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Sandy USA thrives on ethnic dolls, gifts, décor

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Not many African-Americans call Springfield home. Nor do many Native Americans or His-panics. Yet retailers and consumers alike contact Sandy USA when they want to buy high-quality, affordably priced ethnic dolls, gifts and home dcor items. |ret||ret||tab|

Bob Nocera and his wife B.J. founded the Springfield-based company in 1993 in partnership with Sandy Corp., which is located in the Philippines. |ret||ret||tab|

Nocera had plenty of experience in the gift industry. After completing college, he went to work for Hallmark Corp., where he served in the company's sales and retail divisions. Later, he left the company to become the chief executive officer of Precious Moments in Carthage. |ret||ret||tab|

While working at Precious Moments, Nocera learned that Sandy Corp. was looking for a North American partner who could market and distribute its line of ethnic dolls and gifts. Intrigued by the prospect of starting his own business, he contacted several representatives at the company, and eventually they formed a partnership in which Sandy Corp. provided Nocera and his wife with the capital needed to start Sandy USA. |ret||ret||tab|

"My background in many facets of the gift industry has been valuable to me in developing this company," said Bob Nocera, who handles most of Sandy USA's day-to-day business operations. "I try to evaluate our programs from a lot of different angles. I've done sales, I've worked the retail end, and I have wholesale experience. I try to blend these experiences to make certain Sandy USA is a good partner to our customers and employees."|ret||ret||tab|

Although she's not as visible, B.J. Nocera's role in the company is just as important. As the director of advertising and product development, she oversees the production and publishing of the company's product catalogs, which go out to both retailers and consumers. The most interesting part of her job, however, is in developing new product lines.|ret||ret||tab|

The front section of her office resembles a small gift shop and is filled with ethnic dolls, collectible figurines, gifts and home dcor items. In the back, a large table is strewn with colorful renditions of new products that are in development. Fabric swatches are piled on another table, and paperwork is everywhere. It's obvious that developing a new product takes a lot of time and attention to detail. |ret||ret||tab|

"We really take pride in providing high-quality, authentic ethnic products," said B.J. No-cera. "A lot of research goes into every product that's manufactured."|ret||ret||tab|

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Sandy USA's line of Native American dolls, which are created by artist Ruben Te-jada. Tejada uses historic photographs to ensure the details on each doll's dress are accurate. The materials used to make each dress are authentic as well. Even small details, such as the placement of a doll's hands, are taken into consideration be-cause hand placement can be symbolic. |ret||ret||tab|

Those who know little about Native American culture quickly develop an appreciation for the detail that went into producing each doll. That's because each doll comes with a hangtag bearing information about the doll and the Native American tribe it represents. |ret||ret||tab|

Attention to detail can be seen in the other product lines, as well, including the African-American and Asian angel doll lines, which are created by artist Gigi Dy-Sy, and the company's new home dcor product line. The home dcor line, which was launched this month, contains items with elements from the African, Latino and Asian cultures. |ret||ret||tab|

"The products in our home dcor line mix well with the products in our other lines be-cause of their color and form," said Bob Nocera. |ret||ret||tab|

In addition to these product lines, Sandy USA manufactures several lines of collectible figurines. Each figurine line is based on the artwork of an African-American artist. Cur-rently, Sandy USA has figurine lines based on the work of Annie Lee, Howard Marshall Jr. and Tom McKinney. Actress Della Reese also has her own line of collectible figurines and dolls. |ret||ret||tab|

All of the products sold by Sandy USA are manufactured overseas by Sandy Corp. These products then are shipped to Springfield where they are distributed. |ret||ret||tab|

Most of Sandy USA's customers are retailers. In recent years, however, consumers who live in areas not served by a retailer have contacted Sandy USA to inquire about how they can purchase the company's products. |ret||ret||tab|

To serve these customers, Sandy USA launched Ethnic GiftsforYou.com. This e-commerce Web site, which started six months ago, offers a partnership program for nonprofits, churches and businesses. Any time a member of the partnership program places an order, up to 15 percent of their total purchase is given back to their partner charity, church or business.|ret||ret||tab|

"We started the partnership program because we wanted to give back," said B.J. Nocera. "That's important to us."|ret||ret||tab|

In addition to running Ethnic GiftsforYou.com, Sandy USA also has its own Web site at www.SandyUSA.com. |ret||ret||tab|

This Web site primarily is used by Sandy USA's vendors and retailers. |ret||ret||tab|

Currently, the Noceras are focusing most of their time and energy on the new home dcor product line. Bob Nocera be-lieves this product line could help fuel the company's future growth.[[In-content Ad]]

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