Brenda E. Shadic Interview
This is file #29, cycle 3. This is Jean McMllen. Today’s date is April 4, 2018. I am interviewing Brenda Shadic who works for the Harney & Sons fine Tea Company. She is going to talk about her career path to Harney Tea, what she does at Harney Tea, blending, making tea and anything she wants to talk about tea. But first we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
BS:My name is Brenda Shadic.
JM:What is your birthdate?
BS:May 24, 1951
JM:Where is your birthplace?
BS:Gt. Barrington, Mass.
JM:Your parents’ names?
BS:Ralph Shadic and a Joan Salvo Shadic.
JM:Do you have siblings?
BS:Yes I have a brother Paul and a sister Christine.
JM:Do you still live in Copake, NY?
BS:Yes I actually live in Copake, but my mailing address is Hillsdale, NY
JM:We are going to start with Dotty smith Inc. When did you start working there?
BS:I joined in 1981.
JM:Where was dotty smith located?
BS:On Brook Street in Lakeville.
JM:What did she produce?
BS:Women’s fashion accessories: earrings, necklaces, belt buckles, a limited clothing line, handbags, tote bags, and headbands. We monogramed tote bags.
JM:You started with monogramming and engraving. How was that done?
BS:We had one machine that was used for monogramming. It was a modified sewing machine basically. You could set it up to monogram three initials. We were doing tote bags and jute belts. The engraving was on gold-plated buttons, different parts of jewelry that could be engraved.
JM:Then you went to an assembly line?2.
BS:When there wasn’t enough to do with monogramming, then I was in the assembly line where we strung leads, made belts, anything that needed to be assembled. The earrings which came in in bulk were put in pairs on a card. Button also came in bulk and we put them in sets on cards.
JM:Then you moved on to customer service?
BS:Yes I would have to confirm who the customer was, their address, take their order whether it was for belting or jewelry or whatever. That data would be entered into the computer.
JM:Did you also do the data entries?
BS: I did later on.
JM:Next you did something called In House Arts?
BS:I was there a few years and she decided to have her catalogue done in house. She had hired an artist, or graphic designer to come in and lay out the catalogue. It was not done on a computer then; it still done by hand. She had gone through one young girl who came and went; then there was a gentleman who worked for her for a few years and then he left. With my art background, I asked if I could apply for the job. She said certainly so I came in with my portfolio and sat down with her and her husband Leonard. I had my interview with them; they were impressed by my portfolio. They said, “Why don’t we give you a try?”
JM:What is your art background?
BS:I went to Marist College for Fashion & Design and Merchandizing for 2 years. After that you transfer to a liberal arts program which was provided by Marist, but I was thinking of transferring to Duchess Community. Since I was done with the fashion program, and looking for a job for the summer, I was told by several people about this company in Lakeville that does fashion accessories. It sounded like the perfect place so I ended up there and stayed 12 ½ years.
I did her catalogue. She also let me design some buckles, so there are a few designs that are mine.
JM:Did you monogram them for you?
BS:No, they went out under her name, but I know which ones were my designs.
JM:Because she was downsizing, you were looking for something else to do.
BS:I knew I was going to possibly be out of a job but had not started thinking about looking for one. One of the young ladies that I had been working with at Dotty’s and had already left, through a friend of hers who was working for the Harneys told me that they were hiring. I said I’ll give it a try. It is just up the road. I called and came in and had an interview with Michael. (See file #58, cycle2, Michael Harney) He said that everything looked good but he wanted me to come back and meet his father. I think it was a week later I came back and met
with John and Michael. He was happy with what he found in me. When I mentioned that he was also friends with my uncle Jack Flynn (See tape # 98A John Flynn), he was like, “Oh well, no problem.”
JM:When did you actually come to work for the Harneys?
BS:It was October 12, 1993.
JM:What did you do first?
BS:I was in the driveway my first day, a beautiful October day, learning how to blend Earl Grey tea with Sally Mott. The driveway was at the house at 11 East Main Street across from the White Hart.
