Memories of Mike

New additions: Mike Dupey, remembered.

by Staff Report (June 7, 2010)

(Note: The stories about Mike continued to pour in, even afterCLN published the first batch. Here are the new additions, followed by the original notes. And if you haven’t read Howard Hoffman’s memories of Mike, be sure to read “Benny Da Buyer.”

NEW: Mike and a 40-year Friendship.

We met Mike in 1969 or early 1970 when he had the first Ben Franklin. We had a retail store where we manufactured in the back. He came to our store and offered to buy everything we could make, My husband told him we were already selling everything we could make. Mike said I will pay you when you deliver to the store – those were magic words in those days. That was the beginning of a 40 year friendship.

We manufactured bisque for the consumer to paint. We also manufactured the first wooden gum ball machine and the first wooden reindeer, Santa, etc. We had many products over the years and always did business with Mike.

My husband talked Mike and his dad into changing the name from Ben Franklin to Michaels. My husband designed the logo and sawed out the first Michaels sign. He and Mike hung it together over the Northtown store. About three years ago Mike gave my husband a photo of that early store with the original sign. He wrote on the photo, “You started it all.”

What a man; one-of-a kind and will never be forgotten. –Sharon Weatherly

NEW: Mike and His Sister.

I am pleased to read all the positive, funny and touching memories written about Mike. I spoke with him every day, two or three times a day for the last six months, plus had a wonderful visit with him this last March. I really miss him!

I worked for him off and on since I was 13 (I learned he started working for our father at 7 years old) in the Northtown Mall original Ben Franklin store. After college I wrote the store and warehouse software programs for the bookkeepers and the Frame Express framing application on the original IBM PC’s in the early 80’s. (Remember the DOS operating system?) I had two young children while living in Scottsdale, AZ writing the Framing Systems. It took me just under a year to finally go live in the stores along with Frame Express & MJD Moulding. Toward the end year he kept calling, “What is taking you so long? Are you writing programs to frame a cactus out there in the desert?”

Mike was the oldest of seven kids, 13 years older than me. He a great big brother! He helped me and our younger sister (Diane) through college in Arizona. He gave me away at my wedding, and paid for the wedding. He also paid the airfare for a group of employees from the warehouse to fly out to Arizona to attend my wedding. He loved to dance and was very good at it, smooth and fun. He never would let me pay him back for anything. When he came to Scottsdale, AZ for Thanksgiving he would take my son to Toys R Us and let him go up and down the aisles filling up at least two baskets of toys. After Mike went back home I would exchange at least some of the toys for diapers needed for our younger daughter.

I watched on the sideline as he kindly helped many people in need. A young girl in the warehouse lost her baby soon after birth and he paid for the funeral. Many times he would put himself in another person’s shoes and understand their needs and was very giving, as if he felt their pain, too.

The last four months he did contract work for Christian Community Action in Carrollton. During that time he attended a few meetings at homes and their office.  He told me cried during the meetings because it was so touching to him how they prayed for one another, told a success story of a struggling single mom with six children and was very moved by their accomplishments helping the community with food, clothing, and housing.

When it came to his business he was a perfectionist; he wanted the best quality and most of all, customer service! Just weeks before he died he mentioned that to me again: “Customer service is number one; how a store looks when you first walk in – it must be inviting, clean, organized; and no matter what you’re doing, stop to help a customer.”

A bit of that customer service mentality flows over at our homes; we stock our refrigerators, pantry, and cupboards same as a retail shelf – inviting, clean, and organized. I know I drive my kids nuts with my constant reorganizing and condensing the cereals, items in kitchen drawers, etc. I guess Mike taught me that!

Thanks again for all the kind words of loyalty, respect, and friendships to Mike! – Sharon Dupey Ketterer

NEW: Mike and Those Who’ve Come After.

For those of you who are new to the “craft” retail segment, it is your loss to have not known, met, and/or dealt with Mike Dupey. Had you had such an opportunity you would be an even better person at what you do today – guaranteed! God Bless Mike Dupey! – Casey Casebolt

NEW: Mike and the Human Heart.

