The month of November welcomes Thanksgiving and all its customary traditions: the food, the football and the families that celebrate them.
Traditions are as diverse as families, but we can agree that all are born out of a sense of pride that is years in the making, carefully crafted and uniquely curated. Many family traditions continue transcend the generations, whether it’s a favorite recipe, the specific manner of celebrating or a work ethic.
In my family, one sustaining tradition emerged from the seeds of an entrepreneurial spirit, an enduring love for animals, and a desire to formulate the very best all-natural products for pets.
This family tradition began in 1965, in a roughly 10” X 20” outdoor office adjacent to a concrete patio of a 1950s block home. The modest boyhood home of my father, Fred Nicolosi, was in Euclid-St. Paul neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida.
It was there that my dad spent many hours with his brother-in-law, Gene Kennedy. Together, they combined the genius of Uncle Gene’s chemistry background with my father’s creativity and ingenuity to formulate the first Kenic pet-care product, Pink Pup Shampoo. This was a nod to the popular retro style of the time, right down to the bottle design that depicted a perfectly coifed prissy-looking poodle.
By the mid-1970s Kenic Pet Products was housed in a somewhat larger, but still small space in south St. Pete. By the early 1980s, Kenic moved a few blocks north to a moderately sized building in what is now the Warehouse Arts District, a popular neighborhood of craft breweries, antique shops, restaurants, and still a healthy amount of industry.
By the time my brother Steve and I were tapped to be Kenic’s newest summer employees, the Kenic headquarters had moved yet again in to the last space it would occupy in St. Pete: a 5000-square-foot building just a couple of blocks from its previous site.
For Steve and me, it was tradition – and assumed - that we would work at Kenic during the summer and learn the family business. Memories from those summers conjure up olfactory reactions. I can recognize the distinctive ink smell that was used for screen printing of product bottles anywhere. And, for someone who detests the taste of black licorice, when I see a piece of it, I immediately think of blue Kenic Flea-Rid Shampoo. Thankfully, not everyone holds the same disdain for licorice as I, as this product is also a best-seller. And, while us kids were forbidden to be anywhere near the toxic flea dip mixture, the scent was pervasive throughout the warehouse.
Scenes of box-making, bottle filling, stacking of newly printed bottles for drying, and packing shipments repeated over the five summers I worked at Kenic.
Instead of hanging out at the beach or on the sofa at home playing video games, Steve and I learned every facet of pet product production - from how the bottles containing the more than 40 products were printed on a screen printer, he technique for carefully filling bottles with shampoo out of a funnel attached to a 55-gallon drum – to screwing on bottle caps and packing product for the daily UPS shipment.
We weren’t just the owner’s kids during those summers. We were employees. We took direction from the 20-something workers my dad had hired for part of each of those summers. Alongside the other staffers, I traded calluses and tired feet for a healthy paycheck at the end of the week.
My teenage intellect didn’t permit me to understand at the time the gravity of the experience of working in a family business. There was no interview process, and certainly no air-conditioned office. Instead we were employees, just like the guys who’d showed up at my dad’s warehouse, willing to trade Michigan winters for Florida heat, for the promise of a job.
This family tradition did involve activities centered around a secular holiday. Instead, it was tradition to learn the business, gain invaluable experience and walk away invested. We learned what it felt like to perform physical labor and to really work for a paycheck.
Today’s parents, even me, might scoff at the idea of their children spending a majority of their summer on their feet, punching a clock and sweating in a warehouse with people they hardly knew. While these life lessons didn’t improve our SAT scores, they gave us incomparable wisdom and gratitude. Humility and the satisfaction of earning one’s own money can’t be taught in a classroom. I’ll never forget how it felt as a 17-year-old to purchase my own plane ticket to visit my cousins in New Jersey.
That last summer before my senior year of high school marked the end of my employment at Kenic. However, the lessons learned have sustained me in many ways throughout my life.
Not all families are meant to work together. And frankly, not all should. I’m blessed that my first boss was my dad, who had the foresight to provide an incredible opportunity to my brother and me. He trusted us to learn the jobs and execute the tasks efficiently. And, we learned the important lesson that being the boss’ kid didn’t give you an automatic seat at a desk in an air-conditioned office.,
Kenic Pet Products is now Glo-Marr Products, and its headquarters are now in Bourbon Country instead of the Sunshine State. But, the same family-centered principles endure. At its core, Team Glo-Marr is a family of dedicated staffers who strive daily to create, produce and package quality pet-care products for happy and healthy pets.
And, that tradition continues today. Just this past summer, my 15-year-old son Samuel, grandson of founder Fred Nicolosi, requested that he spend part of his summer working in the warehouse in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. So, he packed his bags, boarded his first flight along and spent a week on his feet. Just like I did more than 30 years ago, he sweated, put together the same kind of boxes I did, filled shampoo bottles and packed the UPS trucks. And, he couldn’t wait to spend his first paycheck, one that he earned.
From our family to yours, at Thanksgiving and always, our wish for you is to honor your past, pursue greatness in the present and always look toward the future. Our Team Glo-Marr story continues to evolve, and we hope you’ll join us on our journey as we pursue excellence in pet care.