Bacon and Associates, Inc.
More than four decades ago,
a husband and wife team began building small, experimental boats
in the mountains of Massachusetts. Then they stumbled onto a business
that they thought might make a little money on the side and, instead,
became an opportunity of a lifetime that would lead them to the
Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis.
"We backed into the business," says Dixie Bacon, owner and co-founder
of Bacon and Associates, Inc. "When my husband was working on
the boats, we advertised for secondhand sails and got as many
responses from people who wanted to buy used sails as from those
who could sell them." At first, the Bacons thought they would
finance their boats by exchanging sails but, in no time flat,
it was evident that selling used sails was where the money was.
That was in 1959, and Bacon and Associates, Inc., has been flourishing
When the Bacons started their business, they were located in the
Berkshires. "But we quickly realized we were too far away from
the water. We only had lakes nearby. So we shifted in 1961 to
Oxford, Md." They moved to Annapolis in 1963 where there was more
water, better business locations and more traffic for their business.
Bacon and Associates is now located in its fourth site at 115
Legion Avenue, just one block off West Street. "We've grown so
much over the years that we found we kept needing to find more
and more space." The number of employees has also grown from just
two people (Bacon and her husband, Douglas, who died in 1972)
to as many as 10. That number varies depending on the time of
year. During the winter, there usually are five employees, but
in the summer that number can grow. "We often find our employees
through our customers. They send them in thinking they would enjoy
working for us," Bacon says. "It's a great source because we are
looking for people who are interested in sailing and who know
Currently Bacon has employees ranging in age from college sophomore
to grandfather. According to Bacon, these employees have a tremendous
collective knowledge of boats. "Some of them could sail before
they could walk. Others can't remember not being able to sail.
It's something like breathing for them."
Bacon attributes much of the company's success to word of mouth
and good service. "It's like a good restaurant. If you have good
food and treat people well, they will come. Over the years, word
spread about our good service and we grew." Bacon also believes
her company thrives because she follows what she calls the old-fashioned
golden rule, do unto others... "It's all about being pleasant
and honest. It's very simple."
When customers come in, it's important to Bacon that she and her
employees help them learn things such as why a certain sail is
better for their boat, how a sail should fit and how to use it.
The importance of providing customers with information is a lesson
she says she learned as a young girl. "Years ago, I wanted to
buy new ice skates, but I had never purchased them before. My
mother told me to research and find out why this pair was better
than the other. In the process, I learned that some stores shove
their product at you and say 'go.' Others explain to you which
product is better and why. I liked knowing and think that is something
we should offer each of our customers." She believes that if you
give customers a fair break, they'll come back because they enjoy
the respect they have received.
These business principles seem to be working for Bacon because
generations of sailors continue to patronize her business. "Some
of our customers from the very beginning now come in with their
children and even their grandchildren," she says. "Over the years,
we've developed personal relationships with these people. We've
really gotten to know them."
And not only is Bacon and Associates a local business, but it
is a global one as well. "Just this morning, we mailed a shipment
to Pago Pago," says Bacon. Bacon has also sent sails as far away
as South Africa and Okinawa.
On the local front, Bacon and Associates strives to play an important
role in the community. Bacon has donated sails to historical buildings
to use as awnings for outdoor parties, and when Main Street was
resurfaced, some of the fences downtown were decorated with used
sails from her company. "We've also donated sails to the Boy Scouts
for their jamboree. They used them to make teepees. The fabric
is ideal for painting."
A native "inlander," Bacon grew up in Des Moines, Ia., and studied
aerodynamics at Drake University, though she never finished her
degree. Later she began working for the National Weather Bureau
as a weather observer. "I was good enough at the job to be transferred
to Massachusetts where the observer wasn't doing as well." She
then moved on to work for General Electric as an engineering technician
in the company's research and development department, where she
would meet her husband, a fellow GE employee. "I guess you could
say I didn't have the usual careers for a woman of my time. I
just did the best I could at what I was doing all the time."
After 43 years on the job, Bacon still loves what she does and
sees no reason to retire. "If I'm still in good health, why slow
down now? It's fun dealing with people, and I get to help them
enjoy their hobby."
Bacon and Associates is open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.
to 5:30 p.m. during the winter months and, from mid-April to mid-August,
the company adds Saturday hours to its schedule. To find out more
about Bacon and Associates, Inc., visit the company's web site