Address: 1 Wellington Rd Northbrook, IL 60062
Phone: (847) 807-9111
owner: Brian Martin

“Taking old books and turning them in to hardcover journal books, DVD/VHS journals, ornaments, framed titles, ‘worldly birds,’ book jewels and bookquets”

How I Discovered HardbackYoYo and Brian Martin/How the Business Works:

I was fortunate to serve as group leader of a trip to Israel where owner, Brian Martin, was a participant.  Over breakfast one day, Brian started sharing details of the company he started.  “I got the idea at an art fair,” reports Brian.  “I was looking for a job and took my love of books and being environmentally friendly and decided to create a business!” Brian started the business in 2010.  He takes old books which were donated or from the library and “turns them in to journals.”  He notes that he takes the first page, the last page and the cover and adds 8-1/2 by 11 paper to it can be used as a journal.  He also adds a card pouch and a date stamp “like in a library!” 

Brian does all of his work from home workshop.  He produces a range of products in addition to the journal books.  He reports that he:

-takes scraps from pellets and turns them into Christmas tree ornaments.

-glues spines on to a blank frame with a particular theme to make frame tiles

-makes jewelry

-makes “bookquets,” turning maps into flowers.

Brian reports attending art shows and trunk shows, and has “ a good partnership with his mother.”

From the Website:

The Hardback Story

When I was 18 years old, with graduation just around the corner, I was in need of a job! So my family and friends (old and new) gathered to form a team of support. Together they helped me to launch a customized business that would create a product of interest not only to myself, but hopefully to you as well. My passion for books and keeping the earth a great place for all of us t live has inspired me to create an eco-friendly business; springing old books into a new purpose. I make writing journals and other items from discarded media. We call it a microenterprise because I am the entrepreneur of this small business.  I have a form of Autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, and a customized job is always the best way for me to accentuate my strengths.

Update:  I am proud to report that I have been running my own business for over 10 years. Just like many self-employed business owners, I rely on the help and support of others. It makes working more fun and I get advice and input from a variety of people. My product list is growing and you can find my items in retail stores and at local fairs, conventions, expos and my Etsy store all year-round. Most importantly, I am making an income!  Just like other employed business people, I am paying taxes and I feel like I am contributing to my own well-being and my present and future work potential. I reached my goal of earning my Medicare Credits before my 22nd Birthday!

Lessons Learned/Challenges/Advice:

The lessons I learned were maintaining my stability for long hours in public shows and presentations. I use social media to announce new items, offers, and shows. I also run an Etsy store to sell journals when I’m not doing any shows. It can be a challenge for me to think about using social media on a regular basis to increase sales, though I do enjoy using social media for communication on other topics. During this past year, not having face-to-face and in-person events of any type have decreased my sales, and I am currently trying to rethink my business plan to be more sustainable and ensure my sales stay steady whether in-person or online.

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All baking done in home-based kitchen in Roslyn, New York (Long Island, NY)

“Delicious custom chocolate covered treats for all occasions including chocolate covered Oreos, s’mores, graham crackers, cake pops and more. Ability to put company logo or any logo on most creations for corporate events, wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and more.”

From the Website:

“Ability, not Disability….no limits for me! Since the day I was born I have been conquering obstacles. My name is Alexa. I am a unique entrepreneur because I have Down Syndrome, which is a part of me but does not define or limit me. I have always dreamed about running my own business and now my dream is a reality. From a young age, I enjoyed baking and decorating desserts to make people happy and smile. I started Truly Scrumptious by Alexa by making delicious custom chocolate covered treats for all occasions. My family and friends loved them so much that they asked me to make them for their special events. It all started with a bowl of melted chocolate and an Oreo! Today I am making all sorts of custom designed treats like chocolate covered Oreos, s’mores, cake pops and more. I can even put your company logo on my creations for corporate events. What an incredible feeling to see the look on people’s faces when they bite into a “Truly Scrumptious” treat. “

In the Media: (podcast)

The Visit:

I have known Alexa for many years as she has been a participant in many of our Camp Ramah in New England and National Ramah programs. Currently, Alexa participates in the vocational training program at Camp Ramah in New England. Families of young adults with disabilities all give a great deal of thought to what “comes next” after graduation from high school. Her mom, Carrie notes that Alexa recently turned 21 and worried about Alexa “falling off the cliff,” a term used by many parents of young adults with disabilities to describe the predicament when there are no longer services guaranteed and provided post-graduation. Alexa therefore became founder “chief employee” of Truly Scrumptious by Alexa.

“I love baking. I used to help my mom cook and bake and liked to help. I would come home from school and bake brownies. I learned to make cupcakes and mini bundt cakes on my own, and chocolate chip cookies,” Alexa reports. Alexa adds, “I love chocolate covered Oreos. I eat them in a heartbeat!”

Alexa took her love for chocolate to a new level when she made 250 cake pops in the colors of Roslyn (the local) High School for her brother’s graduation. They were very well received and people began calling with additional baking requests.

The Chalups report that Alexa initially started baking for fun, but the business continues to grow and evolve. They have purchased a special color printer for printing logos on her baked goods, and she has the support of community habilitation workers. Mother Carrie helps (i.e. cutting complex patterns), and reports, “I am hard on her,” meaning she stresses the need for a very clean work environment and for Alexa to put her hair up in a ponytail while working. The two have hired other young adults with disabilities on occasion, though they have cut back on hiring outside help during the recent Covid pandemic.

Alexa’s parents are proud of her and note that they took Alexa’s interest and helped her develop it. “The ball was rolling so we went with it. She had momentum and we had momentum. That’s how it came about.” Mom notes, “It makes Alexa feel good.” She adds, “society labels you as disabled. Why do you need to feel disabled?”

