This month we’ll be saying farewell to a Packaging Legend: the Samurai Salesman, Art Wical, is retiring after 50 years of serving packaging clients. Well-known for his outstanding customer service and famous for his holiday Fudge List, Art has turned service into an art form.
“I have tried to seek the wisdom of others to help me in my sales journey,” said Art. “Years ago, I discovered a sales book ‘Samurai Selling, the Ancient Art of Service in Sales.’ Samurai is an old Japanese word meaning ‘one who serves.’ Throughout the book, the nobleness of serving is stated. I feel the best way I can define my career in selling is most closely related to ‘how can I best serve my clients?’”
“We were trying to figure out the perfect retirement gift for Art,” said Keva Sonderen, “and nothing seemed to fit. Jamie, our sales manager, had this great idea that we should get him an actual Samurai sword and engrave it. So that’s what we did. We presented it to him at a dinner with all the salespeople and his wife Carol.”
The blade was engraved “Art Wical Samurai Salesman ‘One Who Serves’” on one side, and “From Your Friends at Sonderen Packaging 2004-2015” on the other.
We also assembled a book with well-wishes from his clients and co-workers; it was not a small book. Art is deeply loved and will be truly missed, though we are very excited for him to enjoy his retirement.
“I always value the time I spend with Art,” said Matt Sonderen. “The ‘Wicalisms’ and wisdom that bubble forth from the vast and diverse experiences he has had throughout his life are treasures I will hopefully always remember. (It is a lot to remember.)”
“I have been truly fortunate to be in a business that I like, working with people I respect and care about, and calling on and serving customers and prospects that I enjoy,” said Art. “Paperboard Packaging is a dynamic and exciting industry. Helping create the right package to protect and sell another person’s product, or products, is an exciting opportunity. The fact that our customers put their faith and trust in us to help them attain a viable place for their products in the marketplace is rewarding in itself. To my good fortune, I feel that I am going into retirement after working for the best company that I have ever been associated with, from top to bottom. What makes Sonderen so great is the culture that permeates throughout the entire company: a family-owned business that operates under a hard-working, friendly atmosphere, backed by the highest level of integrity, and with a total commitment to give the best packaging value through unparalleled service and quality at competitive pricing.”
Art was hired by Sonderen Packaging on October, 2004, as part of the Stoneway Carton acquisition and has been in the packaging business since 1965. He started out selling both folding cartons and corrugated boxes and later began specializing in folding cartons. He has had extensive experience in beverages (multi-pack beer and soda/gable top milk and fruit juice), retail clothing, ice cream, mailer envelopes, electronics, industrial items, and a wide range of food packaging.
“Even though he’s only been with us since 2004, he just bleeds Sonderen. He loves it,” said Keva. “I call him GPB, or Grandpa Bruno. What do I say about Art? He’s probably one of the most selfless and complimentary people you will ever meet. He’s very conscientious about making people feel good, and that’s why he builds relationships so quickly and so complete. He has many customers in this industry that think of him as a friend, not as a supplier or a salesperson. A testament to that is Art’s Fudge List.
“At Christmastime, his wife Carol makes this amazing fudge for people on his Fudge List: mostly customers and people he’s become friends with through work. He would hand deliver most of the fudge to his customers, and he brings fudge to every single person in the plant. Everyone gets a container of fudge with their name on it. It’s a huge list.”
In fact, what began as 20 boxes of fudge given to various customers back in Christmastime of 1970 has grown to over 340 boxes: that’s over 225 pounds of fudge!
“I discovered that a box of homemade fudge was a more personal way of saying thanks and Merry Christmas than, say, a bottle of booze,” said Art. “It has been a lot of work, especially for Carol, but we are both happy and proud that we were able to keep the fudge tradition alive for all these years.”
Wical Family Christmas Fudge
2 CUPS TOASTED WALNUTS, CHOPPED
1 1/3 CUPS EVAPORATED MILK
1 JAR (13 OUNCES) MARSHMALLOW CRÈME (KRAFT PREFERRED)
1 CUBE OF BUTTER (OR MARGARINE)
3 CUPS GRANULATED SUGAR
1 TEASPOON SALT
24 OUNCES SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE MORSELS (Nestlé PREFERRED)
1 TEASPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
Line a 9 X 13 inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang; press the foil into the corners. Set aside.
Pick over the nuts carefully, removing any bits of shell (if fresh nuts are used). Reserve ½ cup. Set aside. (Bagged chopped nuts are more easy to use).
Pour the evaporated milk into a heavy 2 ½ to 3 quart saucepan. Add the marshmallow crème, butter, sugar and salt. Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spatula until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower the heat if necessary and stir constantly with a whisk to be sure the mixture is not burning.
As soon as the mixture comes to a full boil, immediately start timing for 5 minutes. Stir constantly. (After the 5 minutes are up, the mixture will have caramelized slightly. It is not necessary to test the mixture with a thermometer – just time it; the temperature will be 226 to 228 degrees when the boiling time is up.)
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate morsels; whisk until the chocolate morsels have melted and then pour into the pan.
Cut into squares for serving.
The Wicals make fudge for each of the 140+ Sonderen employees, plus around 180 boxes for the folks at 49 client companies throughout Washington, Oregon, Utah, Kansas, North Carolina, and Alaska.
“All of the customers that I have had the shared privilege to serve know that Sonderen pays for the ingredients and Carol and I provide the making and delivering of the fudge,” said Art. “Also, when we receive the expense check for the ingredients, all of it is for Carol. The rule is she can’t spend it on anyone but herself.”
Art and Carol are looking forward to continuing to travel during their retirement, adding to the list of 62 countries that they’ve already adventured to. They are also planning on spending more time with family: 6 children, 14 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren, as well as Art’s identical twin brother in Oregon, Charlie, with whom he is very close.
“Art is very passionate and very knowledgeable. I don’t feel that I’ve had a chance to truly tap into that knowledge, even scratch the surface,” said Keva. “I’m just so happy that he’s been a part of our team for so long. I am also hopeful and pretty certain, though, that he’s not going to go away. I’m sure we will be hearing from and seeing him whenever possible.”
“Thanks Art for being a ‘Super Samurai’ and a great friend! My family and I look forward to seeing you and Carol in the future and hope to enjoy your company and many more wisdoms to come!” said Matt.
Congratulations on your retirement, Art!
FUN FACT ABOUT ART:
“I played Fastpitch Softball when it was in its “Golden Days” and was front page news in most newspaper sports sections. I participated in 7 National Championships (5 as a player and 2 as a manager) that were held all over the United States. I never lost in the National Tournament as a pitcher and I was nominated to the All-American team in 1965 and was later awarded a plaque in the Seattle Fastpitch Hall of Fame in 1973. I was also awarded the ‘Lawrence Chapman Award’ and the ‘Cascade League Man of the Year’ which is awarded to the player/umpire/administrator who contributed the most to the sport of fastpitch. I was also Host Hospitality Chairman for the 1972 National Fastpitch Tournament held at the old Sick’s Stadium (teams from 20 regions in the United States competed) and again for the World Fastpitch Tournament at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma (21 teams from around the world competed). I held several adult administrative positions with the Greater Seattle Fastpitch Softball Administration, and I served as Youth League commissioner for 2 years.”