This I Believe

John - Wilmington, Delaware
Entered on December 18, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in persistence –locking in on goal and not giving up. Staring back at me above my desk at the gas station where I’ve worked for 35 years there’s an un-attributed quotation that speaks of this kind of tenacity being superior to talent genius and education. Above talent because talent doesn’t guarantee success, over genius because it often goes un-rewarded, and better than education because a degree is not always a ticket to fulfillment. Persistence alone, says the quote, is omnipotent.

My father owned a delicatessen. A mom and pop store in a neighborhood before there were 7-11’s. There was a marketing strategy that especially irked my dad. When companies considered rolling out new products, they would test their viability in small independent stores like Mike’s Food Market. Such a case was the Pepperidge Farm apple Turnover.

In the 1950’s Pepperidge Farm, led by their founder Margaret Rudkin, introduced the dessert to exploit Americans emerging use of freezers. This product was test marketed at my father’s store prior to distribution to the big stores like A&P and Acme. Of course once the product’s success was proven consumers could find the turnovers anywhere and my dad’s sales would plummet at which time my dad would just go back to doing without the apple turnover bump. So it was a great pleasure in 1961 to point out to my father that Pepperidge Farm had sold out to Campbell Soup and that tiny Mike’s Food Market had outlasted the giant bakery. An example of persistence making up for size and resources, proof positive of the importance of this trait ? Probably not.

What about my father’s nemesis at Pepperidge Farm, Mrs. Rudkin. A mother of an allergic son, in the 1930’s she started baking stone ground whole wheat bread to complement his diet of minimally processed food. She progressed from her kitchen to her garage to a full-fledged factory in 1940. She purchased other bakeries and introduced new products not least of which was the frozen apple turnover. The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook published after she sold her company was the first cookbook to ever make the New York Times bestseller list, according to the Pepperidge Farm website, which begins with this quote from Mrs. Rudkin

“You’ve got to want something first and then you have to go after it with all your heart and soul.”