Julie Hartten, owner of Swank, got idea from a downtown display of Libbey Inc. glassware.
The idea for her online business came to Julie Hartten from the Libbey Glass display that greeted her each day when she stepped off the elevator at Edison Plaza on her way to work as a special events manager.
"I just thought the martini glass was a very unique product," said the former employee of Downtown Toledo Inc. "There was an allure, there was a sexiness, there was an edginess to martinis that you could push to the limit by using sexy words and sexy photography."
Thus was born Swank Martini Co. and its Web site, www.swankmartini.com, a two-year-old online store that sells martini glasses and related products such as recipe books, olives, coasters, and garnish tools in the United States and overseas, all from a ninth-floor office in downtown Toledo.
The company is part of a national trend has increased the popularity of martinis.
Pam Ciepichal packages a shipment destined for Canada.
David Craver, president of the National Bartenders Association in Atlanta, said, "Martinis have really become more mainstream over the last five years ... and the reason that they have gained in popularity is what can now be considered a martini has expanded."
Gone are the days when a mixologist only used gin or vodka with a splash of dry or sweet vermouth and an onion or olive, he said. Today, fruit-flavored martinis are popular, as are martinis made with Godiva chocolate.
"It's so far away from what a martini was in the 1950s and 1960s that the only thing you would recognize is the glass, which means it's happy days for the glass makers," Mr. Craver said.
Libbey Inc., of Toledo, is one of the suppliers of Swank, which began in the summer of 2003.
"I thought it would be a fun adventure, but the Christmas season was explosive," Mrs.
Hartten said. "I was working 15 hours a day."
The company has doubled its sales each month, has had its products in the 2004 and 2005 presenter packages of the Golden Globe awards, and had Christmas sales last year triple from the previous year. Mrs. Hartten expects to do $400,000 in sales this year, and has four employees.
The firm has 25 to 30 designs of martini glasses, many brightly colored or with unique stem designs like the Twist and Libbey's Swerve, which has a curved stem. The majority of orders are for gifts, so each one includes free gift wrap, free shipping, and a free gift card.
Swank sells glasses made by manufacturers other than Libbey, but the Toledo tableware maker provides 35 percent of Swank's product line and is happy for its "mutually beneficial" relationship, said Brenda Bennett, Libbey's vice president of consumer marketing.
"Swank's trendy marketing has taken our product to exciting places," she said.
One idea Swank is exploring, Mrs. Hartten said, is putting franchised kiosks in malls next year.
Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at
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