Figi’s: Placing an order
By Kris Leonhardt
In the early days of the company, the Figis were targeting doctors, lawyers, and those with the means to purchase mail order products. During these early times, the country was engaged in World War II and all orders required that ration stamps accompany them.
“Cheese postcards” were mailed to potential customers outlining hard to find cheese products, such as Swiss, aged cheddar, mild brick, and gouda.
In 1947, Figi’s began offering cheese on a retail basis, later opening a store in the new Roddis building, promoting the “tall cheese chimney” as a landmark and advertising in local newspapers.
Color was introduced as Figi’s mailing pieces became more advanced. Color was introduced into the mailers and paste-up methods – pasting photos and content to a board and taking a picture of it – were used to prepare the mailers for printing.
In 1958, Figi’s introduced their first catalog. Designed by Bjorn Skrimstad, it was 23 pages, showcasing one item per page.
In those days, the company was known as the “Wisconsin Cheese Club” and the store was referred to as the Cheese Club Store.
Mailers exploded from 1,500 to millions, with 50 percent of its business occurring in the first two weeks of December.
In 1965, Figi’s introduced their first computer –an IBM 1401 card system.
In addition to the mailing list that the company had built, the business began obtaining outside lists. The company began purchasing, or renting, lists of potential new customers in a variety of ways. Brokers would offer lists on a one time use basis, some were buyer lists and some magazine subscribers.
The company was also able to rent out their own list, embedded friends and relatives in the list to make sure the list was used by no others but those they gave permission.
During his time at the head of the company, John Figi proved to be resourceful. One story shared by John’s son Hans in a previous interview demonstrates just how resourceful John was, “He was a good marketing person,” Hans said to the Journal Sentinel.
When John discovered that a manufacturer of wooden toilet seats was left with the center cuts of the seats – the equivalent of doughnut holes – he bought thousands.
“He had them silk-screened with Figi’s and the logo,” Hans said. “And incorporated into gift boxes for cheese-cutting boards.”
The Figi catalog grew long past John Figi’s time with the company, reaching 22 million in mailings in 1977, and 68-pages thick with products. As stated in company notes, if stacked one on top of the other, “the pile would be 128 times as high as the Empire State Building.”
Next segment: John Figi sells