I was appropriately reprimanded. Marty Silver asked why was I working with a supplier in Georgia when he was the largest tassel manufacturer in the world and was located within walking distance? I had no answer except that I had not done my homework properly. Schoen Trimming and Cord Company manufacture tassels and cords right in Manhattan at 151 West 25th Street.
There is no phone tree, messaging systems, extensions, or phone tag at Schoen. On my first call, I was told I needed to speak to the owner, Marty Silver, who immediately picked up the phone. A proud New Yorker and native Brooklynite, he proceeded to tell me about the company and his recent job with Victoria’s Secret, who opted for a local source over China. The order of nearly $100,000 was for over 20,000 pieces and was completed in just a few weeks. I described my own project needs, and he suggested I just drop by. He said that he was open at 7 a.m., so when was I coming in? Tomorrow morning, I answered.
Schoen typifies the classic old world New York City-style manufacturer or commercial/industrial supplier. They are lean machines, bare bones, and stripped of artifice and excess at every level. The only decorative elements you will find are Trimmings for Sale.
It was clear from the brief phone conversation that Schoen was a no-nonsense operation run by a man who gets things done. No meetings, no memos, no marketing plans, no grandiose schemes, no Twitter feeds. A rarity these days, and a perpetual frustration for me in business to ferret out these kinds of operations. Schoen services a niche market, and they address the needs of their customers with the essential ingredients: good quality, service, delivery, and pricing. This is why they have been in business for 72 years.
When I arrived, Marty was tied up briefly, working with his accountant. He appeared somewhat irritated that this aspect of his business was taking him away from overseeing his production work and meeting with me. We went over my project quickly, and he said he would get back to me.
I was surprised when, only hours later, he called my office to tell me that he had completed some prototypes for me – when did I want to pick them up and discuss them? Tomorrow morning, I answered. I visited Schoen again, went over my samples, and toured the factory. Marty was quite accommodating regarding my request to take photos. Nothing to hide. I like that. And so it was that in less than 24 hours, Marty Silver did what the factory in Georgia has yet to do in two months
I have encountered business owners like Marty in the last 37 years. This breed of men and women are the ones that have been the captains of industry and have stewarded our city to become the world leader that it is in so many arenas. Some are left and, here and there, the spirit lives on. New York City is as hard-edged as it comes, and if you are going to survive 72 years in business, you’re going to need exceptional tenacity, resourcefulness, drive, and the ability to stay focused on the bottom line.