I loved the articles about Mike. So sorry he is gone. Too bad he could not understand why so many admired him. Makes us all wonder how minds and hearts work. – Doxie Keller

NEW: Mike and Re-connecting.

He packed a lot into his years, but he left too soon. You’re right, we all ride along the paths paved by others, not just those who are no longer living. What you wrote made me want to get in touch with the people who helped me get started in my “new” career almost twenty years ago. Fortunately, they are still here – three in the craft industry, two in totally different careers. I’ll be sending notes this week. (Make that handmade cards; I don’t think I can get away with a piece of plain white paper.) – Judi Kauffman

NEW: Mike and a Thrift Store.

Recently Mike was helping a non-profit thrift store increase its business so it could help more people. Walking the store with him was like the old days; we were both gray, but his conversations, his intercourse with customers, and his ideas were all gold and still worked. – Ed Baker

Mike and the Employee.

I was having a house built, and the contractor was a crook. He disappeared with my money and hadn’t paid the sub-contractors anything. I was going to lose it all. When Mike heard about it, he sat down and wrote me a check for $25,000. Told me to decide how much to have deducted from my paycheck and for how long.

He never charged me a penny interest. – Former employee

Mike as a Mentor.

Michael Dupey was my mentor. He did not really know it, but to me Mike was like the Godfather of Crafting. Merchandise crafts the way he did and you could not help but be  a success.

I asked him once about his “secrets of successful merchandising,” and he told me that I should never be a follower, only be out in front.

There were times when I thought he was “out there,” but he was never boring or predictable – and that was what made him an original. He was the most followed, talked about, and copied person ever to come along in the craft world.

When it came to following Mike’s lead, I learned to copy his successes and truly, he had more of them than probably even he knew.

He truly was an icon in our industry, and even though he has been away from “the business” for a long time, I still follow his leads almost daily.

You will be missed my friend! – Bob Ferguson, Ferguson Merchandising

Mike and the Phone Calls.

The first time I met Mike, he fired me – and I didn’t even work for him. I ended up working for Mike for 10 years. Despite my share of 3 am phone calls, Mike taught me retail, merchandising, and that work could be fun. – Bill Winn, Martin F. Weber

Mike at a Trade Show.

We can all still picture him at the HIA and ACCI shows, with great memories: “Here comes Dupey!” someone would say when Mike started down an aisle, Howard [Hoffman] at his side, followed by an entourage.

And boy would the vendors “hop to it” when they knew he would be coming down their aisle, thinking to themselves, “Mike Dupey himself might see an item in my booth and stop – WOW! That could make my entire show!” – Casey Casebolt, Gerson Int.

Mike and a Little Boy.

I have a story about Mike Dupey that is not your normal story. (Editor’s comment: No story about Mike is a normal story.)

Mike opened a small jewelry store here in Dallas. I was VP of Sales for Westrim and the company wanted to know what his store was like. So I went down to this little 1,000-sq.-ft. store with my four-year-old son.

The store was having a promo that all kids received a free popsicle. The sales person asked my son if he wanted a popsicle and he responded, “No thank you. Momma can we go somewhere and get a bottle of water?” Mike heard this and went in the back and got him a bottle of Evian out of his refrigerator.

I always remembered this and told the story because he did not know who I was, but did a very kind act for my son. No one who knew stories about Mike would have guessed that he would get a little boy a bottle of water on a hot Texas day. That will be my memory of Mike Dupey: a kindness that he showed to my little boy. – Chris Alm, VP of Sales Simplicity Creative Group

Mike & Ben Franklin.

Georganne Bender of Kizer & Bender was working at the old Ben Franklin when the company was working on its The Makery (all-craft store) project. To see her video on her memory of that project with Mike, visit http://www.viddler.com/explore/KizerandBender/videos/11.

Mike and Priscilla.

I was stunned and incredibly saddened when I learned about Mike Dupey. The whole industry owes Mike Dupey so much, and yet probably few people really know what a giant he was.

I have incredible memories, fabulous stories. Through the early years of decorative painting, Mike became one of my best friends. He wasn’t always easy to get along with, but I got along with him beautifully. One of my favorite stories occurred when he decided to put many of the books I published on sale. This made the independent dealers furious. When I called Mike and asked him not to do that, he immediately put every book of mine he had on sale.

