KINGSTON — Have you ever spilled peanut butter on yourself?
That’s right, spilled peanut butter.
Bruce Gutterman, who I have known for many years, has become a peanut butter magnate. His peanut butter is used in many of the top name-brand ice creams and snacks that we buy and enjoy every day. But because of what legal people call “non-disclosure agreements,” the names of those products cannot be, well, disclosed publicly.
But this is not about Gutterman the successful peanut butter businessman. It’s about Gutterman the sports fan.
An avid golfer, Gutterman has forged a genuine friendship with golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. Yes, that Jack Nicklaus — the guy with 18 major victories, the nickname “The Golden Bear” and the man respected by everyone everywhere. Bruce and Jack have met several times, they have corresponded and they have enjoyed each other’s company.
And Jack Nicklaus really likes peanut butter. And he likes ice cream. He really likes ice cream with peanut butter. All I can say is that Jack likes Bruce’s peanut butter — a lot. We will have to see where that leads.
But this isn’t about Gutterman and Nicklaus either.
Bruce, a graduate of Meyers High School and Penn State University, is a creative genius. It all started about 40 years ago when Bruce found a set of keys in front of his house on Hedge Place in Kingston. At some point, a frantic man knocked on his door, and asked Bruce if he might have found a set of keys. Bruce said he had and returned them to the grateful man.
Now this is where we see real genius at work.
The man said he had to return home and get back to his business. Of course, Bruce had to ask what kind of business. The man said he had a pretzel-making business. The man then tells Bruce that he had just patented a machine that could make pretzel nuggets with hollow centers. Bruce was keenly interested. The man then tells Bruce he couldn’t figure out what to fill the pretzel nuggets with.
“How about my peanut butter?” Bruce asked.
And that, my friends, was the birth of Gutterman’s Nutter Nuggets. Gutterman’s business, Flavors-R-Specialty, was off the launching pad.
So, can you see the two-headed genius here? A man invents a machine to make hollow pretzel nuggets, yet he has no idea what to fill them with. And the other man, Bruce, responds instantaneously with the perfect answer.
And the rest is snacking industry history.
But we still haven’t reached the real purpose of this column.
Sitting in his second floor office on Market Street in Kingston this week, Bruce and his best buddy/attorney, Alex Rogers, told me about their most recent odyssey.
Bruce had been doing business with Susan Patrick, founder/president of ISkream Co. in Milford, Conn. Despite several years of doing business, the two had never met in person. One day, Bruce was in his office listening to The Dan Patrick Show. Bruce has been a longtime listener/fan of Dan Patrick and he knows all there is to know about Dan’s radio show and his career — NBC Sports, ESPN, the Olympics, etc.
Yet as keen a businessman as Bruce is, he never connected the dots. One day a caller into The Dan Patrick Show mentions that he is from Milford, Conn., and there is a woman there with an ice cream business by the name of Susan Patrick. The caller asked Dan if Susan was a relative.
“Yes, that’s my wife,” Dan responded.
Bruce stopped and immediately called Susan.
Long story short: Bruce traveled to Milford for a meeting with Susan to seal a deal on a new product. While there, Susan invited Bruce and Alex to lunch and, yes, Dan showed up.
Dan took Bruce and Alex to his radio studio, which is located above the restaurant where they were having lunch and showed them around. To say Bruce was like a kid in a candy store is a gross under-statement. Bruce came away with memories that will last a lifetime.
This is the essence of Bruce Gutterman. Creative, yes. But likeable, no doubt. People are drawn to him, not just because he provides a great product, but because his mind brings so much creativity to the table, people genuinely value his opinion.
Hard work and creativity, coupled with a sincere desire and ability to never fail a customer, make Gutterman special.
And while his business clients must remain secret, Gutterman’s success should be celebrated.
By the way, when I opened a jar of Bruce’s peanut butter, it spilled all over me. It’s sold in liquid form. But if you put it in the fridge, it hardens just like any other brand.
And, not surprisingly, it’s delicious.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.