A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
I T Y
I N T E R 2 0 0 1 - 2 0 0 2
becomes Web success
By Greg Brewis
Looking to make a little pin money,
Byron '69 and Gail (Morseth) '69 Bitar lined up some vendors,
threw together a homemade catalog and started a mail order cookware
business out of their basement.
That was 20 years ago. Today their
company, A Cook's Wares, carries a comprehensive collection of
the finest gourmet cookware, cutlery, pans, appliances, bakeware,
porcelains, utensils and ingredients. They have a carefully maintained
mailing list of more than 100,000 active customers and new prospects.
Their Web site, cookswares.com, serves a worldwide clientele and
features detailed product information, articles, recipes and secure
When they started the company, Byron
Bitar was beginning what would become a 27-year career as professor
of philosophy at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa. Gail Bitar
was a full-time mom.
"We were just looking to make
some extra money each month. We had no experience in mail order,
no experience in business at all," she said. "We settled
on selling cookware because we had a newfound interested in gourmet
cooking and Byron just loved the tools involved."
With a $5,000 family loan they contacted
vendors and began buying products they liked. "Byron has
a real knack for knowing what a good product is. We bought nice,
useful, high quality tools and then developed a small catalog.
We wrote descriptions and Byron did line drawings of the items,"
Their first advertisement was a one-inch
display ad in Gourmet Magazine announcing their catalog. They
continued to advertise in Cook's Illustrated, Bon Appétit
and Food & Wine Magazine.
Seven years ago they opened a storefront
and warehouse in Beaver Falls, where they employ a staff of 12.
They have been on the Web for two years.
"It's been a lot of hard work,"
Gail said, looking back on 20 years in the mail order business.
"Byron has had three jobs-if you count being a good father,
his teaching career, and our business."
For the Bitars, the real secret to
their success is their belief in the necessity to treat both customers
and employees with respect.
"We treat people the way we
would like to be treated," she said. "I'm surprised
when I hear that not all companies are run that way."