At first, I was dismayed by his attitude, but in reality, I was stunned and delighted when he sold hundreds and hundreds of my books – a profitable situation for both of us. He always knew best.

Through the years, we laughed about that story and spent many happy hours together over a martini discussing our wonderful industry. The last time I saw him was at an HIA show. He gave me a musical teddy bear with roses in her hair and told me he loved me. I’m heartbroken.—Priscilla Hauser

Mike and Money.

Mike Dupey certainly was a giant in this industry. He inspired, terrorized, browbeat, innovated, created, and generally did what you least expected!!

A funny story for you: When I first started at Plaid back in the mid 90’s, I was sitting in my office about 10:00 am one morning when a huge black limousine pulled up to the curb in front of the office. Out pops Mike Dupey, dressed in rumpled jeans and shirt, hair looking like he had been up all night, and sun glasses. (It was a grey, overcast day!) He is carrying a brown paper grocery bag under one arm.

Proceeds to walk across the grass, through the front door, says hi to the receptionist, but then walks around her and down the hall to the credit manager’s office. Once there he walks in, shuts the door, and five minutes later emerges and walks back out to his limo.

Turns out he was past due on his payables and decided to pay a personal visit to pay down his balance, with I believe was $60,000 in cash! Turns out he knew our credit manager quite well and decided this was the best thing to do to get back in her good graces.

He certainly did things in unconventional ways…only Mike Dupey…. He will be sorely missed. – Mark Hill, Creativity Inc.

Mike and a Painter.

Although I have many Mike Dupey stories about this innovative industry giant, this one shows a softer side that I don’t think many people knew:

We were at one of Mike’s parties and he got everyone talking about if they could have one wish, what it would be. There was a mixture of people at the party, manufacturers, store owners, salesmen, designers, artists, and friends. Of course there were the usual wishes: health, wealth, better business, etc.

At the time there was a TV game show where, when you answered questions, you received so many minutes in a grocery store and could fill your basket with all the food you could cram into one basket in the allotted time.

One of the artists at the party said her wish was to have five minutes in a craft store mimicking the game show. Mike got up from his chair, grabbed the artist, left the party, and took her to the nearest Michaels store. He opened the store and let her fill her cart with art supplies. He bagged them for her and back to the party they went!

As I said there are so many stories about Mike that we could probably fill a book. He was a personal hero. I admired his guts, wisdom, and fortitude. Yep, sometimes he was a “stinker” as my Mother would say, but a great craft store pioneer and entrepreneur. – Peggy Caldwell, Design Director for Decorator & Craft Corp.

Mike and His Vision.

You know how there are very few things that I ascribe genius to, but Mike Dupey’s vision for this marketplace we service was one of those few things. He stood in the limelight in this industry that was predicated on selecting the proper mix of innovation and commodity. Mike Dupey’s vision has already been sorely missed for many years in this industry – where today’s retailers have shunned innovation for short-sighted and short-lived current bottom lines.

Wanna know how much value I ascribed to Mike Dupey’s ability to see the future of crafts?  When creating new product concepts I would ask folks working on the line the WWMDT question: What Would Mike Dupey Think? –Anonymous

Mike and the Woolworth Guy.

In 1973 several of us big and strong, bullet-proof Woolworth guys walked in a mall to eat lunch, and we saw this Ben Franklin store with a ton of specials on old Mattel toys. I had recently been transferred to Dallas by Woolworth, the third largest retail giant in the world.

The next year I meet this guy, Mike Dupey; he was so open and full of words, like somebody who had been struck with a million volts of electricity. He took me back in his store to show me “the next hot item.” There in this dark paneled room were tables stacked with wood box purses, decoupage plaques (I did not know that then), and the ITEM: it was a dungaree blue shirt with rick-rack trim and appliqué flowers on the back etc. Then I knew this guy had several screws loose!

By 1975 I was privileged to be a pal and frequently visited this dynamo. He forever seemed to have the golden touch. He with his father had grown the group of stores now called Michaels to eight – when almost every major retailer thought this stuff was crap instead of crafts.

