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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

GrammaBurp Has Arrived

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, September 06, 2005

North Adams resident Barbra Retzlaff, founder of the GrammaBurp greeting card company.
North Adams- Barbra Retzlaff isn’t a stand-up comic but she does share their vision.

“I want to make the whole world laugh,” Retzlaff said during a Sept. 6 interview.

Retzlaff’s new “GrammaBurp” greeting card line showcases black-and-white vintage photographs with a text twist.

Sassy Sentiments

For example, one card features a toddler with a finger placed dangerously close to a nostril. The inside text reads “you sure know how to pick ‘em.” Another depicts a 1920s-era couple lolling on a beach and exhibiting stunned facial expressions; the card text reads “Oh My God! Mother! No! I said the beach at noon in your bathing suit! Not the nude beach in your birthday suit!”

These are not your grandmother’s greeting cards; the company tag line is “Our cards will make you laugh so hard, you’ll wet your pants!”

The cards target everyday life, events such as birthdays, or precise situations. Quaint photographs on the outside of the cards act as a disguise for clever, sometimes slightly risque, card text. A card featuring a photograph of several standing horses –taken from behind the equines- boasts text that reads “I’m not sure why…but this card made me think of you.”

Black-and-White Inspiration

The inspiration for the cards came several months ago while Retzlaff was browsing the Internet and discovered a volume of black-and-white photographs for sale.

“I saw the cards and I just started hearing all these captions that could go along with them,” she said.

Sharp humor may come naturally to Retzlaff; a printed GrammaBurp history states that when Retzlaff was 13, a friend sustained a broken leg during an apparently rough soccer game. While other well-wishers signed the young girl’s cast with their names and get well sentiments, Retzlaff penned “hit her back.”

Even the “GrammaBurp” name came from one of Retzlaff’s special skills. Her daughter and infant granddaughter Nora were living with Retzlaff at her Bryant Street home while her son-in-law was stationed overseas with the military. Little Nora wasn’t always able to produce a post-feeding burp despite Retzlaff’s daughter’s best efforts, but Retzlaff was always able to coax a burp from the infant.

“So every four hours or so, you’d hear somebody call out ‘Gramma, burp,’” Retzlaff said.

Retzlaff purchased batches of vintage photographs and decided to give the business a go. She had just resigned from a 13-year career in human services and the timing was right, she said.

Building a Business

Months were spent researching the industry and finding outlets for the cards. Currently, the Tupelo Honey store in Williamstown is stocking the cards and an industry representative is bringing the cards to Colorado, Retzlaff said. She is seeking additional local retail outlets and also offers the cards on the Internet. Retzlaff said that she plans to market the greeting cards nation-wide. Each card is accompanied by an envelope that proclaims “Lucky, lucky you! You’re gettin’ a GrammaBurp card!”

The Catprint printing firm of Rochester, N.Y., handles the printing.

“They’ve been very helpful,” she said.

The Pittsfield-based Berkshire Enterprises was instrumental with providing Retzlaff with necessary business skills.

“They provided me with practical business knowledge and gave me the tools and skills to develop, operate, and manage my business,” Retzlaff said. “I did a ton of market research. With their help, I developed my implementation strategy and wrote my business plan. I still take advantage of the ongoing consulting that they offer as I concentrate on marketing, promotion, and sales. They are such wonderful, amazing people.”

One Less Bell to Answer

Retzlaff is also a photographer whose photographs have appeared in local newspapers. She has created specialized, individual cards and invitations for customers.

Operating the business and designing the cards is great fun, she said.

“I love it, I absolutely love it,” she said. “My family has been so supportive. I get up and I work all day long, and I don’t even realize that I’ve been working all day. I love every bit of it.”

Retzlaff offered evidence that the pleasures associated with a humor-based business are significant.

“I used to be one of those people that hit the snooze button about 10 times,” she said. “Now I don’t even need an alarm clock.”

Information and examples about GrammaBurp cards is available at the www.GrammaBurp.com Internet web site, or by calling 1-800-925-5038.

Information about Berkshire Enterprises is available at the www.berkshireenterprises.com web site or by calling 413-448-2755.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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