Lifelong Baptist president of Dawn's emphasizes cordial service


September 17, 1990|By Cindy Harper-Evans

All Joan LeFaivre's praying is paying off.

Since Ms. LeFaivre became president of Dawn's Office Supply Co. in the beginning of July, the Charles Village business has had the best two months of sales in the company's 43-year history.

That's in a sluggish economy and during two of the traditionally worst months of the year for the office supply company, which thrives on the school and business trade for its products.

"I really do pray about this business," said Ms. LeFaivre, her gold cross swinging gently on a chain around her neck. "And I believe the success in this business has a lot to do with my faith. I can't attribute it to anything else."

Dawn's, named for the first Seeing Eye dog of the company's founder and owner, Thomas Kennedy, had sales in July that were $150,000 more than the same month a year ago. In August, sales were $175,000 more than the same month of 1989, Ms. LeFaivre said.

The new president (who won't divulge her age, but allows that she joined the company 25 years ago right after high school) says her plans for the office products company include adding one more warehouse and one more store.

One of her goals, Ms. LeFaivre says, is to boost retailing, which now only represents 5 percent of Dawn's operation, to 40 percent.

"The walk-ins are not dependent on a discount," Ms. LeFaivre explains. "If you walk in and buy a ribbon for your typewriter, you don't expect a 25 percent discount. But if you're buying $300,000 worth of products from us, we better give you a discount or you're going to take your business somewhere else."

While not nearly the largest office supply business in the area -- its sales were roughly $5 million last year -- Dawn's is probably the best known because of the 18-foot pencil outside its building at 2418 N. Charles St. and the large German shepherd's head that sits atop all its delivery trucks.

"There are only two Baltimore office suppliers that haven't merged, sold out or gone out of business," Ms. LeFaivre said. "That's Dawn's and Baltimore Stationery Co." -- the largest in the area.

The bubbly, stylish Ms. LeFaivre started at Dawn's in sales, moved to design work and then to administration, where she was most recently vice president. She succeeds Mr. Kennedy, 62, who will devote more time to his thoroughbreds.

A Baptist since birth, Ms. LeFaivre said the success of the company will be up to God and her 32 employees continuing to provide the best and most cordial service they can give.

To compete with the larger office suppliers, Ms. LeFaivre said Dawn's will soon start a same-day delivery service for clients. "I always tell our employees to make customers feel when they come in the store like they are walking into your living room," Ms. LeFaivre said. "Our customers are treated the same whether they buy a pack of pencils or place a $10,000 order."

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