Recalling Our FV Suppliers by:
Allen & Warren Weitzel, and Pat Hanna
by: Allen & Warren Weitzel, and Pat Hanna
Another reason for the success of Frontier Village was our cadre of great suppliers and purveyors. Many are seldom talked about, but without the quality and dependable suppliers (did I mention dependable), the FV Employees could not have delivered the great Guest Services the park was well known for. We may have forgotten the names of some of the staff of these suppliers, but their dedication to provide us with great service made all the difference for our Guests. From the memories of our staff and management, we offer this tribute to our suppliers, recalling some of the shining moments from their years of service. Our 10-gallon Stetsons hats are off to these great companies. Our apologies if we get the exact name of the supplier company or their employees a little wrong. Our memories are not what they used to be. Not all suppliers are listed at this time, as time permits we will add to this list of wonder purveyors.
Rick Caesar, Appliance Service
Rick ran a small (one man, I think) appliance service company. Mostly Rick worked on our food service refrigeration. Rick was always available when we had an emergency and fixed our equipment real fast. Where Rick was good was helping us train our food employees how to clean compressors and conduct preventative maintenance to keep our units running well. Our Employees learned from Rick on how to listen for little sounds of machinery failure or watch refrigerator temperatures that might rise, so we could call him early before things went really wrong – saving him and us from some big headaches. He made less money because he had less calls, but like most FV suppliers, he was concerned about the success of FV overall. Like most of our suppliers, his rates were very reasonable and he would show up seven days a week if we needed him. He would often talk us out of buying a new compressor when he knew he could save it and we’d get a few more months or years of service out of it. (Recollection by Allen Weitzel)
What can we say about Jim Taylor? He was the consummate supplier rep. Day or night, seven days a week, Jim was available to us. The great thing about Jim and Sunlite Bread was that they wanted us to have the right amount of product and wanted it to be fresh. But if we over-ordered or we had a slow weekend, Jim would give us credit on unused product (refer to our 56 Dozen Buns story - http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/116041 ). Jim was easy going; every Employee who encountered Jim liked him from the start. As I recall, Jim Taylor was the first supplier to suggest that we park a delivery truck full of product (behind the scenes) when we had a huge weekend looming. We eventually started to use that trick with other suppliers as we “cut our management teeth.” I appreciated Jim so much that when I joined the Winchester Mystery House team, after FV closed, I brought Jim in as our bread supplier right away. I can’t remember which bread supplier I kicked out of WMH, but they were gone shortly after I went to WMH. Sunlite Bakery closed shortly after FV closed (I’m not sure if there was a connection), so Jim went to Langendorf. We stayed with Jim, when he joined that company. Jim eventually went to work for Kilpatrick’s, so we switched again and followed Jim to his new bakery. Long after I left WMH, I heard Jim had passed away, I wrote a nice letter and card to his wife. Jim really was a behind-the-scenes unsung hero of FV’s success – plus the cows on Petting Zoo Island loved his products, as well.
(Recollection by Allen Weitzel)
Joseph George Distributors, Olympia Beer, Ciro Taormina
Joseph George Distributors provided FV with another hero, as well. At first, FV used Olympia beer in our picnic business because it was a good middle-of-the-road, and we could turn a fair profit margin with it. After awhile, we began to get comments from picnic groups for us to carry Coors or Budweiser, but we stuck with Olympia because of the service we received from the Joseph George Distributor staff, namely Ciro Taormina. As I recall, the ABC had very distinct regulations regarding the weekend delivery of beer. As far as that golden beverage was concerned, Ciro always found a way to “solve our problem” and make sure our Guests remained refreshed. If necessary, he would come out to the park at “irregular times” to “check on us” and make sure that we had everything we needed. What better way to describe the kind of person that Ciro was is to read a SJ Mercury News article I found? The article says it all (see web link). It was written by Dan Reed, 12/12/2006.
In addition to the above stories about Ciro, below is a short addendum story about the Olympia Beer Company.
“Olympia Beer Story Visit.