These were the days when variety chains walked the HIA shows looking at model trains and plastic model kits, while glue and pipe cleaners were in the basement in 10×10′s booths.

Then fate turned, and I working for this guy in a T-shirt and shorts running all over the store and cussing a blue streak. You never worked for him; you worked with him.

Yup, called you in the middle of the night. Yup, called you everything in the book in front of your people. Yup, unloaded trucks with you. Yup, sent you goods you had no idea what they the heck they were. (Often they did not sell because he was ahead of the market by six months or a year.) Yup, he could take a small strand of beads and turn it into millions of dollars of sales.

No, nobody knew how much volume we did. Yes, we walked in a group (tribe) at shows. Yes, we did what he yelled at us. Yes, he ordered large amounts that seemed absurd.

He always paid the invoice, sometimes he paid more to get it first. Yes, you could fight with him, disagree with him. Yes, he listened to you and you knew that he respected you. He paid you for performance – really, really well.

Ha! There were belly wars over donuts, there were moon pictures in your Christmas set-up books, and garbage can lid banging for hangovers. – Ed Baker

Mike and Yarn.

Mike Dupey is one of the oldest relationships I‘ve had in our industry, dating back to the ‘70’s. I’ve sold knitting yarns for the majority of my years in our industry, and the very first sale I ever made was to Mike when he took in a Canadian product I was hawking at the time (Phentex Yarns, which later became Spinrite). It was OLEFIN yarn – a harsh but rugged fiber that came in tubes for knitting these very durable slippers. (I still have my original sample). While the craze was very popular back then in Canada, nobody at the time had it in the U.S. craft market. Mike’s “guruic” vision spurred on the sale which then became a popular item for Michaels stores very early on.

Thanks for allowing me to share a story that remains close to my heart. Mike was an unusual guy who has never been duplicated. – Erik Mandelberg

Mike and a High School Reunion.

Mike Dupey went to high school with me – South High School in Denver Colorado. I sat at the same table with him at the 40th year high school reunion. I remembered his name but I didn’t recognize him after 40 years. We had a great visit. I was amazed at his brilliant career. I had no idea that he was the founder of Michaels. Mike and I visited quietly while a lot of the high school “in crowd” whooped it up, bragging about their lives. No one in the group knew that there was a quiet guy in the corner who was more successful than all of them put together. I am sad to see Mike go. I was looking forward to seeing him at the 50th reunion. – Bill Conklin

Mike and the Jungle.

I went to MJ Designs to sell something to Howard Hoffman and Mike Dupey kidnapped me. He drove me to an MJD store to show me an amazing jungle he had imported, complete with life-size trees and swinging monkeys. It was massive!

Mike learned that I had a new baby at home and forced me to take a 5-ft.-tall wooden giraffe home with me – on an airplane. That thing still makes me laugh.

Mike Dupey is a strong figure in my memory of “the good ole days”: walking shows with his feathered hat and entourage of black-shirted staff. What a thrill to have him show up at your booth at HIA on the last day – with an order!

I am happy that I have been in this industry long enough to remember the great days of Mike Dupey. God bless the gifts he left us. – Alice Beas, Crafty Productions

Mike and the Endcap.

When the HIA show was in Washington, D.C., Mike picked me up and drove me to a new store he’d recently opened in the area. We walked up and down the aisles with the store manager nervously following behind us.

At one point Mike stopped in mid-sentence and looked at an endcap. He called the manager over and asked, “How’s this doing?”

“Not too well,” the manager replied.

“Change it,” Mike ordered.

By the time we finished walking the store, the endcap was taken down and replaced with other merchandise.

I suspect that wouldn’t happen today. The order would have to come from company headquarters, only after reams of sales data and time. Then there would have to be negotiations with another vendor to replace the endcap. End result? Slow selling merchandise would take up valuable shelf space far longer.

Nobody before or since has the gut instincts – and the willingness to act on them immediately – like Mike. – Mike Hartnett

Mike and the Mercedes Dealer.

