Making Applejack For 10 Generations

New Chairman for Mercer Chamber

Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the

October 3, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

How Non-Profits Can Raise Money Now

The words "bad news" have taken on a massively

heightened meaning. When the Borden Perlman Non-Profit Consortium

named its upcoming seminar "Dealing with the Press: Good News/Bad

News," organizer Irwin Stoolmacher says the bad news part

referred to how charitable groups should deal with questions on


events within their organizations. Bad news now has come to mean the

terrible events of September 11 — events whose ripples are


further than anyone could have imagined.

Stoolmacher is president of Princeton Junction-based Stoolmacher


a fundraising, management, and marketing consulting firm with a roster

of non-profit clients, including the American Cancer Society, Isles,

Mount Carmel Guild, the Passage Theater Company, Union Industrial

Home for Children, and Womanspace. This is the time of year when he

prepares the all-important end-of-the-year solicitation letters that

go out to potential donors. This year, crafting the letters is no

easy job.

The minds and hearts of area residents are firmly fixed on one spot.

Wallets are opening as never before as the impulse to do something

— anything — to ameliorate the suffering in New York finds

expression in gifts to disaster relief organizations set up to help

victims’ families. This is good and necessary. But, he says, it


problems for local non-profits not obviously connected with the rescue

and relief efforts.

"Fundraising is the most important function of a non-profit,"

says Stoolmacher. Furthermore, most of the money needed to run soup

kitchens, aid victims of domestic abuse, keep the arts alive, and

fund research into a cure for cancer comes from individual donors.

Contrary to common belief, he says, "most money does not come

from corporations. Eighty percent comes from individuals. If you


planned giving and bequests, it approaches 85 percent."

The question is how non-profits can approach donors swamped by the

suffering in New York City. How they can lay claim to a percentage

of charitable giving for their own work when the need in New York

is so great — and so clearly visible? This subject, not originally

on the agenda, will be discussed at the next seminar of the Borden

Perlman Non-Profit Consortium on Thursday, October 4, at 8:45 a.m.

at Greenacres Country Club. Cost: None. Call 609-799-5250.


moderates. Speakers include Susan Young of Susan Young Media

Relations and Arnie Ropeik, senior editor of the Times of


Stoolmacher is a graduate of the State University of New York at


(Class of 1968), where he studied political science. He holds a


degree in political science from Rutgers. He was an urban analyst

in Richard Hughes’s administration, urban coordinator at St. Peters

College, and business manager of the Jersey City Board of Education

in the mid-’70s. Moving to the private sector, he was president of

one of Caliper’s operating companies before starting his own


company in 1987.

"When the seminar series thought about the bad news, the bad news

we were thinking about was not as bad as the bad news we got,"

Stoolmacher says. How will charities position themselves to raise

funds? "That’s the $64,000 question," Stoolmacher says. But

raise funds they must.

The fact of Americans’ unique generosity toward charities is not only

a happy national characteristic, it is an essential safety net.


not that we are better or more generous than other peoples," says

Stoolmacher. "We’ve structured our society to have individuals

take care of the needy. In Asia it’s the family. In Sweden and other

social welfare countries, it’s the state. In our country, we rely

heavily on individuals." This trend has only intensified in recent

years. Bush’s emphasis on faith-based initiatives is another move

in the direction of individuals caring for their less fortunate


With unemployment up, and economic uncertainty almost palpably


the air, 2001 never looked like a banner year for donations. Now,

says Stoolmacher, "fundraising sure isn’t going up." He is

hoping it will stay even for local charities. His advice to these

organizations includes:

Avoiding competition with New York at all costs. Many

non-profits work so hard, year after year, to raise money for the

good works they do. If any of their administrators find it frustrating

to see tens of millions of dollars pouring into New York from all

directions with nary a direct mail solicitation letter in sight, they

had best not breathe a word of it. Any appearance of begrudging the

terrorists’ victims one dime of aid could set back a non-profit for

a good long time.

Expressing understanding for the tremendous need just up

the Turnpike. "I’m reworking my previous letter,"


says of a direct mail solicitation he is composing for a non-profit.

"I’m looking for a way to say, `Even with the increased need,

don’t forget about the truly needy among us.’" Something like

that is the correct tone. Non-profits may have to assure donors that

they know they are giving to the relief effort, that demands on them

are heavy, but that the charities they have supported in the past

still need their help.

Explaining how local people are tied to the tragedy. If

a charity’s caseload is up as a result of September 11, donors should

be told.

Everyone has heard that tourism is down, and that large numbers of

airline workers are being laid off. Stoolmacher says it is up to


to make those facts local, to remind donors that area residents are

among the baggage handlers and concession workers at Newark and


airports. Many of these people, already living from paycheck to


will quickly fall into poverty if they lose their jobs. Charities

that provide emergency food, shelter, or child care for these people

would do well to explain to donors how their clients have been


by the tragedy.

