July 10, 2008

Fitchburg Online Marketers Expand With City Dictionary

By Anita Clark, The Wisconsin State Journal

Jul. 10--If you 're new to Madison and try to find "Beltline " on a map, you 'll be out of luck.

And if a friend proposes "drinking a boot, " you 'll be puzzled.

A new online business called City Dictionary hopes to explain such references and have some fun as well by compiling definitions for local slang, landmarks, characters, restaurants and attractions for U.S. cities.

It 's another step into the Web-based business world for the husband-and-wife team of John and Colleen Carmona and John 's brother, Thomas Carmona, a business graduate student.

John and Colleen Carmona, business graduates of UW-Madison, own Wingra Direct, which operates three online stores: The Rust Store, which helps customers prevent and fight rust; SharpeningSupplies.com, which offers products to sharpen blades; and Wisconsin Goods, which sells state products.

The Carmonas promise "niche online retail with a personal touch " and believe they 're building a solid foundation in the world of e-commerce.

Selling sharpening supplies and products to combat rust grew from John Carmona 's woodworking hobby and battles with rust that attacked his cars and tools. They began the anti-rust business in January 2005, with John Carmona working at first from the couple 's Fitchburg home and garage, and added the sharpening business 14 months later.

In addition to selling sharpening stones, electric sharpeners, grinding wheels and other supplies, the Carmonas post educational videos and how-to pages to help their customers, who include cooks, hunters, woodworkers, fishermen and gardeners.

"That 's really what separates us from the other guys, " Colleen Carmona said. And, unlike some online businesses, the Carmonas promote their telephone number and are happy to talk to callers.

They also offer a printed catalog for sharpening supplies in response to "literally hundreds " of requests, Colleen Carmona said.

The Carmonas try to match a sharpening product or rust attacker to a customer 's specific needs, or, in some cases, admit they don 't have the answer.

"We try to be the most honest place, " John Carmona said.

Their Wisconsin Goods site, started in October 2006, offers products made in Wisconsin, such as Mepps fishing lures and Wigwam socks, plus Cheeseheads, books about Wisconsin and promotional items such as Bucky Badger T-shirts and Packers glasses.

With their three e-commerce sites successfully operating, John and Colleen Carmona opened their newest business, City Dictionary, with Thomas Carmona, in April.

Users contribute the content to give a personal view of their city 's quirks and attractions, in "small digestible chunks of text, " Thomas Carmona said.

The Beltline, for example, is defined by basic facts plus a warning of "bad drivers and lots of congestion. " The boot is explained with text, photos and rules of the game for swilling beer from the glass boot at the Essen Haus restaurant. The site includes Google advertisements.

Wingra Direct has become "a growing, profitable company, " John Carmona said. They 've hired two full-time employees, expect to need another plus part-time seasonal holiday help, and plan to open another online business in August.

City Dictionary revenue is "very modest " at the moment, he said, but the site is intended to start small and grow.

"We 're doing really well, " John Carmona said.


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