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Passing Comment Leads To New Business

An offhand remark can change lives.

Passing Comment Leads To New Business

That’s the case with Jack Westermeyer and Denise Dobbeck, a Bel Air couple who opened an EmbroideMe franchise in the downtown business district in October of 2009.

In late 2008, with the country descending into recession and the subsequent decline in auto sales, Dobbeck wasn’t too surprised to learn she had been laid off from her job selling imported cars.

“I was just putzing around the house and Jack said, kind of joking, that I should go on the Internet and find a franchise,” she said.

Westermeyer, an automotive instructor at Sollers Point Technical High School and retired Baltimore County police officer, said, “I had owned businesses in the past, so I told her to go online and find something, and that I wouldn’t lay her off.

“I came home and she dragged me into the office. I had bought her an embroidery machine five years before. This opportunity took her hobby and franchised it. We investigated, fell in love with it and here we are. It was only nine months from her finding the franchise to writing the check,” he said.

Their store in the Terlyn Shopping Center at 15 E. Churchville Road in Bel Air is Harford County’s first EmbroideMe store. In 1,600 sq. ft., the couple carries in-store clothing samples so clients can see what the company is capable of producing. All art is digitized to ensure the finished product, whether it’s a simple one-color logo or a complicated full-color image, is crisp and identical to the original.

Digitization, Dobbeck explained, is the process of converting artwork into commands that can be read by an embroidery machine’s computer. She said, “He does the computer, I set up the machine.”

One unique feature of the EmbroideMe franchise is the company’s Web site, which permits individual franchise locations to offer their clients online sales

Westermeyer said, “If they have 50 employees and they hire someone new and they need uniforms, they can put a link on their Web site to pull up a page, see the sizes and colors and order everything right from there.”

Eric Adams, an EmbroidMe technical representative, was at the Bel Air store recently, having made a trip to help Westermeyer better understand some of the company’s proprietary software. He said he visits each store at least once per month and is on call to help with specific issues.

Soon after joining the franchise, the couple was invited to join an informal mentoring group of EmbroideMe owners, organized by owners of the area’s eight other EmbroideMe locations.

“When we were looking at the franchise, the regional sales manager took us to area stores. I saw how close those owners were. We’re not in competition. We share ideas. We look at their sew outs and they look at ours,” Westermeyer said. The couple’s store hosted the owner’s group in Bel Air. Jan. 12.

The couple chose their downtown location very carefully. Westermeyer said, “Everybody has to pass us. If they want to go into Bel Air, they see us. We have a prime site and we never turn off the sign.”

Westermeyer takes his turn running the business after teaching. During weekdays, operations are handled by Dobbeck, her mother Bobbye Helfand and Robin Schmidt, a workstudy student from C. Milton Wright High School. The couple is seeking a full-time outside business-to-business sales rep to complete their staff.

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