Insights on business -- and life.
Memories of Bill Mangelsen
With lessons for all importers, businesses, and
by Kim Mitchell, Bill Shugarts, and Bob Ferguson (February 17, 2008)
Never Sacrificing Personal Service by Kim Mitchell
(Note: Kim is the daughter of industry pioneer Priscilla
Hauser and a former employee of Mangelsen's, the import/distribution
In my earliest memories of the crafting industry, the Mangelsen
family, most especially Harold and Berenice, were more than a chain
in the link of wonderful "firsts"; they kept building upon
a growing foundation with the "Mom and Pop" style. In the
heyday of my time in the industry, their sons, particularly Bill,
took their family business to worldwide levels of success without
sacrificing the personal service that often seemed to get lost in
the myriad of "superstores."
I cannot even begin to imagine how many independent stores they
encouraged, supported, and that flourished under Bills keen eye for
fair trade. One of my most cherished memories of Bill was when he
personally escorted me on my first trip to the Orient. It was a
magical and memorable trip that I will never forget.
As much as I have always been a "people person" with
cues taken from my Mother on how to learn the industry, Bill taught
me invaluable lessons about business – and people – that I will
always be grateful for. His quiet observation of me was often
sprinkled with sage advice about learning the business of importing
– and had everything to do with the country and its native people.
That by being respectful of a foreign country, by immersing myself
in its culture, and opening myself to its traditions and customs, I
could learn how to be a better person – and businessperson.
One time, while struggling to learn Mandarin before a trip
overseas, I was horrified to learn that Bill had overheard me
fussing about learning the language. I had questioned why we (as
Americans) needed to learn their language when so much foreign trade
was dependent upon U.S. imports. Wrong thing to say.
I remember when I saw Bill, I was ashamed and absolutely
mortified that he had heard me, and I thought I might lose my job.
Instead, sat down and gently remind me that it was our people who
were asking for their help, coming to their country, looking for
business opportunities that would be beneficial to all of us. And
that they already KNEW our language – even to the point of taking
"American"-sounding names to help us communicate better.
He was so kind that day, and taught me a much-appreciated lesson in
dealing with our overseas vendors.
I understand that the industry has undergone such drastic changes
– probably both good and not so good – but how lucky we were to
have been there also during a time when "family" was the
appropriate term to use. When most everyone looked out for each
other, most conversations weren't shallow promises, and everyone
actually enjoyed (most of the time, anyway) seeing each other, even
after just hanging out together at one of the ten dozen annual trade
Bill's Charity Work by Bill Shugarts
Bill was a deeper man than folks realized and he loved Asia. He
was a "humanist" in terms of his volunteer work with
Father Ray Brennan's Orphanage in Pattaya (on the outskirts of
Bangkok, Thailand). I would talk with Bill about that each time I
would visit him in Hong Kong. Bill gave me three books – pictures
of the kids in the orphanage – and offered to introduce me to
Father Brennan. Bill was also the one who introduced me to Jane
Goodall and worked for her Foundation. Bill, I believe, was on Jane
Goodall's Foundation Board for a while.
I was honored to work with him on several projects throughout the
years after leaving Fibre-Craft and competing against him while at
Fibre-Craft, and then trying to lead an investment group to buy
Mangelsen's thereafter. He had that sternness or abruptness but
behind that was a good man. I will miss his emails, jokes, articles,
and photos we shared, as well as the trips together in parts of
Moreover, he was one of my "enablers" to look into
going back to Vietnam for my first time in 2002 – scared to death
after being a soldier years earlier, but Bill assured me that it
would be OK.
I send my condolences to his family and grateful appreciation for
Bill's friendship over the years. I consider it an honor to have
A Visionary and an Icon by Bob Ferguson
(Note: Bob is the owner of Ferguson Merchandising and a
member of the CHA Board of Directors.)
I would surely like to see Bill remembered as the icon in our
industry that he was. His creative genius was boundless and ideas
flowed from him like water from a tap. He seemed to have his hand in
everything even if he was not designing, manufacturing, or exporting
His motivations seemed not to be making a huge profit from
everything he touched, but instead he seemed to want to do anything
possible that he could to further creativity within our industry.
One of many huge successes I can relate was his ability to muster
the resources within his company to find sources of nearly any kind
of product. Many years ago I took him a couple of pebbles that
children were bringing to the store for us to sell in our waterfall
department. Of course getting kids to bring in enough to have in
stock to sell proved to be a bit much, and I asked Bill if he could
find a source for something as simple as "rocks."
Twelve hours later he had found a source, sent one of his staff
to the quarry for samples, had packaging solutions, availability
information, and delivery dates, and presented the entire package at
my hotel in Hong Kong.
I think we subsequently sold over 10 container loads of
"rocks" and many other companies in the industry had a big
success with this line. His take he told me was nearly zero. Why? I
asked, and he said he felt that the industry needed a shot in the
arm at that time and the little quarry was run by his friend who
also needed a boost to stay profitable.
His passion for the "little guy" or the independent was
well known, and his disdain for the "rules of the game" as
dictated by the largest operators in the crafts industry is also
part of his legacy.
His recent refusal to sell to one of our industries largest
companies was a huge statement to all that said, "Get your
stuff together people, or you won't have a craft industry" Upon
being presented with what he described as a 700-page buy/sell
agreement by the proposed purchasing company, his reaction was
typical: "Tell the SOB's to go to hell. I am not signing over
the future of my company just for the sake of saying I am selling to
those pretenders. They won't be around long anyway."
Cantankerous? Maybe, but "Visionary" might be a better
description. I would guess that in his entire life Bill never took a
dime from anyone that he did not earn. His gifts to family, friends,
and charities were always huge and without strings. His love of
China and the remarkable people there was a passion of his and he
will be missed there as well as in the U.S..
I am proud to have known Bill Mangelsen and called him my friend.
(Note: Anyone who would like to share their memories of
Bill should send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)