Putting forth a case for expanded services. Stoolmacher

points to Prevention Education as a charity that would like to expand

its role in the wake of the tragedy. The non-profit presents programs

on child assault prevention, and, in response to requests from


would like to run programs to help children cope with grief and fear

associated with the attacks on the Trade Center. It is important for

that charity, and others in its position, to express this desire in

its fundraising materials and in interviews with the press.

Offering coping tips. This is the time, says Stoolmacher,

for non-profits to boost their profiles, while providing a valuable

public service, by drawing up lists of coping tips and distributing

them. Non-profits of all sorts could provide advice on everything

from recognizing normal grieving patterns to applying for emergency

aid to get a business up and running again.

With increased demands, non-profits are apt to be busier than

they have ever been. But that is no excuse for neglecting the


that can get each its share of the finite dollars of donors.

Top Of Page
Making Applejack For 10 Generations

Asked whether she would like to see her children, now

three and five, join the family business some day, Lisa Laird

says, "Oh yes! I would love them to join the company. That’s what

we’re here for." If the youngsters do follow their mom, they will

be the 10th generation of Lairds at Laird & Company, the 14th oldest

family-owned company in the country. But they won’t be the first


of their generation to help make, market, and distribute the applejack

the company has been distilling since at least 1717. That honor goes

to their cousin, J. Evans Laird IV, who just began work as a sales

rep in the company’s Pittsburgh office.

Laird & Company is a finalist in the Ninth Annual Family Business

Awards sponsored by the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies

at Fairleigh Dickinson, PNC Bank, and New Jersey Monthly Magazine.

There are 16 finalists and semi-finalists. They are divided into


with over $10 million in sales, and those with less than that amount.

The companies will be honored at a luncheon on Thursday, October 4,

at 11 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Somerset. Call 973-443-8842.

Only 30 percent of family businesses make it as far as the second

generation, and a mere 10 percent to the third generation. On the

list of New Jersey companies being honored on October 4 are four in

their fourth generation — Marotta Scientific Controls in


Bograd’s Furniture in Riverdale, Siperstein’s Paint & Wallpaper in

Jersey City, and Maria’s Homemade Ravioli in Wayne. There is also

one five generation company, Crofutt & Smith Moving & Storage in


At 10 generations, Laird & Company is based, as it always has been,

in Scobeyville, which is a part of Colts Neck Township. The area,

says Laird, was named for Captain Joshua Scobey. "He was a


she says. "The government gave him land to farm so he wouldn’t

be out pirating."

Laird, vice president, public relations and sales, says her family

has lived in the area since 1698. The applejack it began producing

soon thereafter was initially passed out among relatives and friends

or bartered. The company’s first recorded sale took place in 1780.

In the early days, the company’s applejack was made with apples from

nearby Monmouth County orchards, supplemented by wagon loads of apples

driven in from all over the state. Now, says Laird, most of the local

orchards have been replaced by housing developments. The remaining

orchards have pledged their produce to applesauce companies, including

Motts, and Laird & Company uses apples from the Shenandoah Valley.

The company’s business has been expanded beyond applejack to include

other distilled spirits, distribution of imported liquor, and bottling

for other companies, which find its mid-New Jersey location convenient

for distribution up and down the East Coast.

If Laird’s disposition and outlook on life are typical for her family,

it is not hard to see why the 50-person company is thriving into its

10 generation. A graduate of Washington College (Class of 1983), she

started to work in the family business in 1984. Originally, she had

wanted to be a veterinarian. "But," she says, "I ended

up getting allergies to cats." She switched her major from science

to economics, and betrays no regrets.

How did she end up in marketing? "I was kind of

placed there," she says. She worked at jobs throughout the


and especially enjoyed quality control, but sales was where her family

decided they wanted her, and that’s where she went. Vivacious and

articulate, she took to the job and says she enjoys it.

Laird’s father, Larrie Laird, is the company’s CEO. "My father

and I have a very rare relationship," Laird says. "We can

speak our minds, and then it’s over. We don’t carry it into our


lives." While differences over work issues are resolved on the

spot, other work-related discussions do carry over to non-work hours.

"We talk about business at the dinner table," Laird says.

"except when my mother says `Stop!’"

There are now four members of the Laird family in active roles with

the company, and more on the board of directors. Laird’s mother, Rose

Marie, however, is not among them. In the early years of her marriage

Rose Marie was part of the business, but no more. "My mother was

helping out, and she was like `forget it,’" Laird recalls,


that there is something about the husband/wife bond that is


to harmonious work relationships. Rose Marie now concentrates on


work and time with her grandchildren.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family concentrates on growing their


Laird says there is no friction, because "we all have the same

goal." Negotiating salary with her father has never been a


she says. Compensation is based on profit, and she shares his belief

that a large percentage of the company’s profits should go back into

the business. Besides, she says, in a statement many patriarchs of

family businesses only yearn to hear, "dad is very fair. He


gives less to himself than to his employees."

