In the early 1970s, Dave noticed that baskets were becoming very popular, and he also noticed that many department stores were beginning to sell imported baskets. Dave wondered if people would appreciate baskets like the fine handcrafted ones his father used to make. So he asked his father to make a dozen market baskets, and then took them to a nearby town. They sold immediately and the shop requested more! J.W. made several dozen more baskets. Sadly, however, J.W. died at the age of 71, just as the family trade was being renewed.
Dave opened J.W.'s Handwoven Baskets™ in 1976 in Dresden. Interest in these beautiful handmade baskets continued to grow, until Dave had to find a place in which to expand his small basket factory. He found a very unlikely building: the old woolen mill where his mother had worked, built in the 1890s. It had been vacant since 1955, and had broken windows, uneven floors and a sagging roof. The brick walls were all of the facility that remained solid and strong. In this dilapidated building, Dave envisioned a basket factory with hundreds of craftsmen and craftswomen weaving, tacking, talking and laughing. He had proven to himself through his previous business ventures that he had a knack for envisioning the unlikely, so he approached his new venture with great enthusiasm.
Dave became increasingly convinced that American consumers wanted the handmade craftsmanship and quality of Longaberger baskets. He tried different ways to sell baskets at malls, department stores and other retails outlets, with varying degrees of success. In 1978, Dave discovered that the most effective way to sell the company's baskets was not through retail outlets but through home shows, where an educated home consultant could show Longaberger baskets and share the history and explain the craftsmanship that each basket holds. The Longaberger Company's direct sales organization was born.
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