Barbara Loren-Snyder, Part 2: Shaping the style in millions of American homes

“MARTHA STEWART NOW IS CATERING TO 10 MILLION KMART CUSTOMERS!” That was the sales pitch in 1997 when the rising star first signed with Kmart to create signature lines of home products. Among the first were sheets and linens. Kmart used this photograph (above) in full-page magazine advertisements.

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(NOTE: This is the second and final part of Barbara Loren-Snyder’s remarkable life story. If you missed Part 1, you can read that right here.)

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When her first marriage ended, Barbara insisted she’d never marry again.  I laughed at her claim. She was young, beautiful and vivacious.

Barbara and Murray.

She discouraged a series of men.  Murray Snyder, a CPA, persisted.  “I hated dating but knew on our first date that Murray was a keeper.” On that date, in 1975, Barbara had laryngitis.  Murray thought her “sweet, demure and quiet.” They married five months later. Murray enjoyed telling friends that after Barbara recovered he “never got a word in edgewise.”

Barbara calls Murray “the love of my life.”

In 1975, Barbara received a call. The president of Detroit-based J.L. Hudson’s, one of the nation’s oldest and largest department store chains, suggested she start her own agency, offered their account.  Barbara figured such a step would require a million-dollar line of credit.  “Timing is everything,” she writes.  “…the best idea or best plan at the wrong time just doesn’t make it, and a woman asking for a $1 million line of credit meant she was nuts!”

Murray stepped in.  Loan granted. The Loren-Snyder agency was born.  “While the agency won many professional awards, it was Peggy and Nick, my teammates, who worked the magic…”  (Personal pat on  the back: I introduced her to my good friend Peggy Daitch.) The small agency created 350 radio and TV commercials a year. The effort was draining.  Barbara decided to sell or merge.  She reviewed offers from four major agencies, merged with Detroit-based D’arcy McManus.

Next Barbara accepted an offer from ABC-TV to start a retail marketing division.  “In those days,” she writes, “the media industry was profitable, young and dynamic.”  As for her colleagues at ABC, “I loved all of them and still do!”

Deciding to cut back on her work for ABC and become a consultant, she was hired by the president of Kmart to be on the President’s Kitchen Cabinet.  She recommended Kmart develop a private-label home department starring someone who’d be “Ralph Lauren for the masses.”

She heard about an east coast caterer who’d come out with a book, Entertaining.  Barbara called ten newspaper columnists around the country who covered food, fashion and style.  If none of them had heard of Martha, she’d scrap the idea.  The first eight hadn’t heard of her.  Nine and ten had.

I was #10.  I said, “Great idea.”  I never imagined just how great it would turn out to be.

Accustomed to a tonier crowd than Kmart, Matha refused to meet.  When Barbara said she was “going to make you a multi-millionaire,”  Martha changed her mind.  Barbara offered $50,000 plus royalties.  “Martha yelled, ‘What?  That’s nothing!’ and “began turning red from anger.”  Barbara asked what she expected.  At least $200,000 a year, she said.  Authorized to go to $250,000, Barbara replied, “I think we can work this out.”

“Martha wasn’t a very pleasant person to work with,” Barbara writes.  “She was very demanding, but she was brilliant when it came to developing a product.  The success of the Martha Stewart line at Kmart was breathtaking.”

Barbara’s idea in 1988 was such a hit that the book’s cover also was featured on a “collectible” plate—and the slogan was even printed on the plastic bags used in the checkout lines.

Barbara’s  breakthroughs continued.  She came up with popular Christmas promotions including a gift guide for Hudson’s, one year starring actress Jennifer O’Neill, the next starring former Miss America and CBS journalist Phyllis George.

For Christmas 1988, Barbra developed a book, Kmart Celebrates Christmas in America.  It became the fifth highest selling Christmas book on the NYT bestseller list that year.  In 1989 she recruited Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton to help create an NBC -TV special.  “Most exciting for me was that the United States Armed Forces chose it for showing on Christmas Day on every base worldwide.”

In 1994, this creative whirlwind and the husband she called “the wind beneath my wings” bought a condo in Boca Raton, FL. Two years later, they moved there permanently.  Barbara’s first grandchild, Amanda, was born.  “I never had a grandmother,” Barbara says, “so being one was the greatest joy I could have.”  Barbara applied her talents and energy to non-profits including Hugs for Kids and JCC Family Services.  She joined the executive board of The Pap Corps for Cancer Research, named for Dr. Papanicolaou who invented the pap smear test.

Barbara ends her book at this point.  But we’ve stayed in touch.  I remain blown away by her spunk and determination. Her book doesn’t touch upon some of the personal challenges she’s faced, including a lump in one breast that led to a mastectomy in her 50s.

In recent years, Murray developed Alzheimers but remained brave, sociable and loving.  He died in 2019.  The couple was married for 44 years.

“We’ve all survived so much and are lucky to still be here.” Barbara says.  (Testify, sister!)

“Life is fascinating.  There’s such joy in being able to make lemonade out of lemons.”   I hear that, girlfriend.

Thanks for being a booster, friend and lemonade maker-in-chief.

The great ballet impressario  Sergei Diaghilev once said to poet and set designer Jean Cocteau, “Etonne moi!”  Dazzle me.  Thanks for sharing you story, Barbara Loren-Snyder.  You continue to dazzle me.

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One thought on “Barbara Loren-Snyder, Part 2: Shaping the style in millions of American homes

  1. Susan ZINGER

    Loved reading this story of a fellow Detroiter and FGI member and the accomplishments she achieved! I remember so many of these moments! Thank you Barbara for your amazing contributions and Suzy, for telling her story so beautifully.

    Reply

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