Top Of Page
New Chairman for Mercer Chamber

Tourism and transportation are high on the agenda for

Carol Beske, who is about to begin a two-year term as the


Mercer County Chamber of Commerce’s chairman of the board. Owner of

30-person, Robbinsville-based ACT Engineering, Beske adds the chamber

position to a host of other civic responsibilities. Former West


mayor and councilperson, Beske is also president of the Mercer County

Park Commission, chairman of the board of the Regional Planning


and a member of the executive board of the Greater Mercer TMA, a


alliance of which she is a founding member.

The Greater Mercer Chamber welcomes Beske to her new position at a

"Changing of the Guard Reception" on Thursday, October 4,

at 5 p.m. at the Trenton Country Club. George Pruitt will be

honored as outgoing chairman of the board. Cost: $50. Call


Beske graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in

education, and taught for three years in Boston while her husband,

Grant Beske, was completing his doctoral studies at M.I.T. The couple

then moved to Wilmington, and then West Windsor, where they raised

four children. Beske became active in community affairs, and took

a job at the U.S.T.A., where she developed a rating scale for tennis

players that is similar to the handicaps golfers use.

Once at the top of the scale as a 5.0 tennis player, Beske says she

has slipped down to a "solid 4.0" as the demands of her work have

increased. Not an engineer herself, she was recruited in the ’80s

to do business development for an international engineering company.

When the company was bought out, she stayed on for several years,

running the Princeton office and handling business development from

Maine to South Carolina. In 1990 Beske decided she to start her own

firm. ACT Engineering specializes in civil engineering, planning,

surveying, and environmental engineering.

Beske first became involved in the Greater Mercer Chamber 10 or 12

years ago when she formed its West Windsor division. "At the


she recalls, "West Windsor was really becoming a business


onto itself with offices and shopping centers, but it was lacking

an identity." Along with other business leaders, she thought a

chamber of commerce would help the township develop one, but


want to set up a chamber."

"We looked at where we were best aligned," she says. The


Chamber turned out to be a good fit. Beske headed up the West Windsor

division for many years during the townships two big employers,


and American Cyanamid, were joined by scores of high-profile tenants

in the Carnegie Center.

During the same time period, Beske saw the Mercer Chamber grow to

1,000 members and expand to include a number of businesses in


and Burlington Counties and across the river in Bucks County. Beske’s

term as chairman of the board will run for two years. Her priorities

for those years include:

Tourism. "We do see a great benefit for a tourism

bureau," she says. "We have long been short on promoting the

wonderful things we have here. We haven’t packaged them as a


The county is home to Revolutionary War sites, the refurbished War

Memorial, Trenton’s baseball stadium and arena, and outdoor recreation

aplenty. Tying it all together, and creating a travel destination

is the challenge. The Marriott hotel and conference center nearing

completion in Trenton will help, and so, says Beske, will a tourist

bureau, which is set to open this fall. It will be housed and nurtured

in the chamber’s offices while it gets started on its job of promoting

the county.

Transportation. "Transportation is critical to the

economic success of the county," says Beske. Current traffic


are "a major stress factor for employees," she says. Employers

aren’t happy with conditions, either, and new businesses thinking

of relocating here take commuting time into consideration when


quality of life factors. "We have to be more and more farsighted

in finding alternatives," she says, suggesting light rail and

alternative buses as possibilities, and regional cooperation as a


Legislation. "We need to be very cognizant of


that affects business owners," says Beske. She sees more of a

role for the Mercer Chamber in this arena. "We really need to

help out businesses large and small," she says. "We will see

more involvement in the future." Issues now before the legislature

include extending the range of benefits to which workers would be

entitled. For a small business, "that becomes critical," in

Beske’s view.

Education. The chamber needs to explore how the business

community can best work with school systems in Trenton and in the

suburbs. In addition to making sure workers are coming out of the

schools adequately trained, Beske says the chamber needs to be


at overall big picture in education."

Beske shrugs off any suggestion that adding her new chamber

responsibilities to running a company and working in a number of other

civic leadership positions is a stretch. "You just do what you

do," she says.

A resident of Princeton for the past four years, Beske recently


her husband, newly retired from DuPont, to work at ACT Engineering,

although not full time. She dismisses any talk of her own retirement.

Time to travel, perhaps? "We’ve taken out time to travel,"

she says. "I’ve been to Russia, Kenya, Singapore…" Recent

adventures include rafting in the Grand Canyon and hiking through

Alaska. The couple have planned a trip to Nepal, but whether they

go "remains to be seen."

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