Introduction of 'multicultural' crayons draws great response

December 23, 1991|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Evening Sun Staff

COLOR these crayons successful.

There are more than 30,000 packages of "multicultural crayons" in the hands of young artists across the country, thanks to the Columbia school supply firm that introduced them in November.

"The reception has been great. We never had expected that it would take off . . . as it did," says Robert Chaisson Jr., vice president of marketing for Chaselle Inc., which sells supplies and equipment to school systems across the country.

"Multicultural crayons" are an assortment of eight colors -- mahogany, peach, tan, sepia, burnt sienna, apricot, black and white -- that are said to represent the "skin tones of the world." They are made by Crayola, but distributed only by Chaselle; the colors are all available in Crayola's 64-crayon assortment but not in smaller packages.

After Chaselle introduced the crayons at an educator's meeting in Denver and after stories appeared in many media -- the first appeared in The Evening Sun -- the company reduced its minimum phone order from $25 to $10, so that individuals and not simply schools could get the crayons, Chaisson said. The number is (410) 381-9611.

Many orders are from parents and grandparents, and many are from teachers, who are buying them not only for their classes but also to introduce them to administrators who can order them for XTC entire school systems, he said.

And the orders keep coming: During Chaselle's peak season -- summer -- it gets about 50 phone orders a day, but now "we're running 90 orders a day" at what is usually "a very slow time of year for us," he added.

Chaselle sold all of its first order from Crayola -- 30,000 packages -- and has reordered.

At Binney & Smith, the Easton, Pa., company that makes Crayola crayons, "the response has been very positive," said Brad Drexler, company spokesman.

In fact, the company is working on a permanent package for the crayons and, by early next year, will make them more widely available by selling the crayons to other school supply companies. "We still have not made a decision to bring them to retail stores," he added.

The crayons were the subject of editorial cartoons and television talk shows; even "'Saturday Night Live' took a shot at us," said Chaisson.

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