Mike went into a Mercedes dealership to buy two cars. He was wearing his shorts and a net “Head Brand” t-shirt. The salesman looked at him and ignored him, figuring why waste my time. Mike left, went across the street, and bought two brand new BMWs. In cash. Then  he went back to the Mercedes dealer and asked for the manager. Mike told him he just bought two new cars and if he was treated better when he came in here the first time, he would have bought Mercedes. I am sure the Mercedes dealer treated everyone very well after that lesson, and Mike bought many a BMW in the years that passed. – Howard Hoffman

Mike and the Limo.

I was walking the NAMTA show in New York when I bumped into Mike and Howard. They were about to leave for lunch and invited me along. We walked outside where it had been raining and there was a limo waiting for us. I was impressed – my first limo ride.

But apparently a split second before we opened the doors, the driver had passed a prodigious amount of, uh, gas. We piled in the car and were almost asphyxiated. “Open the window,” Mike shouted. The driver opened the sunroof and the rainwater poured in on us. So much for my first limo ride. – Mike Hartnett

Mike and His Wardrobe.

When I tried to introduce my Creative Country Crocks, I brought the manufacturer, Seely Ceramics from Oneonta, NY, to his first HIA show. We had a small booth to introduce our product, and during a slow period in the show I walked the owner of the company through the aisles to introduce him to our industry.

He, of course, was very impressed, until we started to return and neared our booth. He spotted a rather disheveled man wearing shorts and sandals in his booth. I pleaded with him to hurry back to speak to this rather, in his opinion, very unprofessional looking man. I implored him to hurry before he missed Michael Dupey. He still couldn’t believe it when he finally met him and walked away with his largest order of the entire show.

That was Michael. May he rest in peace. – Wolfie Rauner

Mike and the Editor.

I’ll never forget the first time I met him and toured his facilities. He and I hopped on the forks of a forklift while someone drove at what seemed like 50 mph through the warehouse. Mike was pointing out things, but I didn’t hear a word. I was holding on for dear life and couldn’t look! Then Mike drove us to see a couple of his stores, and again, I feared for my life!

When the Craftrends offices were in suburban Atlanta, there was an MJDesigns store just down the street. When Mike came to visit, I’d meet him at that store and we’d go to lunch. By then he was hiring a driver, so I felt much safer in a car with him!. He was always good to me and I appreciated his trust and support. – Bill Gardner, Clover Needlecraft

Mike and a Vendor.

When I reflect on my past time working with Mike and his life within our industry, several memories come to mind:

Mike coming to trade shows: many times Mike would stop in one of my booths and within five minutes look at one of our new products and say either, “GREAT new product” or “IF you change this and that, you will have a GREAT product.”

Working with Mike at his office: Mike would look at a product we proposed and I would suggest each store set up a 4-foot program and he would say, “Four feet, no; this should have twice that much space.”

Getting calls from Mike: He would be visiting a store and see one of our products and call me. “We need X gross of this new product! How soon before you could deliver?”

When I think of Mike, I think of real product development leaders like Bill Mangelsen. They had a real gift of product development. Their vision and leadership in our industry will be missed….

It is a sad time, but we all must focus on the positives of their memory and maybe all learn a little something about their passing.

Something that I heard during a funeral one time that stuck with me: The pastor said, “Each of us is touched by people in some way, and we each take something of that person with us, either positive or negative. Our goal is for each of us to take away and hold on to that person’s positive touch in our lives.”

For me, visionary people like Mike and Bill taught me to “look at products and people with a broader view of what could be. To look deeper into people and draw out their true creative imagination. To look at products with a broader view of what could be made with this product.

Creative inspiration is everywhere; we all just need to look through the eyes of leaders like Mike and Bill and many others, in order to see “What could be.” – Mark Lee, Flower Soft

Mike and the Wedding Anniversary.

Here’s a story that will surprise no one who knew Mike. When Barbara and I were about to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we mailed Mike an invitation to our party. We didn’t expect him to come – he was in Dallas and we were in Central Illinois – but we wanted him to know we were thinking of him.

A few days later the doorbell rings. It’s a delivery from a florist: the largest arrangement of flowers I have ever seen outside some fancy hotel lobby. – Mike Hartnett

Note: Howard Hoffman,who worked with and for Mike for more than 20 years has more stories than anyone. Read them in “Benny Da Buyer.”