I observed Alexa carefully and patiently taking out ingredients from the cupboard, setting up her work station, and making chocolate covered oreos. I also viewed various products about to be packaged and shipped. According to the website, approximate pricing is as follows:

  • 12 Oreos on a plate for $38
  • 12 chocolate covered s’mores on a plate for $62
  • 12 chocolate covered Graham crackers for $54 (prices do not include shipping)

Lessons Learned/Challenges/Advice:

  1. It is extremely important to have the support of the community, family and friends. This helps to promote the business.
  2. Let your child with special needs have dreams and help them to achieve them. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.
  3. Support the business, but continue to teach and let the person with special needs continue to learn all parts of the business.
  4. Try to keep your costs as low as possible, buy supplies wholesale and try not to make mistakes in production, take your time.
  5. Time management is important, as Alexa gets tired or overwhelmed when she has a lot of orders.
  6. Supporting Alexa with her company with Com Hab workers has been extremely helpful.

Mom also stresses the need to “help kids become employable.” This sometimes involves telling them “negative things and not just feel good things.” She notes the importance of sharing honest feedback. For example, she may say, “Alexa that doesn’t look good!” “We need to set the bar higher for people with disabilities so they can be more successful in the workplace!”

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Original Article Published On The JNS

Israeli-American pitcher Dean Kremer, 25, took to the mound in an Orioles-Yankees game that ended with a 7-2 win for the home team. Still, he now holds a place in the record books.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer holds the distinction of being the only Israeli to pitch at “The House That Ruth Built.”

After Tuesday night’s start against the Yankees in New York City, he reported that “pitching at Yankee Stadium felt pretty good. This time, it was better because there were fans. It was definitely an experience.”

After giving up a leadoff single to DJ LeMahieu, Kremer—the 25-year-old Israeli-American starting pitcher for Baltimore Orioles—was just as quickly knocked off the mound by an Aaron Judge line drive, which Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling described as a “bullet up the middle” that “drilled him.” Announcer Suzyn Waldman observed that Kremer was “wincing.”

While Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and the team trainer were assessing Kremer’s ability to continue, Waldman shared the young player’s biography, which includes having two Israeli parents who served in the Israel Defense Forces, his spending summers in Israel and his having a history of pitching for Israel’s National Team. Waldman noted Kremer’s impressive record against the Yankees last year when he was called up by the Orioles at the end of the season.

“He had two terrific games against the Yankees,” said Hyde. In those two appearances, Kremer pitched 11 innings, gave up two runs and had 14 strikeouts.

Kremer’s impressive first season earned him a spot in this year’s starting rotation for the Orioles. He struck out seven batters in six innings pitched in his Major League debut last season at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He had 22 strikeouts in 18 innings, while also giving up 12 walks.

Dean Kremer speaking to the media after his start at Yankee Stadium. Source: Screenshot.

After Tuesday night’s scare, which Kremer reported “luckily got me in the meat and not in a bad spot,” he got back on his feet. “It got tight at first, then loosened. I just kept going.”

He struck out the next three batters and threw a total of 80 pitches before leaving with the Orioles trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning. Kremer gave up four walks, five hits and five strikeouts. The Yankees held on to win 7-2 behind starter Gerrit Cole’s 13 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings.

‘Being the first to do something is an incredible honor’

Born and raised in Stockton, Calif., Kremer pitched for the Team USA baseball team in the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel, winning a gold medal. In 2014 and 2015, he pitched for Israel in the qualifying rounds for the European Baseball Championship. Also in 2015, he became the first Israeli drafted by a Major League Baseball team; he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 38th round but chose not to sign.

He was drafted again by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB draft. He pitched in September 2016 in the qualifier for Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The Dodgers traded him to the Orioles in 2018, where he led all Minor League pitchers in strikeouts.

Oon the mound for the Baltimore Orioles. Credit: Courtesy of Baltimore Orioles.

Cody Decker, who played for the San Diego Padres and various other Major League teams (mostly with Minor League affiliates) as well as for Team Israel, and is known for bringing the team’s mascot, “The Mensch on the Bench,” from the United States to Asia for the World Baseball Classic, is proud of his Team Israel teammate. “Dean is a great kid with a live arm and bright future—and when he grows it out, he has GREAT hair!”

Kremer is proud of his Team Israel experience and of being the first Israeli citizen in the MLB. “It means everything to me,” he said. “Just being the first to do something is an incredible honor.”

He noted that he values his time with Team Israel. “Being around those guys—the guys on the team were much older or a few years older—with Big League experience helped me get to where I am now. It was a pretty unbelievable experience.”

Peter Kurz, Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) President and general manager of Team Israel, loved having Kremer on the team and is “very excited to have Dean open up the season against the Yankees.”

Kurz, whose Team Israel is preparing for this July’s Tokyo Olympics (rescheduled from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic) added that “Dean is on Team Israel’s extended roster, but as a 26-man roster MLB player, he will not be eligible to play for us in the Olympics. We want to wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season and his career.”

Hyde said he is proud of his starter and sees great potential in the young player. “He pitched well and battled through. He threw a lot of pitches and ran out of gas in the fourth inning.”

Still, he said he is pleased that Kremer has four pitches, and admires his “starter mentality and toughness” and feels he “will continue to improve.”

Announcer Sterling pointed out that Kremer’s Yankee Stadium pitching debut took place on the same day in Yankees history when Jewish baseball player Ron Blomberg became the first designated hitter for MLB. On April 6, 1973, at Boston’s Fenway Park, Blomberg was walked by Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant with the bases loaded in the first inning. The bat he used now stands on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Baltimore Orioles Israeli-American pitcher Dean Kremer. Credit: Johnny Douglas/Baltimore Orioles.
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