At first, Tymes, 33, was angry. His relative was raised to know right from wrong, he said. But anger quickly gave way to compassion and the desire to reach out to his cousin.
“But guys don’t write letters,” Tymes said.
A greeting card seemed like the perfect solution, but Tymes said the selection at the stores was either “mushy” or inappropriate.
“The only cards you have to choose from are sympathy cards. But usually the cover is roses and flowers -- things that you don’t want to send to another guy. You want to say: ‘What’s up? How’s it going?’” Tymes said.
That was when Tymes hit on the idea of creating his own line of 20 greeting cards targeted to friends and family of prison inmates.
Barbara Miller, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Greeting
Card Association, said she is not aware of any company that makes cards for inmates -- and this is in a country that buys 7 billion cards every year.
Many of Tymes’ Pointe Five Group LLC cards are designed to be uplifting and inspirational. One card, for example, carries the image of a diploma on the cover. The greeting is: “It’s never too late to finish what was started.”
Others are humorous, like the card featuring a muscular male at a job interview. The greeting is: When you go on your interviews and the boss happens to ask you about your workout, and what gym got you those results, just tell them ‘The Boys Club.’ “
Diane Barnes, who works as a volunteer at MeJah Books in the Tri-State Mall in Claymont, Del., which carries the cards, said the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.
“You can’t find these at the Hallmark store,“ Barnes said. “Our customers are glad to see someone is thinking of our brothers and sisters who are serving time.“
For Newark, Del. resident Lisa Tulsian, the cards offer a perfect and tasteful way to correspond with her fiance and two stepbrothers.
“What can you send? You can’t send, ‘Have a Merry Christmas.’ You don’t stop loving them because they made mistakes,“ Tulsian said.
Tymes has managed to strike a perfect balance with sensitive subject matter, Barnes and Tulsian said. He did add a note of jailhouse humor when he selected jumpsuit orange for the color of his envelopes.
“You don’t want to offend and you don’t want to poke too much fun,“ said Tymes, who writes all the greetings for the cards. “I wanted to be a rapper, and I always wrote poetry. Now, I listen to hip-hop to keep my ear to the streets and so I can stay fresh.“
Tymes did his homework before embarking on the venture, checking out the size of the greeting card market, as well as the potential customer base.
“Unfortunately, it’s a growing market,“ Tymes said.
Right now, Tymes and his business manager, Michael Simpson, are trying to place the cards in more retail outlets. The cards sell for about $3.25 to $3.75.
Besides MeJah Books, they are available on the company’s Web site: pointefive.com.
By MAUREEN MILFORD, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
Gannett News Service