Promo Actives Marks 15th Year
by Adam Zaremski • April 2010 East Aurora Advertiser
a clothing embroidery operation on one side of a building
and pet food sales on the other might seem strange until the
back story is known about the owner of Promo Actives on Olean
Road in East Aurora.
Though he’s celebrating 15 years of business this April, Chris Kmicinski started off in North Java
at his family's animal feed business, Reisdorf Brothers. If
things had gone the way he originally planned, he might not
be in East Aurora. In 1992 he graduated with a dairy science
degree from the University of Georgia, a degree that focuses
on the nutrition of dairy cows and the quality of milk that
"That's all I ever wanted to do," Kmicinski said
during an interview, switching from a tough, joking attitude
to one of serious thought. "The dairy industry is an
endangered species. The amount of dairy farmers that are out
of business, it's sickening."
While in Atlanta for the summer almost 20 years ago he came
across his future. Kmicinski was trying to purchase a hat
with an embroidery logo from a shop, when after 20 minutes
that store owner tried to sell her business to him. He said
it was a little strange, but he threw together a business
proposal and was close to reaching a deal.
It did not work out, but he came home, did some research,
purchased an embroidery machine, took a class on operating
the software and was soon in business. The operation started
out of his parents’ house, moved to Mr. C's Cleaners
in the village for eight years, then after another transfer
came to his
current location at 391 Olean Road. (now 454 Olean Road)
As he acquired more space, Kmicinski considered other services
he could offer, having already expanded the embroidery section
with another machine and a silkscreen press. He said he wanted
to get into the agriculture background he remembered, and
his father suggested selling pet food.
"I looked at him and said 'What are you talking about,
dad?'" Kmicinski recalled.
Like the original embroidery idea, the thought stayed and
he came up with a business plan. He started off slow and small
to test the waters while putting his focus on "two horses
to ride" for products: dog and bird food, though he slowly
added cat products along the way.
"I doubled in my feed sales last year, and I doubled
again this year," he said. "The bottom did drop
out last year for a few months, but no holes so far this year."
The two operations have helped him attract new customers.
Before the feed sales came, the apparel embroidery and silk
screening started to plateau. He said people did not seem
to realize what he did. But those who came in for the pet
food started requesting work from the other side of the store.
wall of badges and patches from companies that have used his
business decorates one spot in the 3,000-square-foot building.
Small businesses, fire departments and students that want
a group logo designed are his biggest customers, and a sign
outside the shop states the minimum order accepted is one.
"It's not a joke. I want to cater to them, the small
business or individual. That is my niche," Kmicinski
noted. "If a job comes along I can't do, I tell them.
I think they appreciate the honesty. I grew up knowing it
was about service, and there you can't go wrong."
Promo Actives doesn’t have a website, and at the moment
Kmicinski has no interest in starting one. Kmicinski said
he feels more comfortable when people come to his location,
talk about their ideas and see in person what he can provide.
They can see him too, a guy who helps carry out a customer’s
50-pound-plus dog food bags to a car or jokes around with
a repeat customer that cannot make up her mind about a shirt
It’s part of his providing a good service to the customer.
“Without a plan, you ain’t got a chance at a business,”
he said. He has had a plan all along, except for the name
of the company. He calls his feed store Bulldogs Feed Company,
but Promo Actives?
“Don’t ask me about that,” he said with
a groan and a slight laugh. “I don’t know where
it came from. One day I was driving in Cincinnati and it came