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Mama's Apron Strings was born of necessity, in the small, charming town of Eastport, which is right across the short Spa Creek bridge from Maryland’s historic capital of Annapolis. My girlfriend, Marie, was opening a coffee shop in Eastport, where she begged me to work to help get things off the ground. Marie explained that it would be kind of like my work at home as a Mom: waitress, short order cook, chief bottle washer, floor scrubber, and generally seeing to it that everyone is happy! Gee, how could I pass up such an offer?! So I agreed, and I quickly got the hang of being a coffee shop utility player.
There was one irritating drawback, however. Each morning I would report to work looking clean, fresh and nicely dressed. But by day’s end, this “Mama” was covered in coffee grounds, mustard, and whatever else I managed to encounter in the confines of the bustling beanery. So, in self-defense, I made myself some aprons, all with coffee motifs. Each day I wore a different, fresh, clean apron, which I color-coordinated to whatever fetching ensemble the apron was designed to protect. Well, in no time at all, our customers began to inquire about where they could get aprons like the ones they saw me wear. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that these one-of-a-kind creations were designed and handmade by me. People wanted my aprons!
So I decided to accept a few apron orders. As part of the process, I would quiz my apron admirers about their hobbies and other interests, my goal being to select fabric patterns that would fit their personalities. Some folks gave me such detailed self-analysis that at times I felt like an armchair psychologist! Armed with this client profile information, I would shop for the perfect patterns for their aprons. Then I’d handcraft their aprons, which I delivered to them the next week over a cup of java in my girlfriend’s shop. My customers were often so thrilled, and expressed such thanks and appreciation, that you’d think that I had presented them with gifts, rather than something that they had purchased from me! It was so much fun!
The orders for my aprons continued to flow in, so much so that I had to dramatically cut-back on my hours at Marie’s coffee shop. Still, Marie encouraged me to continue to work there at least one day a week, if for no other reason than so I could fill new apron orders (in between filling coffee orders for Marie!). So that’s what I did for about a year, during which time I made and sold over 600 aprons! All from one tiny coffee shop in sleepy little maritime town – and without even hanging one up a single apron on display – it was all from of me simply wearing my aprons while I served coffee!
My big break, which I wasn't even looking for, happened when a group of businesswomen came into the coffee shop one day for a meeting. They were handling the advertising for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s (BSO) annual “Designer Showcase” charitable benefit. As they were ordering coffee from me, one of them said, "Great apron!" I replied with my usual, "Thanks, I made it.” Then they said, "Really? How many aprons do you have already made up?” I answered, “A few,” whereupon they asked, “Can we see them?” So I showed them a few aprons that I retrieved from the trunk of my car. They gushed with enthusiasm and immediately invited me to be one of a few select vendors to participate in the BSO’s Designer Showcase. The rest, as they say, is history.
The BSO event opened many more doors for my burgeoning business, including invitations to offer my creations for sale in the Kennedy Center’s gift shop, the National Symphony Orchestra’s Designer Showcase, the City of Baltimore’s “Artscape,” and an eclectic mix of unique restaurants, wineries, and kitchen and clothing boutiques, some as far flung from Annapolis, Maryland as Bend, Oregon! My aprons have reached television too, for example. TLC’s reality show Jon & Kate plus 8, and Channel 2 News, in Baltimore. Also, Jenn Thomas, the winner of Rachael Ray’s “So You Think You Can Cook” contest, wore one of my designs in her publicity shots.
So, while Mama’s Apron Strings was born of necessity, my business is nurtured by my passion for a product that I believe in and that my customers love. I relish the fact that my aprons inevitably manage to puts smiles on the faces of all who wear them or who give them as gifts to their loved ones and friends. Aprons are for everyone - - whether one is gardening, cooking, or merely serving up carryout, we all can make a mess!