Denise Steele and her welcome basket of goodies. SUPPLIED PHOTO

After six-year absence, Denise Steele takes helm of local direct marketing enterprise

Special to the VOICE

Welcome Wagon Ltd. has existed in Canada since 1930, but Pelham hasn’t had a representative in the last six years. Now Denise Steele has taken the reins of the local wing of the direct marketing outfit, and she’s eager to welcome new residents to town with the company’s traditional gift baskets.

“It’s just so exciting to share with a new resident, and tell them, ‘You’ve made a great choice and look what this town is all about,’” Steele said.

How Welcome Wagon works is simple. Local businesses pay reps like Steele to place either products or coupons in the gift baskets—which also includes community information. Then Steele delivers them to the front doors of new residents’ homes. Though there is a slight catch. If the newcomers don’t agree to share their name and address with Steele, so that she can report back a successful delivery to the sponsoring companies, the basket contains only freely available Town brochures and other municipal information, and the Voice. (The newspaper does not have any business relationship with Steele.)

From the newcomers’ perspective, it comes across as an old-time welcoming committee. However, Steele admits many are conditioned to be dubious of any such package delivery— until they realize it is a free service to them.

“People are always skeptical about somebody claiming something is free, especially when it shows up as a knock at your door,” Steele said. “They automatically assume she’s gotta be selling something, right? But this truly is free.”

There are generally two ways that Welcome Wagon finds access to new residents in any community—either the residents themselves sign up, or the local reps hear about newcomers via the good old-fashioned grapevine.

“We have a number of sources,” Steele said. “I have five names given to me already just by word of mouth.”

Steele estimates she does 15 of these visits a month. She said that packages are designed to appeal to all age groups.

“Different people get different things out of it,” she said. “Some are glad to know there’s activities for seniors. Young moms might be glad there’s something for their kids. There’s something it in for everybody.”

A cross-section of the local Pelham business community has been receptive, she said.

“Businesses have been extremely generous,” she said. “The support and enthusiasm I’ve encountered from the Mayor and everyone in Town … they’ve just all been so tremendous.”