“The Misery Market” and other obit news

Posted by Rob Walker on March 7, 2007
Posted Under: Obituaries

Today’s obituary page is teeming with action. Paul Secon, co-founder of the Pottery Barn, has died. Ernest Gallo, co-founder of the famous winery, has died. And Jean Baudrillard has died. I’ll leave comments about Baudrillard to others.

In the Pottery Barn guy obit, I was surprised to learn that the first store was opened in Manhattan all the way back in 1949, selling “discontinued and slightly damaged” items. “In 1952, an article in The New Yorker mentioned that people could buy good-quality, if slightly flawed, ceramics at the Pottery Barn; it started a rush,” the obit says. There were only seven Pottery Barns when the mini-chain was sold in the 1960s — and I was also surprised that there are only 197 today. Doesn’t it seem more ubiquitous than that?

One of the interesting things in the Gallo obit is this:

The brothers were successful from the start, but in those days were no match for industry giants like Petri, Cribari and Italian Swiss Colony.

But the company’s introduction of Thunderbird wine would change that. In 1957, the Gallos developed the brand, a concoction of inexpensive fortified white wine with added citrus flavors.

It was named after the Ford sports car and was aimed directly at “the misery market,” according to “Blood and Wine,” Ellen Hawkes’s unauthorized biography of the family. By the end of 1957, Ms. Hawkes reported, Gallo was making 32 million gallons of Thunderbird.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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