October 31 – Happy Birthday Tom Constantino

 

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He came to Amsterdam from Hudson, New York where his father had owned a produce store. He started selling ad specialties to businesses in the area. Ad specialties are any items that people use that can also be imprinted with an advertising message. Back when Tom started selling them, the most popular ad specialties were calendars and pens. It was while driving from one sales call to the other that Tom realized that an ad message inside the car would be extremely valuable because as he liked to say, “inside the car is where people are when they go to buy something.” So he started brainstorming ideas for a highly visible ad specialty product that could serve a desirable enough purpose inside the car that drivers would want to have one.” The very first product of his brainstorming was an item Tom called the “visor tissue-pack,” which was a paper-sleeved container of tissue papers that slid around a car’s sun visor. His idea for the litterbag resulted from the fact that Tom realized the people who used this tissue-pack had to be able to dispose of them some way. That “way” would become the foundation of a company that would employ over 200 people at its peak and exceed over ten million dollars in sales before Tom passed away in 1989. That “way” would also be officially proclaimed to be “The Environmental Symbol of a More Responsible America,” by Keep America Beautiful Inc. in 1977.

I will never forget the first time I met Tom Constantino. It was the summer of 1977. I had gotten married in January of 1976, graduated from Albany State University that spring and we had our first child that November. I took the first job I could get, which was a merchandising specialists position with a national food company. What it entailed was that I drive up and down the Northway, from Albany to the Canadian border trying to get the Grocery Managers at about 80 Grand Union stores to give my company’s products more and better space on their shelves. I knew right from the start it was not the job of my dreams but probably because I was still a kid and immature in many ways, I did not realize there were so many things that job could have taught me if I had given it the opportunity to do so. After a particularly trying day working with my manager, I gave him my two-week notice in a North Country Grand Union parking lot and drove back down the Northway.

I exited at Ballston Spa and took Route 67 home to Amsterdam and on my way down Church Street got stopped in a line of cars at the red light on the corner of Church and Prospect. I looked to my right saw the Noteworthy sign, pulled in the parking lot went inside and asked for an employment application. Tom’s long-time assistant Diane Santos handed me one, I sat down in the outer office and filled it out. On the line alongside “Type of position desired” I wrote “marketing/advertising. “ I gave it back to Diane. She told me someone would be in touch. I drove back home. I went inside and told my wife I had just quit my job. An hour later the phone rang. It was Diane asking if I could come back to the Noteworthy offices. I drove back up to Noteworthy and when I got to Diane’s desk she yelled, “Tom, Mike Cinquanti is here.” He came out of his office, grabbed my hand and said with his booming voice “So you want to be in marketing? Tell me why?” We walked back into his office and for the next hour or so he did almost all of the talking but before I left, he had offered me a job that didn’t yet exist or he couldn’t describe but I took it anyway and it changed my life.”…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam entrepreneur in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

 

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