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A Letter From My Grandmother, Ruth Campbell Bigelow

I recently ran across this letter that my grandmother must have written back in 1945.  It brought tears to my eyes….it is a beautiful story that is truly the foundation of why Bigelow Tea is around today…I hope you will agree.  Cindi Bigelow

The sale I never forgot:


I was trying to establish a market for a new product…one that was unusual, unknown, and unbacked by a large advertising budget.  And I was trying to do it alone.

The product was “Constant Comment” Tea.  The market was non-existent.

For days I had called on retail stores in the area.  The owners’ answers were discouragingly similar.  They would smile and say, “But Mrs. Bigelow, we can’t handle a product which has no demand.  Build the demand; then we’ll handle the product.”

Then I would smile and say, “But how can I build the demand if there is no store where customers can purchase it?”

They would shrug…and I would shrug…mentally I would ring up another “No Sale.”

That night I returned home exhausted, discouraged, apprehensive.

I had given up a successful decorating business in New York, moved to the country and invested nearly every penny in this product I had called “Constant Comment.”  Had I done the right thing?

The product, I knew, was good.  I had complete faith in it.  The public, I was sure, would find it as delightful as I did.  But did I have strength and ability to sell both dealers and consumers?  At that moment I thought not.

Later that evening my sister telephoned.  I poured out my fears and doubts to her.  She listened, offered some suggestions, and as she hung up, she said – “And remember, Ruth, Mama moved the pony stable.”

I returned to the living room and conjured up that event in my young family life.  We children had a wonderful white Welsh pony named Bottoms.  Bottoms lived happily in a little stable just big enough to hold him, his cart, his sleigh and his food.  It was a very pretty stable – painted white, with hand-hewn beams and a shingled roof.  And it had a tiny hay mow that was a constant delight to my brother, my sister and myself.

One day my father announced that we were moving – from East Provident to The Hill.  As the conversation progressed it became apparent that, while Bottoms would make the move with us, his stable would not.

We children were extremely upset…Bottoms would never be happy, we were sure, in any other home.  Finally to placate us Mama said, “The stable will go too.”  Papa was appalled; he said flatly that it couldn’t be done, and dismissed the subject.

The next day Mama placed an order for a low, sturdy wagon.  When it was complete, she rented four draft horses, hired six workmen.  Bottom’s stable was levered onto the wagon, and we began our parade across Providence.  (And it was a parade – buildings were not moved with so little fanfare in those days).

Away we went…four patient draft horses in the front, followed by six doubtful and embarrassed men steadying the stable.  Next came a bemused Bottoms, following his home and pulling his cart, which held Mama and us children.  And behind us came a trail of well-wishers, advice-givers and hecklers.

Papa couldn’t be found that day.  Later he explained, “How could I, as a school principal, maintain any discipline in my school if I were associated with a scene like that?”  But even without Papa we made our way through traffic, around corners, up the back, less steep roads of The Hill to our new home.

That night we children slept in a strange new house – but Bottoms had his own familiar stable.

As I relived these scenes, the significance of my sister’s comments came to me.  If you really wanted to do something badly enough…you could.

I can’t say that I went out the next day and sold a million cases of tea.  But in those first months, when the going was really rough, I could say to myself, “Mama moved the pony stable.”  And I could find within myself the courage and the ingenuity to continue building the business that meant so much to me.

MORAL:  Your biggest sale is made when you have sold yourself on your
rightness and your ability.

— Written by Ruth Campbell Bigelow, 1945

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