In 1955 Joseph C. Ketterer changed family history. He left the company that he and his father and grandfather had worked for, and started his own company. Looking back, we see it as improving on a family tradition. At the time, it was a major step away from one.
In 1902 Charles Ketterer went to work for the Kemper-Thomas Company. Prior to selling promotional advertising, he had been a cigar salesman. In those days the cigars were sold in the taverns. It was customary when a salesman wrote an order for a tavern that he would ‘set up the house’ and buy a drink for everyone in the establishment at the time.
Charles was on a train ride back to his family looking not so happy. The gentleman sitting next to him inquired as to his troubles. Charles said that he was a good salesman but was not making much money. The gentleman suggested that Charles sell promotional advertising. He said the clients would be banks and funeral homes, churches and hardware stores. The products would be calendars and pencils, carpenters aprons and ashtrays. Charles took his advice and a family tradition was born. He traveled by train, hitchhiked on the back of a farmers cart, or caught a lift from the local funeral director. He was away from home for weeks at a time, beginning the day after Christmas and working up until Labor Day. The promotional advertising industry, at that time, could not take an order after Labor Day and deliver it before Christmas.
Around 1921 Carl Ketterer followed in the family tradition and went into promotional advertising sales. He traveled from town to town in his Model-T Ford. He would pull out sample yardsticks to check the depth of local rivers to see if they were shallow enough to cross.
Joseph followed his father and grandfather into the industry, and started working at The Kemper-Thomas Company in 1946. After gaining industry experience, Joseph Ketterer and Bob Connors, another Kemper-Thomas alumnus, left to start the Ketterer-Connors Company. Carl Ketterer was invited to join them, but he thought they were crazy to go out on their own. Two short years later, he joined the Ketterer Company. Eventually, Bob Connors left to do more printing work, so the Ketterer Company was created. In 1970 Martha Lasch, Joseph’s sister and Carl’s daughter, came on to help them “temporarily” as the company grew. Martha still works with the company today.
The next generation to carry on the family tradition of the Ketterer Company is Joseph’s children. Joanne Moniaci, Joseph’s daughter, came to work for the company in 1990, and Thomas in 1991. Along with this generation came Kim Nolte who joined the company as a sales representative in 1992 when she was dating Thomas. After her quick success, Joseph is quoted as telling Thomas, “Marry her!” This was a wise suggestion for more than just her sales success. Kim and Thomas married in 1994. Like the next generation in most family businesses, Thomas always planned to work for the company. He began in the warehouse loading trucks, moved into sales, then assumed the role of President when Joseph passed away in 1997. After growing pains, Kim and Thomas bought out Joanne’s interest in the company in 2001.
After the bold decision to purchase the company, Kim took a more active role in the operation of the corporation, while continuing her sales responsibilities. At the beginning of 2005, Kim took an even more visible and integral role becoming Vice-President. Kim and Thomas continue to work side-by-side in growing the business.
Joseph remarked that he was amazed at the changes in technology that have occurred during his lifetime and career. His grandfather traveled by train with two suitcases, one with clothes and the other with samples. His father traveled by Model-T Ford. Joseph did not think twice about jumping on a jet airplane to go to a trade show half a country away. The next generation has the information superhighway at the desktop, using the Internet and email to provide information and service to their clients. The first generation could take orders for imprints of text only, and in black ink, only. Today, customers can email art and orders, and items can be imprinted with a client’s multicolored logo, and delivered in 24 hours.
The company maintains the same integrity and high customer service expectations that it had when it was formed. Joseph’s entrepreneurial spirit set the tone for the success and standards of the company. With an Internet presence, and the ability to create online company stores, the ability to provide online transactions and complete turnkey fulfillment programs, the Ketterer Company is stepping up to take you into the future of promotional advertising.
JOSEPH C. KETTERER