EDGARTOWN, Mass. -- A&P captured extensive publicity during President Clinton's vacation on Martha's Vineyard by unveiling a sculpture of the first family at its store here that was made from brownies.
The 8-feet by 6-feet sculpture, depicting the President, Hillary, Chelsea and Boots the First Cat, was chiseled entirely from Boston Brownie dough by Laura Palmer, president of Boston Brownie Co., Boston.
The unveiling ceremony and attendant promotion here was a collaborative effort between Palmer and the New England division of Montvale, N.J.-based A&P, said Robert Panasuk, vice president of sales and merchandising for the 64-unit division.
"When we knew for sure the president was going to be vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, we put our heads together to figure out what we could do to welcome him," Panasuk said.
"We had previously sent a box of Boston Brownies to the White House and the president acknowledged receiving them and liking them. So the brand wasn't an unknown to him," he added.
The huge sculpture attracted additional customers on the day it was unveiled and the bakery "sold pans and pans of brownies that day," Panasuk said.
"We were sampling them all day, too," he said, adding that the attention that the sculpture created and the promotion of the upscale brand itself are most important as long-term image makers for A&P.
"It's clearly a premium product. One that chocolate lovers appreciate. We're very satisfied with the sales of Boston Brownies in our New England stores," Panasuk said.
The New England division of A&P has been offering Boston Brownies in the bakeries of all its stores -- some of which operate under the banner of Super Foodmart -- for almost a year.
The life-size brownie sculpture, which weighed 3,600 pounds, was created at Ranaldi Bros., Warwick, R.I., a bakery manufacturer that makes Boston Brownies to Laura Palmer's specifications. Palmer said the dough used for the huge sculpture required 2,700 eggs, 900 pounds of chocolate and 200 baking pans. The calorie count was approximately 57 million, she said.
While President Clinton was unable to attend the unveiling Aug. 28, the event attracted about 300 other people including a large representation from the consumer press, Panasuk said.
In addition to Panasuk, officials from the A&P division who attended were David Hoalt, division president; Rich Varrato, director of deli operations; and Rich Slicz, director of meat merchandising.
Network TV stations, Reuters and the Associated Press, as well as local newspapers, covered the event.
Press coverage included mention in the Wall Street Journal, a picture in USA Today, and stories in The New York Times and both Boston daily newspapers. The story was also picked up by several television network affiliates across the country, Panasuk said.
Indeed, the flurry of press attention attracted even more publicity opportunities for Boston Brownie Co. and A&P. Laura Palmer has since been filmed with the sculpture on the Ricki Lake Show, a New York-based daytime talk show.
The brownie sculpture shown on the television talk show carries a banner with both Boston Brownie's and A&P's names on it. Palmer also mentions on the show that A&P and its divisions are the only supermarkets that are offering Boston Brownies, Panasuk said.
As a forerunner of the unveiling, the A&P store on Upper Main Street here ran a copy of the Presidential seal on the front of its ad circular for the week of Labor Day. Underneath the seal, the circular said, "A&P Welcomes The First Family."
The day of the unveiling, another large "Presidential Boston Brownie" featuring four types of chocolate was cut and sampled at the A&P store here.
Local Brownie Scout troops were invited to participate in the publicity event, and A&P donated a percentage of proceeds from sales of Boston Brownies that day to the Brownie troops.
The A&P store here offers the 4-ounce Boston Brownies, in six varieties, for $1.49 each. Panasuk said his personal favorite is chocolate cheesecake.
About 2 feet of space in the bakery service case are devoted to Boston Brownies at the store, which is a relatively small unit at under 20,000 square feet. In other A&P stores, up to 4 feet of space in the service case are used to display the branded product.
A large, gold and brown Boston Brownie logo sign suspended over the counter calls attention to the branded product in all A&P stores.
Boston Brownie Co. was launched by Laura Palmer in 1981 as a retail shop in Boston's Fanueil Hall Marketplace. Before that, Palmer had made the brownies in her own kitchen and had sold them locally to individuals.
She decided recently to expand, but rather than open additional retail stores as many successful entrepreneurs do, she linked up with A&P. The association was initiated by Hoalt last fall, Palmer said. By now, Boston Brownies are a feature in the in-store bakeries of more than 90 stores in A&P divisions.
As reported in SN, Food Emporium, a 35-unit division of A&P with stores in the metro New York area, was the most recent division to put the products in all its units. In the New England division the rollout was quick, Panasuk said. After the products had their debut in a Berlin, Conn., store last October, the branded items were rolled out to all 64 of the division's stores by Christmas.