At Frontier Village Amusement Park where Warren and Allen worked, there were group picnic areas. For picnic groups, the park would serve beer to those companies that wanted it for their employee company picnics. For many years, the featured beer was Olympia Beer, which happened to be Paul Weitzel’s favorite. Though Paul hardly ever visited The Village, he was proud that his sons worked there. Frontier Village was large account for Olympia, purchasing thousands of kegs of beer per year to serve groups, as well as selling beer at the Silver Dollar Saloon. One year, Bea and Paul decided to take a trip to Washington to visit their friend Miles Cady and his wife. On the way up, Bea and Paul stopped at Olympia Brewery to take a standard tour of the facility, open to the general public. Shortly into the general public tour, Paul mentioned to the staff that his sons worked at Frontier Village in San Jose and the park featured Olympia beer. Well, the staff at the Olympia Brewery certainly knew of Frontier Village and the volume of beer the park purchased. Before you could wink your eye, Bea and Paul were removed from the standard general public tour and were escorted with their own behind the scenes tour of the plant. Paul became king for a day. Bea and Paul were treated like royalty. In addition to the special plant tour, they received lunch, special gift souvenirs, and a visit to the famous Artesian Wells, where the pure water is used to produce Olympia Beer. Paul had a grand time. A week later, Paul’s son, Allen, who was the Frontier Village Food Director, received a letter from Olympia, thanking Allen for sending Paul to inspect the plant.”
(Recollection by Allen Weitzel)
Aura Studios, Steve Franzino
Around 1977, Steve Franzino, who’s father had been a long time food concessionaire at FV, contacted me about FV buying tee shirts and hats from his company, Aura Studios. His partner was Mark Chaney. What we liked about their products was that the colors were very vibrant on the clothing. They were a local business, and minimum orders were not too large for our budget. In addition, Steve grew up around the Village, so he knew what kind of customers we had. Aura Studios was a good supplier for us, and we did a decent amount of business with Steve’s company. Once the park announced we were closing and during the last six months of operation, we started getting very busy, as did our suppliers. Warren had come up with the idea that every FV Employee who stayed and worked the last weekend we were open would get a Last Roundup tee shirt. And, on that shirt, each Employee would have their name on the shirt. Yeah, easier said than done, Warren! We asked Corb Hilliam, a great cartoonist who was a sketch artist for FV at one time (and who had designed many of our tee shirts), to draw up the Last Roundup tee shirt design. Donna Raphael, our Merchandise Supervisor, told me that some of the female employees did not like the first design that Corb drew up because it had a male cowboy on the front, with his legs open and the Employee names inside his legs. There was no female cowgirl in the artwork and over half of our FV Employees were female. So, we had Corb produce a second design that had a cowboy and cowgirl on the front, with the cowboy swinging the rope and everyone seemed to like the new design. I contacted Steve and told him our plan and we both knew Warren’s idea was not going to be easy to pull off: everyone’s name on the shirt. Remember, this was just one task of many that were included in closing the park, something none of us had ever done before. What no one predicted was how many Employees we would be hiring and how many workers would be quitting (those looking for longer term employment elsewhere). Not only was Aura Studios selling us our General Store retail Last Roundup tee shirts and hats (in assorted sizes and colors), but now we placed this extra request of producing Employee tee shirts upon their staff. The system started out pretty smooth. Steve provided a proof shirt to us, several months out. The proof shirt was only printed on the front side, with just enough names to fill the rope design of the artwork. We knew the final shirt would have a simple rope design on the back with the remaining Employee names filling the back design. As I recall, of the FV crew, I had the only first proof (aside from any proofs that Steve saved for his staff; which I hope he did). In cleaning out my sock and tee shirt drawer recently, I confirmed that the original proof still exists. During our initial planning, we had planned to have the FV full time staff listed first on the shirt, and then the Supervisors and Employee names would follow in alphabetical order. As weeks passed, Steve and I realized that it would be a Herculean task to keep all Employee names in alphabetical order, so we just concentrated on making sure all names were represented, and spelled correctly. By the way, if there were any spelling errors on the final shirts, those errors must be attributed to me. Warren and Steve did a great job of giving and transcribing Employee names to and from me – I was the critical middleman. As the last few weeks before closing approached, we were hiring new workers and some veterans were leaving to accept new job offers they had procured. I was not inside the Aura Studios warehouse, but no doubt, the changes we requested were not easy to keep track of. Steve and I were on the phone a lot and