NewAge doesn't spell new business


Ken Baker says he is exasperated.

By his own description, he's a typical U.S. capitalist who runs a typical U.S. business. His 55 employees include at least one acknowledged vegetarian, but he is a proud carnivore.

His company is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Despite the recession, he says, business is healthy. But lately he spends time worrying about who isn't calling.

The problem, very simply, is the company's name.

NewAge Industries.

He worries that some of his would-be customers, other typical U.S. capitalists, think he and his Willow Grove, Pa., company are from California or some other planet.

"The term has fallen from favor," acknowledged Marilyn McGuire, who publishes New Age Publishing and Retailing Alliance, a trade journal for New Age businesses.

So much so, she said, that she has renamed the journal, based in Eastsound, Wash., New Alternatives for Publishing, Retailing and Advertising.

But the world has nothing to fear from so-called New Age values. "We support positive individual and social change," she said.

Mr. Baker said he doesn't know much about the New Age movement. "They're involved in crystals or something for meditation," he said.

He doesn't listen to New Age music. A Grateful Dead song was heard in a company storage area. Two open boxes of Dunkin' Donuts were spotted in the company's offices.

Likewise, he suspects that his customers and potential customers aren't New Age types. NewAge Industries, founded by his father, Raymond Baker, in 1951, is a master distributor for plastic tubing and assembles equipment for testing the hardness of metal.

He recalled a recent phone conversation with someone who said, "I thought long and hard before I called you because I thought you were connected with . . . the New Age movement." That bothered him.

"Let's say he's just a down-home guy from the Midwest, and he's a back-to-basics guy, and all he wants is 10,000 feet of polyurethane braided tubing," Mr. Baker said. "I tend to think he doesn't want to do any business with any weirdo religious group or movement."

Mr. Baker said the company is putting a disclaimer in its new brochure. One proposal being considered is to make the "A" lower case, as it was until the mid-1980s. One problem: Newage rhymes with sewage.

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