Martha's Memories ~ "I'd like to speak to the owner" being a woman owned business in the 1960's

Posted by Copper . on

I'd Like to Speak to the Owner

Officially, I started my business in 1965, in the basement of my parent’s home in Hyde Park, MA. - a humble beginning. Once I had an office, I always hired and worked with several other staffers. I preferred to help answer the phone and answer questions. And I genuinely enjoyed greeting any visitors that came by or those that came for tours.

Early on, a little drama occurred that was to repeat itself again, and again. It’s strange to think this happened in similar variations for the next 50 years. I'd often talked about this happening, and would comment to staff, asking them to watch and wait for when the next visitors came. Watch and wait for the "expected" comments, and the familiar scenario set to play itself out.

The first experience, that I encountered like this, was perhaps the most memorable! I was sitting in the front office when a gentleman came in, and without a single sentence of greeting to anyone, he abruptly said, "I want to see your owner." When I told him “I am the owner,” - the little drama began. He repeated that he wanted to see the “real owner” and it certainly wasn't me! Finally, I convinced him that my title was president, by showing him my business card, but that meant nothing to him, as he continued to insist on speaking to my father. To make a long story shorter, this same man had traveled almost 100 miles to complain that my company, Eglomise Designs, had refused to sell our products to his Cape Cod retail store. I struggled to catch my breath, as I told him, “I am so sorry that you are so angry!” I further went on to explain that we were very particular about the stores we partnered with, and that another store nearby already was our customer. I did tell him that we were extremely careful not to saturate any sales area but realistically, we could not sell to another. Although, eventually we did resolve the issue to our benefit, we unfortunately, watched this same scenario play out repeatedly over the next 50 years.

Before I retired recently, I was not only asked about my husband, but how could it be possible that I was the “real owner" or the "sole owner?” That was something that needed to be examined, as far as guests were concerned. The question about ownership usually came after a little tour around the factory. About 15 minutes into the tour, the question dropped, “So, is this a family business?” Or "who are your partners " or " Wait a minute, you said you started this business in 1965? That can’t be quite right." Or, “ I don't quite understand," and then I would be corrected with a comment like this, "a woman couldn't have started this business in 1965, because that didn’t happen in those days,” etc., etc., etc.

I know that women owners today experience some faint echoes of these questions, but as each year goes by I know this conversation will diminish.

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