Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
By: Mark G. Mangie
Their total sales the first day of business was $10.00. Slow was an understatement. So Charlie packed up his car and started visiting beauty salons not having a clue what it was he was selling. His first sale was for $3.75…and he had to drive and back and forth to the salon several times because he kept bringing back the wrong thing. By sheer force of personality and persistence, within six months sales were totaling a $100,000.00/month. Within five years Hair and Care was the fifth largest wholesale beauty supply company in the United States.
But nothing stays the same, and Asian competition began to cut into the business…folks willing to work on short margins. Charlie could no longer compete at the wholesale level, so he decided to go into the manufacturing business. Over the years he got to know chemists who put these products together. Within a year his team put together one of the best hair relaxers in the business, confirmed over and over again in blind tests. Initially called European Desire, the name met with resistance as the Black community took offense to the name. But good is good. Soon Charlie was selling his line of beauty products, including that boffo hair relaxer, internationally.
Meanwhile, back in Youngstown, the barbeque business…C. Staples…you know, the one in which he had a handshake partnership, hit a speed bump when the manager died. His successor was not so ethical and bled the company while registering the name “C. Staples” as his own. Charlie came back to Youngstown to see what was going on. He got mad and stayed. In 2003 he bought the building in which he currently operates putting the new Charlie Staples restaurant in one part of the building, and the hair manufacturing business in the other. Who knew??
In 2006 Charlie and Marge sold the hair products business to some folks in Chicago who still sell the relaxer worldwide, including parts of Africa. Charlie and Marge decided to concentrate on the BBQ business not only operating the restaurant but bottling and selling their signature sauce. They do their own manufacturing, bottling and marketing. You can find Staples Barbeque Sauce all over, including Giant Eagle which is no small feat as anyone in the business would know.
Charlie ended the interview by saying; “Mine was always the best. Now you know the story of my life.”
I wanted to give Charlie a standing O when he was done. But Marge had prepared a magnificent dinner and it was time to eat. We joined hands and prayed. We discussed politics. We discussed our families. He has a daughter who lives in Los Angeles. Charlie is a little older than me, but not much. Reflecting on our lives comes with the territory.
Some choose to play golf. Some choose to travel. Some choose to write. Some choose to make outstanding barbeque. His is the best. He told me so.
CHARLIE STAPLES: THE MAN BEHIND THE SAUCE