By Joseph F. Schuler Jr. Sending clients and business partners smoked salmon or candy for the holidays brought little response at the $2.5 million-a-year Crane Builders of Nashville, Tenn. So owner David Crane looked to his Louisiana roots and decided to ship colorful Mardi Gras King Cakes at the beginning of Lent, 40 days before Easter. Clients' kids and current and prospective architect partners now fight for the plastic baby dolls hidden inside the generous sweet rolls, decorated with beads. Crane spends a day hand writing notes, which the baker slips into the boxes with the $30 cakes.

Crane usually hears from nearly everyone who receives the cakes, which are shipped overnight from a New Orleans bakery. "I've had several architects call to thank me, architects we hadn't worked with, and we've gotten several jobs out of that," Crane says. "It has kept our name in front of people, and we've gotten repeat business."

Besides colorful Mardi Gras beads, clients receive a hand-written note from remodeler David Crane along with their King Cake.

[Photo: Charlie Brown]