JM:The ladies inside the house were discussing you.
BS:Yes, come to find out several years later when we were all chatting about things, they were inside saying to Michael, “She is going to quit; you have her out there blending tea on her first day.” I was out there loving it. It was a beautiful day, I was learning something fun. I can’t believe I am getting paid to do this.
JM:You also mentioned that you were wearing blue jeans, whereas at Dotty Smith’s you couldn’t.
BS:Yes, the only time we were allowed to wear blue jeans at Dotty’s was if we came in on a Saturday to do something. During a business day we had to be dressed appropriately for business even if no one saw us. Finally I got to wear jeans. It is funny because when the tea company had moved to Brook Street and Dotty had moved to the smaller grey building, I went by one day. She came out and I stopped to chat with her. She was wearing blue jeans and she looked at me who was also wearing blue jeans. She looked at me and I said, “Oh yeah NOW you do it!”
JM:You had a wonderful story about working at 11 East Main Street and you said that the kitchen was used for…?
BS:When we had to pack a William Sonoma order which was loose tea into tins, it requires some space. We ended up doing that in the Harney’s kitchen which was not very big. We set up an assembly line at the island in the middle with the tea at the end, then the tins, and the filled tins came at the end and those got put in boxes.
JM:Next came the dining room?
BS:My first winter there I was helping Brigitte (See file #23, cycle 3 Brigitte Harney) with gifts and we needed space to set up another assembly line. We ended up taking over the dining room.
JM:Then you wound up in the central room at the table putting together something.
BS:I was fulling little blue tins for the Ritz-Carlton Gift Shop. We did about 6 different flavors for them. Elyse came home; she had been in the hospital overnight with a case of pneumonia. She had
come through her real estate office which is in the front of the house and came out to find me sitting at the table in the center room which was sort of like another dining room. She just lost it! The only words that came out of her mouth were “JOHN! MICHAEL! “ I am sitting there shivering, oh dear but this is where I was told to be.
JM:This is probably what induced the move to Brook Street.
BS:Yes, we had just taken over too many of her rooms. It is a big house but we just were taking up too much of it.
JM:The camel and the tent. When you did move to Brook Street, what was the building that you moved into?
BS:It was a three boy garage that Hans Roche had been storing cars and other equipment. A small computer programming company had also used the space just before us, so there was carpet on the floor, and it was painted and cleaned up pretty well. Then there was another three or four bay garage to the side with one finished bay. Actually Hans Roche had storage items in the other part.
JM:What were you doing at Brook Street? Were you doing special packaging?
BS:I was still doing customer service and still helping with some of the gifts and specialty packaging which required more hands-on and more attention to detail. You had to label everything, and count out tea bags and package them more carefully for they were in soft foil packaging. It was paying more attention than just fulling tins. At this point some of the girls no longer did the packing because we now had a packing room. A lot of the girls who were there before me were just doing strictly customer service and filling orders.
JM:What colors were you using at that time, just gold and black?
BS:Yes the gold and black?
JM:Do you know when the Jewel Colors came in?
BS:Like the HRP line? The first colors that really came in were the Classic Colors Line, the ivory with the colors, then the Jewel Color Line and next the HT Line was developed for anthropology. The next color line was the Historic Royal Palace Line where John Harney Sr. had worked with the Historical Palace people to come up with several blends that were going to be for them. They make sure that the tin and the design is what they are looking for. This line is in England for the Historical Palaces such as Kensington, all to do with the Queen.
JM:When you were working with the gift line, were you working with Dona Olinger?
BS:Yes, when we moved from the house to Brook Street because we were growing, things separated a little bit more so that Dona was taking on the mail order aspect of it. She and I worked
together on coming up with gifts that we could also sell to our mail order customers , using some of the products which were already set up for our retail customers. Then we brought in different food items like cookies and candies and so forth and packaging them up.
JM:What about corporate gifts?
BS:That is something special and I work with Brigitte on that.
JM:Did you continue with mail orders?
