WARNING: This is Bret... I was asked to write today's blog. This is not full of frill and projects. Just a little something from my heart about the importance of quality...
Of the five well-know senses, I would not say the sense of smell is my most keen. Oddly, this business has renewed my sense of smell and the way quality can not only be seen and touched, but smelled.
I grew up in a small town where the sweet aroma of orchards and gardens were overshadowed by the stench of pollution from one of the largest steel mills in America. My grandfather and two uncles worked at the mill. It was strange attending the family's outdoor-summer-dinners, harmonizing the sweet smells of my grandmother's home cooking with the gross smell on the skin and clothes of the men that spent their days at the steel mill.
To top it off, my father was a chemist for a refinery plant that sold pitch to makers of aluminum. I probably took years off my life playing with liquid mercury and running up and down the railroad tracks near his plant inhaling who knows what?
My dad would come home every night smelling like creosote oil and coal tar. I think I probably worked more on "not smelling" things, than I did "enjoying smells" when I was young.
One of my best friends had a father who owned a mink ranch. As a very young boy, I would help on the ranch and even make a little money on odd chores. As a teenager, I split summer work between the mink ranch and a local chicken farm. The smells emitted from these two animal plants were, at times, unbearable.
There was one very good thing that came out of my time at the mink ranch... the free mink oil they would allow me to have. I would use the mink oil on my baseball glove, often spending hours working it into my "mitt." I would place a baseball in the palm of my glove, wrap it to "break-it-in," and sleep next to it.
At about the age of 10, baseball was becoming my passion. The smell of mink oil, mixed with leather, was the first smell I associated with success. It became an obsession - a superstition. I believed the time I put into caring for my glove made me better.
I became an all-star, played in three little league world series', watched my brother win a World Series title as a pitcher, went on to play college baseball and tossed in a year of professional ball, where I quickly learned baseball was meant to teach me more about life.
When I was asked to get behind the formation of Authentique Paper and we started building the business and printing papers, I quickly remembered how much I missed the smell of paper. I love going to the printings of our papers and soaking in the unmistakable smell of the print-shop we use. The smells have been there for over 100 years. The sons and grandsons who run this business grew up around printing and understand this smell. Our paper mill has also been at it for over a hundred years. Their papers are amazing and have the smell of quality as they are loaded into the presses.
I have heard that some of the papers released into the industry actually stink (the smell... not the designs... okay, maybe a little bit of both). I didn't hear of this during my first stretch in the paper-crafting industry. Now, at a time when others are cutting back on quality, we have emerged with custom paper textures and finishes. As a result, many people have reached out to us thanking us for our quality. They even tell us they love how our papers smell. The first time I heard this, I was a bit surprised, but I have come to discover what they mean. The combination of poor paper quality and ink just doesn't work. We don't do things that way.
I find it amazing how smells can instantly create emotion and link our minds to memories. If I were open a bottle of mink oil today, it would transport me back a few decades to the baseball field where I learned to chase my dreams and stabilize my fears.
So, while I've had a love-hate-relationship with smells since childhood, and don't rely on smell as my sense-of-choice, I certainly don't want to create papers that stink (in any sense of the word). I don't like the smell of cheap things and neither do you.