When the Family Name Is on the Bottle…

For 20 years beginning in the mid-1960s, my parents owned a bakery on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, Calif.

It was called the Balboa Bakery, but that wasn’t my Dad’s first choice for a name. He once told me that when he bought the business, he wanted to change its name to Johnsons’ Bakery. But he decided against it because there was some city, county or state fee involved that made making the change quite expensive.

Knowing my Dad, and knowing the time frame, it probably was a hundred bucks or less. Nonetheless, the Balboa Bakery name stuck. Interestingly, though, a lot of customers referred to it as “Johnsons’ Bakery” anyway.

And that made my Dad happy, because his theory was that if someone put their name on a business—any kind of business—it probably was a place worth supporting because the owners would take pride in their work.

I hadn’t thought about that for years—until I ran across a comment by Francis Ford Coppola that appeared in Forbes. Coppola made his name as a movie director (“The Godfather” being his first Oscar winner), but he has spent much of the second half of his life as a winery owner.

And he was speaking about his Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, Calif., when he told Forbes, “I feel people understand that if I have my name on something, it’s a personal decision and one I don’t take lightly. They can trust that our wines will be of the best quality and authenticity for the price point.”

For that reason, whenever I’d bring wine over to the folks’ house, I always made sure it had a family name on it. Even though he rarely could tell one wine from another, I knew that he’d prefer Beringer or Cakebread or V. Sattui to Chateau Wherever.

Another one of my Dad’s non-original thoughts that he hammered into my head was, “All you have is your good name.” It’s a lesson I have passed along to my daughter and, now, to my grandkids. Dad always wanted people to have positive thoughts when they heard the Johnson name—in business, and in life.

Other than fame and great wealth, my Dad had a lot in common with Francis Ford Coppola. Is it any wonder that “The Godfather” was his all-time favorite movie?

Posted in Editor's Journal
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