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Mason companies
Mason Companies in Chippewa Falls is in growth mode, thanks to product expansion and new business ventures, like the creation of a general merchandise catalog and website called Stoneberry. The company has added over 40 positions in the past year, including to its busy customer contact center, shown here.

Some of the orders coming in at Mason Companies in Chippewa Falls have been a little different lately. Sure, people are still ordering fashionable shoes from Masseys, Maryland Square, and the popular ShoeMall.

Those are just a few of the nine successful business units that have continued success for the historic local company now years past its days as a manufacturing company.

But recently orders have been coming in for merchandise quite different from the usual footwear and apparel items from Mason Companies’ online and traditional catalogs. Now people are buying electronics, bed and bath items, kitchen appliances, health and beauty items, and other products. And they can do it on credit.

The new catalog and e-commerce site is called Stoneberry (www.stoneberry.com) and it’s just one of the reasons why Mason Companies has been hiring people in the midst of economic downturn.

Over the past year or so, the company has added over 40 positions, according to Sue Kern, vice president of Human Resources for Mason Companies.

That includes help at the busy call center, more shifts in shipping, increased staff to handle Web sites and a 13 percent increase in the professional level staff as well, according to Kern.

“Stoneberry is only part of it,” Darin Schemenauer, the vice president of marketing, said. “Business has increased even without Stoneberry. Mason’s growth is the result of product expansion and new business development.”

Mason Companies has been a catalog shoe retailer for generations. It still is. Its seven paper catalogs still account for most of its business, counting the online orders that the Web sites of those catalogs generate. Recognizing the opportunity that the Internet presented, Mason Companies started to go into online-only ventures in 1999 with ShoeMall.

Today it handles over 250 shoe brands in close to 18,000 women’s, men’s and kids’ styles.

With business units like ShoeMall in growth mode, Mason’s added children’s footwear and accessories to its existing footwear and apparel business.

Mason Companies was also looking to diversify into general merchandise product lines.

“We’re successful with our marketing footwear through catalogs and the Web, and we have an existing customer base,” Schemenauer said.

Mason Companies built on that with some modern market research to come up with the concept for Stoneberry.

Schemenauer said they took a profile of their customer base and researched what types of products people in that profile group buy. They were able to overlay their own customer data with data from other companies to show what other products Mason’s customers were buying online.

“There was so much that went into it in a short period of time,” Schemenauer said. “That was our main focus – developing this business and launching it.”

The idea of a general merchandise venture had been around for a while, regularly coming up in the company’s strategic planning processes. It finally became reality when Stoneberry was launched in October.

No, there is no clever story behind the name.

“We did a lot of brainstorming,” Schemenauer said. “We found it was easy to pronounce and spell and set well with the customers we were targeting.”

Plus the URL was available for online use.

Schemenauer said sales through the site have exceeded projections, but the same is true for some of Mason’s other business ventures. It’s the combination of success across the board that’s driving the hiring, he said.

“We’re excited to see the expansion of our workforce as the company continues to grow,” said Kern. “As a matter of fact, we are still recruiting professional positions in our rapidly expanding Information Systems, Marketing and Internet departments.”

Mason Companies’ e-commerce business currently accounts for about 40 percent of total sales, according to the company. Mason’s currently ranks 150th in the top 500 largest Web retailers in the country.

“We are excited about our recent growth,” said Dan Hunt, president and CEO. “We are proud to bring additional employment opportunities to the Chippewa Valley and look forward to continued growth.”

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