Business Panelists Share Secrets Of Their Success
A three-man business breakfast panel at the Queens Chamber of Commerce Business Expo, held May 22 at Citi Field, consisting of Dan Glickberg of Fairway Markets, Long Island City automobile dealer Bruce Bendell of Major World and Mitch Modell of Modell’s Sporting Goods, answered questions about how their companies became successful and how they are maintaining success. The three were questioned by Chris Donovan of the New York Daily News and later took a few questions from the audience.
Glickberg represents the fourth generation of Fairway, a famously high-end grocer started by his great-grandfather during the Great Depression. Bendell is board chairman of Major World. Mitch Modell is another generational descendant, being the current head of the sporting goods chain begun in Manhattan more than 120 years ago.
Fairway has relatively few locations and word of each addition is welcomed by its fan base, especially to anyone living near it. The one Fairway in Queens is in a shopping center in Douglaston, and when asked if any others are planned for the borough, Glickberg only smiled and said there are always possibilities to consider; just now they are busy opening a store in New Jersey.
Major World has one address, 43-40 Northern Blvd., but its name flies over a considerable stretch of sales lots on that thoroughfare in Long Island City and the company sells dozens of auto brands. (Bendell said he sells more Chevrolets than any other dealer in the United States.) Modell has stores in several Eastern seaboard states, especially since purchasing Herman’s Sporting Goods upon that organization’s termination in 1996.
Fairway’s advertising is spare, while Modell’s is heavy and Major World’s is frequent and aggressive. Bendell harked back to the first Major World ads in 1972—a year when he sold his first Chevrolet, he recalled. He described these early ventures as cheap ads for wee-hours-of-the-morning media, featuring police sirens and other wakeup noises. These days, Major World also advertises to the Latino market on Telemundo. Modell said that half his advertising is effective, but, he asked rhetorically, which half? A signally important moment in Modell’s advertising history came 20 years ago in 1992, when the “Gotta go to Mo’s” theme was created and continues now and into the future.
The panelists were asked about advertising in a tight economy. Bendell said cutting ad expense is usually the first resort in lean times, when it should be the last. He did cut back in the 2008 economic crisis but returned to the old model at first opportunity. He cited the daring of Korean automobile manufacturers, who invested heavily in advertising at that time, expecting that when the economy was again favorable they would thrive, as they did. Modell said his ad cutback during the crisis was a mirror trick before his customers. As for social media, Glickberg uses Twitter to keep his customers apprised of new products being stocked at Fairway. Modell said his product placement is militantly strategic; the company name, for instance, goes only behind the hockey goal nets or outfield fences over which home runs are hit. He is also especially strong on getting the Modell name associated with charity efforts. Recent interests there have been autism and needy military families, for which the company raised $1.1 million.
A woman in the audience asked Glickberg if Fairway carries organic and kosher foods, which they do, but the woman was Russian and said so, which made Glickberg refer to Rego Park and his company’s general awareness of and service to ethnic groups. He said the same thing to the Latino inquirer; and to him, Modell said he “begs” his Latino market to “educate” him on its demands, that he might better carry out his company’s motto, “Listen, Respect, Respond”. Bendell repeated that he is advertising in the Latino market but confessed he’s quite a bit behind its curve. He said he returned to his office one day recently to see a model being made up for a commercial. He told the audience at Citi Field, “I didn’t know who she was, but maybe half the world does.”