HOBBY LOBBY: MY SUBSEQUENT BLOG OF OCTOBER 4, 2013

Here is the blog I wrote on October 4, 2013, after receiving a call, and having a 12 -15 minute discussion, with Hobby Lobby President Steven Green:

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MY CONVERSATION WITH STEVE GREEN

Ken Berwitz

This morning, I had a very pleasant interview with Kristi Eaton, an Associated Press reporter working out of the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma office.  I’m guessing you have a pretty good idea of what we discussed.

One of the last things we talked about was that – according to the news reports I had read – Joel Jackson, a corporate manager at Hobby Lobby, claimed he had reached out to me and I had not responded.  I reminded her that this was entirely untrue, and reiterated that no one from the company at any level had ever contacted me.

So we hung up, and my “you have a message” button started flashing.  I check to see who called, and – wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles – it was Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby.

I called back, and was told he had just stepped into a meeting but would be available shortly.

Sure enough, less than a half hour later, Steve (yes, we are now on first name terms) did call.

We had a conversation which lasted something like 12 – 15 minutes.  Here is the essence of that conversation:

I started by apologizing to him – more exactly, to his father – for the last line of my blog (“david green can go to hell”).  It was not a very nice thing to say, it was written in anger, and, at that time, I had no idea of how many people would actually be reading it (not that this really matters; if it’s wrong, it’s wrong).  Steve was gracious enough to accept my apology – which I asked that he pass along to his father, who, I hope, accepts it as well.

Steve then assured me in strongest terms that, my observations notwithstanding, Hobby Lobby not only is not intentionally refusing to stock Jewish-oriented items, but that it is very supportive and respectful of Jews, and is a very pro-Israel organization. (I would assume the Greens’ support of Israel is, in no small part, related to belief in the biblical prophecies that Israel would once again be created as a Jewish state, but we certainly did not get into any theological discussion).

He told me that the reason no Chanukah or Passover goods were in Hobby Lobby stores was that the company worked with a model of “cookie cutter” simplicity – i.e. that stock is identical from one store to the next.  He noted that Hobby Lobby carries 70,000 items, and every one of them is available in every store.

He said that, at some point in the past (I don’t know how long ago) Hobby Lobby had, in fact, offered a section of Jewish oriented goods, but that they did not sell well and were therefore dropped.

I responded that this may have been true at a time when there were far fewer Hobby Lobby stores in a far more limited geographic area.  But that, as the Hobby Lobby franchise has grown bigger and covered more geography, its simplicity/identical stock model is less and less workable, given the demographic diversity from location to location – with Marlboro, New Jersey being a particularly good example.

He agreed, and told me that his people were actively looking into how they can more specifically address the different populations in their stores’ immediate areas.

While not said in so many words, the implication seemed to be that the company’s rethinking process was not because the furor over my blog embarrassed it into doing so, but  – on a far more salutary level – that it created something of a “wakeup call” about the changes necessary for Hobby Lobby’s current, greatly expanded, status.

When I asked him why Corporate Manager Jackson would have said that he tried to reach me and I did not respond, Steve told me he had spoken to Mr. Jackson about it, and that Jackson emphatically states he never said any such thing; it was a misunderstanding.  (I spoke to the reporter afterwards, and she disputes this.  But I wasn’t there, so I can’t say).

Bottom line:  Do I know for a fact that any of what I was told is so?  No, of course I do not.

But in a spirit of good will and comity – which I hope Steve Green and his people have for me – I am very much inclined to give Hobby Lobby the benefit of the doubt, and see what happens next.

Heck, I’ve already started.  I’m capitalizing Hobby Lobby and Steve Green, aren’t I?

To be continued………

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