Steve and his crew seemed to be working some very long hours. On the Thursday and Friday nights before the Last Roundup weekend, Steve and I burned up the phone lines. I was telling Steve to remove Brian’s name and add Nancy, etc. That Saturday morning of the weekend of the Last Roundup, Steve made a delivery to FV of our LRU Employee shirts, and retail LRU shirts and hats. As I recall, Steve told me he was short some hats and he would bring them Sunday morning. During the afternoon, Warren dropped the big bomb on me. We lost a few Employees and he hired a few. Warren sheepishly asked if there was any way Steve could produce a few more shirts for Sunday with some name changes on them. I said I would ask. I called Steve Saturday afternoon; hat in my hand, as the saying goes. We confirmed the time he planned to deliver the remaining hats on Sunday. Then I ventured into the request of “getting a few more Employee shirts,” as well, on Sunday. There was a long pause on the phone. Well, if there is one great personality trait possessed by the Franzino Gang (that they probably got from their Dad, Al), it is that they are always upbeat and positive. Steve said he could do it, considering that we were not asking for tons of dozens of shirts. Then I asked the killer follow-up question, “Can you make a few name changes?” There was longer silence, but damn it, Steve was and is the consummate professional. He said he’d try. We had, by that time, long abandoned the idea of maintaining any name order on the shirts. To make sure Steve did not have to enlarge the back shirt artwork, we brainstormed and agreed how we would find the space for the name changes, with a little name magic. We had some brother/sister Employees working for us, as well as some twins, as well, so we saved space by combining family names on one line, instead of those siblings having their own name line. This was just for the Sunday shirts. Steve came through and delivered all the various products we needed. Donna Raphael recalled that she was assigned the task of handling out the LRU shirts to the Employees at the end of their shifts. Donna said that Employees wanted two shirts, one kept in cello wrapping for safe keeping and one to wear. I am sure it was not an easy task for Donna, and the staff helping her, to keep the crew in line and only give them one shirt a piece, not to mention the headaches of Employees trying to decide what size they wanted. Now for you FV souvenir collectors, you know what this means: three different Employee LRU shirt samples existed. The first test proof (one sided), the Saturday shift shirt, and the very select Sunday shirts. For many years after the park closed, I kept my three samples safely stored away and identified for the sake of posterity. With hectic days of life getting in the way, those shirts were moved around. I know I still have the first proof and one Employee shirt sample, but I have not taken the time and effort to conduct the extensive name research to see if I have both Saturday and Sunday shirts left. I gave some shirts to friends and some members of the FV website gang over the years. I do not know if I gave one of the Saturday/Sunday samples away. In my 48 years of various jobs in the business world, I have seen some super-human business efforts, but the most remarkable efforts I have ever witnessed was the behind-the-scenes work effort that Steve, Mark, and the Aura Studios gang put forth to get the hard working FV Employees their shirts with their names on it. Anyone who knows anything about tee shirt manufacturing understands that these printing workers had to deal with the weight and quality of shirts the customer wanted, the problem of assorted sizes (sometimes having to reduce the image for smaller sized shirts), the various assorted colors of material of the shirts themselves, the number of ink colors the shirt design required, the actual printing and drying time, and the shirt cello packaging time and effort, just to name a few. (Chip in anytime, Steve, with any of the headaches I missed.) When Steve and I started the Employee LRU shirt, we talked about assorted tee shirt colors, but I believe we finally settled on tan, as opposed to blue, yellow, white, etc. I know those last few batches of shirts were only printed on tan cloth. This FV job had already put Steve and his crew to the test. I am sure that assorted tee shirt colors would have been too over-the-top to attempt. The LRU Employees owe a debt of gratitude to Steve and his gang for going the extra mile to make sure the Employees had a unique souvenir that they could save and be proud of for years and years, and help them remember the park’s last weekend. Many suppliers performed extra work for FV because the park was closing. Mt. Lassen Trout Farm picked up the left over fish, after we closed. Many suppliers produced last minute products and delivered goods up to the last minute we were open, but those special business favors had all been performed before by those suppliers with other accounts. Steve and his crew created a one-of-a-kind product, not seen before in such a business environment. I wager to say such a feat has never been done very often (if at all) by other companies under similar circumstances. Aura Studios gets my best “behind-the-scenes effort award” of the entire park closing stories we shared. (Recollection by Allen Weitzel; edited by Steve Franzino, Donna Raphael, and Warren Weitzel.)
