GETTING PERSONAL: …with Irwin Langer

Irwin Langer is the director of operations for Burlington, VT-based gardening and outdoor furnishings cataloger Gardener’s Supply Co.

Q. Tell us about your work routine.

A. I arrive at work before 5 a.m. on most mornings. The early morning provides me a quiet time to reflect and get things done before the craziness of work and meetings begin. I guess I’ve always been a morning person. I’m usually in bed by 9:00 p.m.

Q. How do you take your coffee?

A. Black and strong.

Q. Do you shop from catalogs?

A. I buy from a wide variety of catalogs, such as L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, and Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI). And since I’m into woodworking and building gadgets, I buy outdoor equipment and woodworking tools from various catalogs. Retail shopping isn’t my favorite activity. I occasionally shop at Home Depot because they have a variety of items and they open early, so I can go in at 6 a.m. and be out before the “normal” people are out and about. The sad thing is that I usually have to wait for the store to open.

Q. What college did you attend?

A. I attended the University of Vermont, majoring in Ecology and Plant & Soil Science.

Q. How did you get into the catalog business?

A. I started by manufacturing garden carts at GardenWay Research, which was a multi-step direct marketing company.

Q. What was your first job out of college?

A. I started a landscaping company with two friends.

Q. Are you married?

A. Yes. November 2000 will mark 25 years.

Q.Other than, perhaps, your current job, what would your dream job be?

A. I appreciate both children and nature. When retired, I’m thinking of going back to my younger camp counselor days and introducing kids to nature.

Q.What destinations would you most like to visit?

A. Australia and New Zealand.

Q. What’s your greatest achievement in catalog marketing?

A. There are lots of things that I’ve “achieved” but what is most gratifying for me is having been part of Gardener’s Supply Co. Fifteen years ago, Gardener’s Supply was an early humanistic and socially responsible company. The company truly values the worth of individuals, not solely numbers.

Q. Make one prediction about the industry five years from now.

A. Although the Internet will change how we have been accustomed to doing business, I think there will be a settling out period. The market is large enough to support many forms of direct marketing. For example, just as television didn’tdestroy radio, which didn’t destroy newspapers, the Internet won’t destroy catalog marketing. But each medium has had to adjust to competition. And those marketers that lose sight of customer service will perish.

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