Toffee to Go feeling the ‘Oprah effect’

Toffee to Go feeling the ‘Oprah effect’

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If you’re going to write a personal note to Oprah, you’d better make it memorable. That’s what Lisa Schalk, co-owner of Tampa’s Toffee to Go, thought when she sat down to write a note to include with a toffee tower to send for consideration to be on Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list…

Released this week, the list includes the South Tampa toffee retailer and manufacturer’s holiday towers, and their new phone lines have been ringing off the hook ever since.

“We were slammed last night,” said Schalk, as the retailer displayed at the Junior League of Tampa Holiday Gift Market this week. “People are so excited for us and we appreciate it,” she said.

While the holiday season normally calls for extra staff and midnight cooking shifts, Schalk said they started earlier, since finding out in October that their product made the list. While the staff wouldn’t normally be up to 30 people just yet, it is now, and they added four phone lines for a total of eight. All of them are buzzing since the word got out.

Closer to Christmas, the website normally does more business, but Thursday it rang up close to $7,000, which Schalk said doesn’t usually happen until much closer to the holiday.

“Our website was buzzing yesterday,” Schalk said. “Yesterday there were 400 people on it at one time; it was really cool to see.”

Toffee to Go’s marketing team at Sensory 5 kicked it into high gear once the announcement came, as Jim Schalk, co-owner, was at a gift show in Houston and Lisa headed to the Junior League show. Banners and other materials were printed in record time and overnighted to Jim.

“On Tuesday I felt like we ran a marathon to get them ready for the announcement with all their website updates, print materials, press releases, social media updates and of course making sure the website could handle the expected influx of customers,” said Denise Glass with Tampa-based Sensory 5.

While the “Favorite Things” episode was popular on Oprah’s show, it is now exclusively for publication in O Magazine, according to publicists with Oprah Winfrey Network. Statistics from show the magazine’s total audience is just over 12 million — 87 percent female and 13 percent male. Additionally, there is a QR code in the issue that allows readers to download video footage of the selection process with Oprah, publicists said.

So, what was in Lisa’s note to Oprah? “I thanked her and basically said I was crying tears of joy as I wrote the note, and that I was so honored and gracious for what she did for us,” she said. Lisa handed out samples of their toffee to two creative employees with OWN at a gift show this summer, and then again at a New York show. After that show, she received a request to send them a tower, and then another request a few days later for more towers to be photographed. Of course, she didn’t know for sure they were on the list but had a feeling.

“I know I get her magazine, and when her list comes out I buy things from the list,” Lisa said. “If Oprah loves it, I love it. It’s just validation, and to have that kind of endorsement behind your product is just huge.”

Needless to say, Lisa got her Christmas wish.

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