On Oct 14, 2009, at 11:12 AM, Steve Franzino wrote:
Glad you remembered so much about the last days at FV. This sounds
great, and has so much detail and I have nothing more to add. Thanks for
the good comments about Aura Studios and me. If you have any other
questions, feel free to call. -Steve
Hidden Secrets Working With Suppliers, By Pat Hanna
As many folks will recall, when I returned to FV following military service in 1972, one of the many responsibilities I assumed that year was that of printing (tickets, flyers, forms, etc.). I learned the trade from Keith Kittle, as he was also in the process of transitioning to assuming new responsibilities at Winchester Mystery House.
On one particular printing job, I recall having a flyer printed by a printer whom I will refer to as DQR, and who had been a long time vendor of FV. When the particular job in question was finished, I went to DQR to pick up the job and discovered that it was not printed as we expected. A catastrophe was in the making, because this was a timely piece that was needed for an upcoming promotion, and one that would cost us a significant number of dollars.
Moving forward, I simply refused to accept the job. So, in response, legal action was threatened because, according to the shop owner, he printed the job according to what he was provided in the original artwork. I took a sample of the printing and the artwork back to FV’s resident artist and creator, Laurie Hollings, and discovered with him that the artwork had been altered. I was furious, went back to the printer and pointed out to the print shop owner what we discovered, and fired him on the spot.
I subsequently took the job to another printer, who I will refer to as BHP. They were typically more expensive, but always reliable. Fortunately for us, they prioritized the job for me, considering its due date, and finished it in record time, to have the piece available for the promotion for which it was printed. I typically favored BHP in most cases because I knew I could rely on them in a pinch.
So, what happened to DQR? I don't believe we ever paid them. I believe we called the owner’s bluff, and nothing ever happened. Moving forward to a year or so later, I had the privilege of meeting a gentleman at a new printing company I was developing. He was employed by DQR at the time of the above incident. We talked about new business as well as the incident at hand. What I learned wasn't too shocking. He admitted to me that DQR’s owner had been drinking during the time he printed our job, and then later realized he screwed up, and tried to cover his tracks by altering the artwork and passing off his shoddy work. The new guy had a major beef with DQRs owner over the incident, and eventually left DQR because of business ethics. DQR closed within the year.
I can't recall all the printers I worked with, but I do know that I had at least 10 that I worked with on a regular basis. Most all had their specialty. I think only 2 or 3 of them had a Heidelberg press, while most did only offset printing. Some were well tuned for small jobs, others for large jobs. As I learned in time, what seemed to be a relatively simple job on the surface, turned out to be quite involved and very strategic underneath.
Since I dealt with so many printers, maintaining a loyalty among them was important to me, so I tried to balance out the number of jobs I awarded, even though sometimes the job might have been less expensive somewhere else. I learned through that experience that the BEST guy for the job is NOT always the CHEAPEST guy, and a lesson that has paid me dividends down the road, BIG TIME.
The bottom line was this: no matter who you are working with or what you are buying, you've got to know your suppliers well and who you can count on in the end. As many of the FV Staff knew, we had many suppliers that would literally cover our backsides in a pinch. You can’t buy that loyalty. It is loyalty that is earned.
PS – Please note that we asked Steve Franzino to proof and verify our recall of the events of the last few weeks of FV operation and his involvement in the production of the Last Round-Up Tee Shirts. His email also is enclosed.
PPS – Donna Raphael also gave of her time to proof some of these Supplier Stories, for accuracy.