SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 24, 2012

Going 'pink' not about the green

Local businesses mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Rachel Bell Correspondent
The Salem News

---- — The pink hangers and giant pink ribbons on the bags at Beverly Cleaners are not for decoration.

They are there for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and are one way that owner Hoang “Ritchie” Phan, 37, is connecting to the local community through his dry-cleaning store.

“This is not about business,” Phan said, “it’s about smiling. It’s about helping someone who has breast cancer look nice and feel good. That’s normal.”

Phan is one of a few local business owners who, during the month of October, purchase unique “pink” products from their regular suppliers to sell or display to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For small businesses like Beverly Cleaners, the reasons have little to do with making money.

“I don’t think it necessarily helps business,” said Bruce Kahn, 54. “It just helps dry cleaners show their customers they care.”

Kahn is a sales consultant with AristoCraft Supply, the dry-cleaning, laundry and tailoring company that sells its products (which in October includes pink bracelets, pink hangers and pink-ribbon polyester bags) to Phan. Aristocraft donates the proceeds of these sales to the American Breast Cancer Foundation and is one of the 40 sponsors listed on ABCF’s website.

“During our first year, about 75 percent of our customers were involved with it,” Khan said.

AristoCraft donated $5,000 to the ABCF in its first year and $7,500 in its second. This will be its third, with approximately 100 New England customers having bought into the program.

One of those customers is Phan.

Other businesses are showing their support in similar ways. Paul Danehy, 37, manager of Curran Brothers Florist in Danvers, says that when his regular vendor offered him a new product containing a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, he made an impulse decision to buy it.

“It was sort of spontaneous,” he said. “I thought it would be a great way to participate.”

Danehy purchased a stock of wooden plant boxes with a photo cube on each side, one of which contains a pink ribbon. For $19.95, customers can buy pink cyclamen flowers in these pots, $5 of which will be donated to breast cancer research.

“It’s a nice, uplifting gift,” Danehy said. “It touches everyone; we all one way or another know someone who is affected by breast cancer.”

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in America will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. It is the most common form of cancer among women. With individuals, schools and businesses becoming more aware and supportive of the fight against breast cancer, it is no surprise that the pink ribbon has become so widely used.

However, some people are wary of the current pink trend. The advocacy organization Breast Cancer Action tells people to “Think Before You Pink,” warning consumers about “pinkwashing,” when a company or organization uses the pink ribbon on its merchandise but continues to use chemicals or sell products that are linked to breast cancer. The companies might do this to help increase their bottom line.

On the local level, however, supporting breast cancer awareness is not necessarily a business-motivated decision, as in the case of Beverly Cleaners and Curran Brothers.

After buying the pink ribbon flower pots for around $12 each, offering free delivery in Danvers and donating $5 to breast cancer research, Danehy says he just about breaks even with his pink product.

“We don’t make anything off it,” Danehy said. “But I don’t know if that’s really what it’s designed to do.”

Phan would agree with him. He says that his business is not about making money, it’s about making friends. And supporting the fight against breast cancer is just one way of doing that.