(Oakland County Times, May 30, 2017)
Ferndale, MI – After a bold move and a sweet story, Oakland County Times Publisher Crystal A. Proxmire and White Castle Systems are pleased to announce that White Castle will be partnering with the Detroit-area local news site for one year as the naming-rights sponsor of the Event Page.
Details of the branding are still being worked out, with the launch happening later this year.
The advertising sponsorship will fund development of the Event Page, including a part-time event coordinator to ensure that more community happenings are included on the website.
White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson read a Mothers’ Day story by Proxmire about why the family-owned regional fast food chain should come on board, including how White Castle sliders are tied forever to memories of her deceased father. Richardson called Proxmire on Mother’s Day night and welcomed her into the Castle headquarters in Columbus, Ohio the next day.
“The team at White Castle is excited to be ‘feeding the souls of craver generations’ all over Oakland County through our new partnership with the Oakland County Times. It’s great to have the chance to build a business relationship with a great friend of the Castle like Oakland County Times founder Crystal Proxmire. Crave on Oakland County!” Richardson said.
Having White Castle as the publication’s first national-level sponsor is a dream come true for Proxmire, who started the online news site in 2009, then serving just the Ferndale community. As the site has grown to covering communities county-wide and a readership topping 60,000 people per month, seeking corporate sponsorship for certain parts of the site made sense. No matter what names came up in discussion, there was always one that she had her heart set on.
She’d spent years trying to convince business coach and former corporate talent scout Jodi Knittel to navigate the Kafkaesque walls of the Castle and make the sale on her behalf. “It has to be you,” she said. “You have to tell the story.” Last year they met at the White Castle in Ferndale to discuss strategy, on the same day that employees were preparing for a visit from one of the top Castle people. This serendipitous moment led to a story, and a step closer to Proxmire making the ask.
Finally on the Wednesday before Mothers Day, Proxmire heard motivational speaker Les Brown speak at Renaissance Unity, another OC Times sponsor. Brown talked about the lengths he would go to open doors that he wanted. For example, he wanted to be a DJ, so he went to the radio station every day and introduced himself. They tried to shoo him off but he persisted. And when an emergency opening came up, he stepped in. He also talked about showing up on a Sunday to make a call because he knew there would be no receptionist and he’d reach someone who was there working out of passion. Listening to Brown, Proxmire realized that every circumstance was right. So she poured her heart into a story and headed to Ohio determined to be heard.
“Business-wise, I admire White Castle. Like the Oakland County Times, you took one small business and grew it into a chain while still keeping it a family-run, high-quality enterprise. Even with the success you’ve had, family members still have a hands on role in keeping the traditions and standards alive,” Proxmire wrote in her “Open Letter to White Castle.”
She added “But White Castle also holds a very special place in my heart. There is nothing more comforting in the world than a soft warm slider when I am feeling sick or blue. Nothing reminds me more of my dad. And for a person that grew up without a mother, the memories I have of my father are all the more important.
My dad worked over 50 hours a week in a job that intruded upon normal holidays. While other families were gathering for Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner, my dad and I were picking up a sack of burgers and heading into the store to prepare for the big “day after sales.”
He worked so much that my sleep schedule was dependent on his late night arrivals home from work. I would go to sleep around 9 in a lonely empty house and be woken up by the sound of the train whistling by just a block from my bedroom window a couple hours later. That’s how I’d know that my dad was home. Pepsi, cigarettes, a newspaper and some White Castles. These things were part of our tradition as we’d sit at the dining room table and talk about our day, or read the paper and talk about the stories in it.
When I went off to college, on the west side of the state, there were no White Castles there. So when my dad came to visit he’d bring a couple sacks. Or if I came home that is what we had. It became even more “our thing.”
He died when I was 21, leaving me alone in the world and heartbroken. I eventually regained a sense of determination that told me I needed to follow my dreams, and find a way to fix the problems that I saw in the media as I grew up, and to do the kind of journalism that gets talked about around dining room tables.
This determination comes from my dad, and also partly from those early experiences I had in seeing how you run your company.”
Visiting the Castle headquarters, dining in the Castle cafeteria, and meeting members of the White Castle family was a wonderful adventure – and readers on Facebook followed along. Over 400 people responded to the Open Letter by making comments, sharing the story, and sending personal messages to the White Castle directly though their website.
“The Oakland County Times will always depend on readers finding value in our work and supporting it, as well as the local businesses that buy ads,” Proxmire said. Readers are encouraged to contribute to the site’s basic operating expenses at https://www.gofundme.com/oaklandcountytimes. And local businesses can get advertising information at https://oaklandcounty115.com/sponsorshipadvertising/. “This is the time to get the website completely funded, to build on this momentum and see what we all can accomplish together.”
Plans for a launch party are in the works, and the official start date will be announced soon. Please thank our local advertisers as well as White Castle for being part of this ever-growing grassroots journalism dream!