A little more than a year ago I found myself at the local CVS prescription counter when I made, what I thought to be, an interesting observation. At the heart of the observation was my memory of a marketing manager I had once worked with, who in laying out product locations in our company stores, was frequently heard to comment “You always keep the milk in the back.” His sound reasoning was that customers frequented our stores for specific products, and placing those products in the back would force them to walk by many of our other products, inducing them to buy more items.
What caught my eye on this particular day were the strategically placed issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine, at the rear checkout counter. Clearly the milk was in the back, as this issue, like all issues of Cosmopolitan, featured a well endowed model against a pastel background. Large type screamed the sensual offerings of the issues inner contents, clearly providing the potential reader an expanded and improved bedtime experience. However, with no mention of murder mystery books or cups of hot tea, I knew the lovely Suzanne would not be interested.
What I found of equal interest was the selection of arguably related products displayed adjacent to the magazine. Here I saw every conceivable (and inconceivable) product on the market, designed to enhance, promote, stimulate, lubricate, uncover, and discover, the essence of human relationships, all surrounding a counter from behind which were dispensed little pills that allowed the user to “stay in the game”.
With a quick peek down nearby aisle six containing Pampers, Similac, and other baby items, I realized I had stepped in to a marketing manager’s utopia. Here before me was a carefully laid out bread trail, that starting with the Cosmopolitan Magazine, would guide the CVS shopper step by step, product by product, through a lifetime of shopping needs. I wanted to express the observation to someone, but in those pre-Patch days, the thought was left to bounce around in my brain before settling somewhere in the back, where it has patiently waited until now for its opportunity to emerge.
It was shortly after this that I was approached by Sean Jacquet who offered me the opportunity to put my thoughts and observations before an audience by writing for a new electronic news source, the Holliston Patch. Sean was a friend of my son who I had known since he was young. I had read many of his stories in the local newspaper, and told him I admired his work. It didn’t require much of a sales effort for me to say yes.
Sean’s instructions to me were very simple; write about whatever you want. And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve tried to be relevant, I’ve tried to be topical, and I’ve tried at times to be funny. I’ve had the privilege of corresponding with the descendants of the Bragg and Hollis families, as well as receiving comments from baseball historian Bill Nowlin, and Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs, the daughter of historian and author Stephen Ambrose. I’m also particularly grateful that this column has provided me the opportunity to extend my circle of friends within town.
I’ve enjoyed nudging local democrats, who though misguided, are wonderful people whose concern for our community is second to none. I’ve particularly enjoyed my banter with our state representative, my third favorite democrat and a real good sport.
When meeting with new Patch editor Justin Saglio recently, I tried to convey what it is that makes Holliston so special to me. The reason is not because it’s the town I grew up in and thus in which I enjoy a natural comfort. I believe it’s because so many Hollistonians possess a true sense of community that is enjoyed and celebrated equally, regardless of income level or residency duration. I make my home in Holliston because it is home.
Nothing stays the same. CVS now keeps Cosmopolitan at the front counter, while the real milk is in the back. That can be someone else’s story.
See you around and about.