Everyone recalls the good old days, when life was somewhat normal—before a pandemic blindsided us all and crippled a way of life that now seems like a distant memory.
The year was 1998, and Jenn Mason was living it up in New York. She had a love for dancing and would meet her girlfriends in Manhattan, rocking the night away after a hard day’s work at Gemline, her employer. Jenn says, “I grew up in New York, so my territory was the Burrows.”
A fellow colleague, Ross, had a knack for connecting outgoing salespeople with other lively and energetic salespeople, bringing positivity and productivity to a work team.
Ross insisted, “You have to meet this guy. He knows everybody and can connect you with all the top people you need to know.”
The only drawback: Jenn was in a relationship. “Obviously, I wasn’t all that enthralled with my boyfriend, John, or I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of meeting someone new.”
Add to that Jenn’s concern that somebody else’s pick for her could be the opposite of her own choice. On the other hand, she saw no harm in making a new friend and business associate.
To satisfy her colleague, Jenn agreed. But that dreaded feeling set in. She was certain that she was going to come face-to-face with an ugly, bald salesman.
“In my mind,” Jenn says, “I would be there an hour tops, and then be off to the Manhattan nightclubs to meet my girlfriends right afterward.”
Interestingly enough, Tim Mason, who Jenn hadn’t yet met, had the same attitude.
“Ross, our friend in New York said to me, ‘Tim, there’s this new girl. I want you to show her the distributors, get her out there.’ So here I am sitting in this hotel lobby waiting and thinking I’ll take a few hours. Go out and be cordial. I wasn’t the least bit enthused.”
In an instant, that all changed. “Jenn walks in, and I’m like…‘Oh, no.’”
Tim, awestruck by Jenn’s striking appearance, knew immediately he could be facing a personal dilemma when he saw her for the first time. She strutted through the hotel lobby like a runway model. Jenn was a head-turner—no doubt.
When she laid eyes on Tim for the first time, Jenn had a change of thoughts herself. She said, “He’s not bald and he’s not ugly.”
The two, who thought they’d simply be cordial and make a fast exit from each other, talked five minutes about work and four and a half hours about life.
“On and off throughout the evening, my boyfriend called. I wasn’t picking up. Tim and I were talking about our entire life and things we’d been through. If I was happy in my relationship, I would have answered the phone,” Jenn says.
But like a giant rock that rolls down the mountain and blocks the roadway, reality set in. Jenn continued reminding herself that she was in a relationship. Unfortunately, so was Tim.
It couldn’t have been worse timing for two people with a dynamite connection to meet and then have their own relationship situations keep them apart.
The evening went so well, Tim didn’t want to say goodnight. Like the kid that doesn’t want his pal to leave after a fun day of play, Tim intentionally stalled Jen by saying, “I have samples in my car. Do you want to see my pen kit?”
Laughing, Jenn chimes in, “He actually showed me the tires on his car.”
“The Whitewalls,” Tim says. “I was like, ‘Oh, I got new tires.’ I was doing everything within my power to keep from saying goodbye to Jenn that night.”
“With both of us being in relationships, we parted ways agreeing to stay friends, respectfully,” Jenn says.
“I was based out of the Boston market, and Jenn was based out of New York, but I had the entire Northeast region. So I would, obviously, see my distributors up in New England. Then I would get down to the New York and Connecticut area and spend like a week down there. Every time I would go down and see those distributors, I would call Jenn and say, ‘Are you available? Are your friends available? Let’s go get dinner,’” Tim says.
“It became this ritual of always going down to the New York area and reaching out to Jenn and connecting. We stayed in touch for seven or eight years in a row, and we were just very good friends. We would see each other at shows, and we were both still in relationships, so we were okay with keeping it at that.
Jenn laughs, “He spent many funny nights coming down and taking me and my girlfriends out.”
Tending to the women who tipped the bottle a little too heavy, Tim won’t forget those funny nights either. “I remember throwing the girls over my shoulders and taking them back to their apartments. I would leave notes on their bedside table that read, ‘When you wake up, call me. I hope you girls are okay.’ And then I would leave.”
Tim was a keeper, the type of man every woman dreams of having, which explains why he was already taken. Meanwhile, Jenn stayed busy with her career and saw Tim when he came to New York for work and at the industry tradeshows.
The hands on the clock always move at just the right time.
