Originally created 01/05/03

Pocket change



LOCATION: 3112 Washington Road, Augusta

PRODUCT: Catering services, mail-order confections and gourmet-to-go foods.

OWNER: Vera Stewart

EMPLOYEES: 20 full time, two part time

HISTORY: Ms. Stewart founded the business as Vera & Company, a catering service in Cartersville, Ga., in 1984. She moved to Augusta a few years later and reestablished the business. By 1993, the home-based venture had grown large enough to move into the first of three commercial locations. That same year, she founded the mail-order division, Very Vera, as a way to sustain the business between catering jobs. The mail-order division, which has been featured in Southern Living, USA Weekend, Vogue and on CNN, went online in 1997.

In 2000, all three company divisions were placed under the Very Vera corporate name. The mail-order division now has a customer base of more than 30,000 across the United States, and is FedEx's No. 1 shipper in Augusta during November and December. It is the No. 3 shipper the rest of the year.

RECENT NEWS:This fall, Very Vera expanded by opening an on-site 1950s-style cafe serving lunch daily at the company's 8,200-square-foot headquarters on Washington Road.


Company resolutions

January is a great time to make a list of resolutions that will improve company morale and increase employee productivity, according to Maritz Brand Alignment, a unit of Maritz Inc., a Missouri-based market research and consulting firm.

Among the goals Maritz suggests: building more trust among the ranks, developing greater clarity for company directions, supporting employees better, seeking more input from employees and sharing success.

"New Year's resolutions should be a must for all company leaders," said Rodger Stotz, a Maritz vice president. "This is a great opportunity for company leaders to build trust, loyalty and increase productivity among employees."

Griping effectively

The Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals offers a checklist for how to complain constructively:

  • Before calling or stomping into a business, have all your relevant documents. Also, be aware of what you bought and have a realistic view about what you're going to get as a result of your trouble - a store isn't inclined to replace a bum Seiko with a Rolex.
  • Be firm, yet polite and respectful, when speaking with the customer service person. State the problem and your expected outcome concisely. Don't muddle the issue with irrelevant asides, such as the horror of your previous encounter with the company in 1993.
  • Give the person time to speak, and listen. If they correct the problem, thank them. If not, ask for the name and contact information of a higher-level manager so you can press your issue.
  • TOP 10

    Best sectors

    Perhaps the only comfort that investors had in 2002 was their misery had plenty of company.

    Out of a Dow Jones list of 86 sectors, only 16 were positive performers. The top 10 sectors, with their yearly percentage gain, are as follows:

    1) Precious metals, 40.69

    2) Consumer electronics, 13.48

    3) Savings and loan, 11.37

    4) Casinos, 10.04

    5) Air freight, 9.62

    6) Mining, 8.47

    7) Trucking, 7.60

    8) Distillers and brewers, 7.30

    9) Containers and packaging, 6.51

    10) Nonferrous metals, 6.51


    A plane shake

    Which company popularized the milk shake and was the first to own a corporate plane? Pharmacy chain Walgreen Co.

    Charles Walgreen, who founded the company in Chicago in 1901, installed a large soda fountain in his second store in 1909. By the early 1920s, he was selling shakes at nearly two dozen stores, which he promoted with his company airplane.

    The company's 2002 sales were $28.6 billion.


    Contact Business Editor Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or dcline@augustachronicle.com.

    TOP 10

    Employee friendly

    Which companies are best for workers? Well, Fortune magazine says these corporations are tops when it comes to taking care of employees:

    1) Edward Jones, investment services, 27,092 employees

    2) Container Store, retail, 1,987 employees

    3) SAS Institute, software development, 8,309 employees

    4) TDIndustries, construction, 1,368 employees

    5) Synovus Financial Corp., financial services, 11,022 employees

    6) Xilinx, computer chips, 2,649 employees

    7) Plante & Moran, accounting, 1,240 employees

    8) Qualcomm, telecommunications, 6,314 employees

    9) Alston & Bird, law firm, 1,338 employees

    10) Baptist Health Care, hospital network, 4,068 employees


    For up-to-the-minute business news and stock quotes, go to www.augustachronicle.com/business.


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