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Full Heaves ahead

Without a coach or players, Frost Heaves tees are hot

Posted: Tuesday January 24, 2006 2:41PM; Updated: Tuesday January 24, 2006 2:46PM
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Although little more than a concept, the Hugginses of Andover, Mass., leave little doubt where they hope to be this November.
Although little more than a concept, the Hugginses of Andover, Mass., leave little doubt where they hope to be this November.
Courtesy of the Huggins family
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CORNWALL, Vt. -- Since launching the team five weeks ago, we've been busy here at Vermont Frost Heaves World Headquarters -- working over the business plan, finding a director of operations, and meeting with venue managers in the lovely burgs of Barre and Burlington, where we'll tip-off as a member of the American Basketball Association in November. But we don't yet have a coach or players, much less a schedule for them to follow. Let's face facts: with little more than a franchise, a logo and a Web site, there's a limit to what you can do.

One thing you can do is sell stuff. Not yet tickets or sponsorships, but merchandise. And we've been tending to that task with dedication. Or, more accurately, that task has tended to us, in the sense that it has ruled our lives.

An example: A little more than a week ago, at 9 on a Sunday night, our assistant general manager -- that would be my wife, Vanessa -- took a look at the stack of orders that had accumulated over the weekend. Tired and cold (ours being an old farmhouse, with only a space heater in the upstairs room set aside for merchandise fulfillment), she decided that, rather than work late into the night, she'd set the alarm for 5 a.m. so we could still get the orders to the post office in Middlebury first thing the next morning. Fine, as far as that went. It wasn't until 7:30 that we realized she'd wasted her pre-dawn hurry on Martin Luther King Day, when the post office is closed.

Such are the, well ... the frost heaves in our learning curve. Among the other things we've learned, sometimes the hard way:

• Shirts sized 2X and up cost anywhere from $1.25 to $2 more each at wholesale. Basketball attracts the interest of a lot of 2X and up people. We'd best start building that surcharge into our retail price.

• All our shirts thus far have been screen-printed, but there's now a $160,000 Israeli machine that can digitally print a finely-detailed design on textiles. When I saw that figure, I immediately recognized it as roughly the cost of a franchise in the ABA's rival, the Continental Basketball Association.

• In our haste to get the Web site up and running, we mistakenly asked, on a reply form, for customers to indicate their "State/Providence." No one was quite so puckish as to reply with "State/Grace" --  but Bruce from Hoboken pointed out the error, for which we're grateful. It's now fixed.