“I was getting in a taxi one day after an industry tradeshow when Tim called and said, ‘I have to tell you something.’ Not knowing what to expect, I was quick to ask, ‘Oh, God! What?’”
“He said, ‘Guess who I work for?’ I was so excited for Tim when he said, ‘Gemline.’ So then we got to see each other at sales meetings, and our relationship kind of grew from there. What was funny is everyone we worked with said, ‘You two have a connection like no other that we’ve ever seen.’”
“And I would always say, ‘I know! But timing is everything,’” Jenn explains. “I was inches close to getting married when Tim ended his long-term relationship.”
“It was interesting because my mom had met Tim—and I assured her we were just friends—and she said, ‘You guys just have this unique relationship.’ I couldn’t help but agree with Mom. And she asked me if I had to choose, would I pick John or Tim. I said ‘John’ because that’s who I was with at the time.”
When Jenn and Tim finally got together, her mom confessed, “The entire family knew that the two of you were meant to be.” Mothers know best!
With New Year’s Eve being so overrated—going out, spending a lot of money, and usually having a bad time—Jenn and Tim uniquely rang in the new year by becoming Mr. and Mrs. Mason at a place called Fireside Weddings, a beautiful venue on the Hudson. There were about ninety best friends and family members there to celebrate their wedding on December 31st, 2005.
“Fireside Weddings was very rustic with two gigantic stone fireplaces. We wheeled in a big flat-screen TV when the ball was going to drop. Everyone danced until probably three o’clock in the morning. It was just a big, fun celebration.” Jenn smiles.
“Now every New Year’s, we ask ourselves, ‘What are we going to do?’ And we’re like, ‘Nothing. We’re going to stay home.’ We have friends over, and we have a fire and food and drink,” they both share.
But there is one unique thing Jenn does. “Every New Year’s Eve, I step into my wedding gown—the one I wore sixteen years ago—to relive those precious and sacred moments in time. And I will continue that tradition until the dress doesn’t fit anymore.” Jenn laughs.
With the two of them being married and working together for the past sixteen years, people often ask Jenn, “Are you sick of being together?”
She answers, “Don’t get me wrong. Do I want to pull his hair out sometimes? Of course! I’m sure he wants to pull mine out, too, but he’s my best friend.”
All the time, people ask Tim, “Why would you want to work with your spouse?”
He quickly lets them know, “You don’t understand. I wouldn’t want to work with anybody else. To be able to travel and to go out to dinner and to be with my wife in my work environment is so unique and different. I want to be there. It’s not like I want to be on the road away from home.”
The electricity between Jenn and Tim is still as vibrant now as it was sixteen years ago. “We’ve seen a lot of the country and a lot of the world because of this industry. We’ve had the luxury of being a couple calling on these same accounts, but we’ve also been privileged to go on trips all over the world. It’s been an amazing run.” Tim smiles.
The sugar on top is the three boys they have collectively. Tim has Nick and Dan. Jenn has Jeffrey. They insist on referring to them as “our better half” or “our bonus kids.” Both refuse to use the word “stepkids.” Grayson is their two-month-old bonus grandson!
The one thing Jenn and Tim bicker about is not what most people would think. Jenn always tells Tim, “I’m so blessed to have Nick and Dan who treat me like their mom, and they never waiver from that.” And Tim says, ‘Stop it! They are blessed.’ So we kiddingly squabble about that.” Jenn laughs.
Tim adds, “The defining moment is you think you know how the kids feel, but when you get a birthday card that just oozes out their feelings, and you have tears rolling down your face as you are reading these paragraphs, it’s like, ‘I wondered how they felt, but now I really know.’ All three of them handwrite their cards, and that is actually more important than the gift.”
Jenn throws in some humor. “Every once in a while a new pair of shoes doesn’t bother me.”
Speaking of shoes, how did Tim walk into the business? Fresh out of college, a recruiter approached and asked Tim if he had any interest in working with Gillette’s promotional products division, which is now Sanford B2B.
Tim had to squint and ask, “What’s promotional?”
“They explained it was putting a corporate logo/advertising message on their brands like PaperMate, Parker, Waterman, and Sharpie. That sounded interesting and was what kind of got me into the industry,” Tim says.
And look at what has come of it! A wonderful husband and wife team who, not only love each other to the moon and back, but they love, respect, and admire the promotional products industry the same. And the industry loves them back!
Tim Mason is currently vice president of sales with Fossa, and Jenn is still a gem in the promotional products industry!