Jack's goes big time with great story in Wall Street Journal

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Tom Downer, president of Jack's Country Store, displays marshmallow roasting forks that were the subject of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

OCEAN PARK - On June 27, Jack's Country Store made the big time as they were the focus of an article in the prestigious Wall Street Journal [WSJ], in which they named teh store's marshmallow roasting fork to be the second best in the country.

So what, you ask? Well Jack's President, Tom Downer, says since the article came out, the phone has been ringing off the hook. Considering Americans spend $1.8 billion each year on camping gear, roasting sticks can be big business.

"We got a call from a man in Alaska who read the article, so he decided to see if we had a food smoker large enough to smoke a moose too, since we had roasting forks."

Christy Caruthers, who handles online sales for the Ocean Park store, and the person who received the order from WSJ reporter Brooks Barnes, recently sent kerosene lamp parts to a sailboat in the South Pacific.

"Christy had to mail the parts to the captain's next port of call, and he won't get there for about a month," Downer said.

"The article really put us on the map. I've received e-mail from people all over the world who have visited Ocean Park in the past and want to say hello. And our mail order sales have increased to about 175 items per week."

Downer is a bit miffed about the article, however. He's not upset that his $3.29 roasting fork finished second to a $30 marshmallow roaster - that even has a knob on the retractable handle that rotates the sweet morsels. What bothers Downer is that the article states that the store's Web site has no way of searching for items and no pictures.

"Type in hot dog fork for example and see the eight different models we have, including a picture, price, and how to order each one!" said an irritated Downer of the abilities of the Web site. "How can Barnes say our search function is abysmal?"

The WSJ article had some great things to say about Jack's, too. "The competent phone clerk (Caruthers) sorted out a billing question and informed us of the $19.92 overnight shipping cost for a $3.29 item. We received the item the next day."

"The 118 year-old country store sells everything from clam nets to Sri Lankan flags,' said Barnes of the Ocean Park icon. "It also stocks eight other roasting tools including a 48-inch model for burgers."

The WSJ asked a Girl Scout troop to test the marshmallow roasters. One model with four 5-inch tines was deemed by the leader as being "too dangerous, resembling a pitch fork." The winner kept the young ladies' interest as they used the dial to rotate their marshmallows at a safe four-foot distance from the fire. But eventually the girls became bored and cut tree branches and used those instead.

And yes, Jack's may soon be carrying an item similar to a tree branch.

"One company saw the article and sent us a sample of their product," said Downer. "They package six quarter-inch dowels with sharpened points and suggest we sell them for $1.37. I might take 15-cent dowels and use a pencil sharpener and really make a profit."

For the store that allegedly has everything and who now sells to virtually everybody, anything is possible. Anybody for a s'more?

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