BS:I also did the mail orders. Yes, I am a jack-of-all-trades.
JM:The employee numbers have gone up. It started with 6 and is now over 200.
BS:I was the 5th full time employee when I started and now we are well over 200. That is companywide including Los Vegas, SoHo, Hudson, and other places.
JM:You moved over to the Rail Road Plaza in 2005, did you develop a gift line?
BS:Yes at that point because we are now so far separated from Brigitte and the retail shop which stayed in Lakeville so I asked if I would develop the gift line even more than it was. They let me do so.
JM:In working with this were you working with Brigitte and Emeric?
BS:With Brigitte, Emeric was still in high school probably.
JM:Do you still handle the 5 corporate accounts that you work with exclusively?
BS:Yes, they came along; we have had some come and go. William Sonoma is still one of my accounts.
JM:You also developed some teas by yourself didn’t you? What are they?
BS:Yes, the first one they let me do was “Mother’s Bouquet” which is a floral herbal tea with a citrus flavor. I thought that everybody has a mother so why not? I thought it would be a nice addition to the line. Two years back I had come up with an idea and presented it to them; it was “Birthday Tea”. It ended up being ready for John Sr. 80th birthday. I had been working on it and by the time it was completed as far as the blend was set and label, it timed out so that it would be perfect timing to use for his 80th birthday.
JM:When you blend tea, how is it done?
BS:There is a recipe for every blend it is divided by poundage. The flavorings are usually oils; we use natural wherever we can. Some teas have actual flower petals; we use a lot of marigolds, cornflowers, and then the different flavorings in the spice line: cinnamon, cardamom and some of the new teas are using pepper, black pepper as well as orange or lemon peel, apple pieces. One of the new
teas which I pushed for and we finally have it, is a pear tea that has actual dried pieces of pear in it. Some of the blends can have up to 15 different ingredients.
JM:You favorite tea is Black Currant. At lunch time you would do something rather unusual.
BS:Yep, when I first started working back in the house, about ½ hour before my lunch break I would go into the kitchen with a Black Currant tea bag, I would get one of the big heavy glasses and put the tea bag in, add hot water from the Bunn Hot Water machine which was a standard in the Harney kitchen, pour the hot water over it, cover it, put it aside and let it steep. At noon when I came up for lunch, I would take the tea bag out and add ice and a little bit of sugar and I would have iced tea with my lunch every day. I had noticed the Mr. Harney watched me so this once in a while. One day he asks, “Miss America,” because he called us all Miss America. “What are you doing?” I told him, “I like to have iced tea with my lunch?” “But it is the middle of the winter?” “Well, yes, but people drink soda all year long, why can’t you drink iced tea all year long?” He stood there thinking, “I like that: that is a good sales pitch!”
JM:Wonderful! You do sell iced tea, don’t you?
BS:We do sell bottled iced tea all year long and we do tell people that what you normally think of as hot tea also makes a great iced tea. You have to use a little more tea or let it steep a bit longer. But if you let it steep too long it becomes bitter.
JM:The atmosphere here is always very cheerful and upbeat and pleasant. As I am coming in, people ask, “Can I help you? What would you like?” It is always a pleasant atmosphere. Do you find that yourself, having been here so many years?
BS:Yeah, it is a following from Mr. H. He was always happy, singing, whistling, and laughing. He made it an enjoyable place to work. We try to keep it that way.
JM:You have been here how many years?
BS:24 ½ years
JM:You told me about a cocktail party that was held recently.
BS;It was a party just before Christmas to acknowledge anybody who had worked here ten years or longer. There was quite a crowd. I don’t even remember how many people there were, but I was surprised to see faces and to myself “Oh wow they have been here 10 years or longer?”
JM:Is there anything you would like to add before we close?
BS:I was trying to think back on things, but I honestly can’t pinpoint anything. It has always been a great place to work, and remembering the Boss, especially with his happy attitude, singing or calling from his room.
JM:What a happy memory.
JM:Thank you so much.