handed down to a son-in-law. This remains true even now, as Joe is slotted to take over the company when both Kathy and Bob are ready to retire.
I was impressed by the longevity of their company, their constant growth, and the positive work environment. More importantly though, I was struck by how the dinner we shared seemed like a bunch of old friends and family getting together. This was the first time I had met them in person, but it truly felt like we had known each other for a long time. We didn’t just talk about business but rather life, family, kids and grandkids, and Kathy and Bob’s love story of meeting back in high school and how their relationship transpired over the years.
This is why I continue to proudly run Shop4ties: it’s more than just making a high-quality product. It is an opportunity to turn our amazing, talented and inspiring customers into friends. If I could travel around meeting each and every one of our clients, I would! Developing personal relationships is one of my biggest core values and I believe in working on building honest, loyal, and transparent relationships, whether business or personal. I left this meeting with Russell-Hampton feeling really good, knowing this isn’t just another vendor-client relationship, but rather a long term friendship that has a secondary role of doing business together.
Thank you Kathy, Bob, Kathrin, and Joe. We look forward to working together with you for a long time!