Sam Perry, Portfolio manager with Eaton Vance Investment Counsel & owner of the gourmet salad dressing company, Crane Crest
WealthManagement.com: How did you get into the salad dressing business?
Sam Perry: I bought the business for my former wife for $10,000 in 1992 from my neighbors, who made the dressing out of their kitchen. After my divorce, the family court awarded the business to me, which at the time was losing money each year. So I said, “Let me see what I can do.” And of course, the rest is history. The Bush family (as in George H. W. Bush) has been very important over the years and I can say they’re all customers. And we’ve got our whole group of movie stars—I’ve learned all the aliases.
WM: How does the salad dressing business work?
SP: Orders still come in over the answering machine. Then we take the information down, write up an invoice and make up a box that gets picked up the next morning and goes out by UPS. When I bought the business for my ex-wife, the dressing was still being made in a Waring blender three jars at a time. And I said, “If you want to grow the business, you can’t make it three jars at a time.” So now I have one production location that delivers 8-9 pallets to my garage.
WM: How does Crane Crest impact your advisor business?
SP: When you’re running a small business, you learn to listen; it’s really important. My clients are long-term investors, so it’s about staying with a game plan. I try to bring my clients into the decision-making process. Also, Crane Crest is a quality product, but the service orientation is important too. That’s exactly what I do at Eaton Vance, too. At Crane Crest, we don’t market; we don’t have a website: The product sells itself. It’s the same situation with investment counseling.
WM: Any crossover between the two?
SP: The connection I have to the real world through Crane Crest can provide a better perspective and the ability to ask meaningful questions. Running this company helps remind me what various companies are working with and it therefore alleviates some of the detachment many investors have with the companies they select for their portfolios.
WM: Have you thought about selling Crane Crest? Retiring?
SP: I’m almost 71 (in March). Thank goodness Eaton Vance doesn’t have a mandatory retirement year. I’ve had a number of clients ask me in recent years when I’m going to retire and I tell them I think I’m good for another five years.
As for Crane Crest, I’ve had offers from a number of well-known gourmet retailers over the years, including Dean & DeLuca and William Sonoma. They get upset with me when I say no, but I’ve determined that if it’s going to be sold through any of them, it’s going to be under the Crane Crest label, not their own.