The Original Pack

SanMar begins in 1971 with a backpack and $1.

In 1971, Marty Lott had a college roommate who worked for an advertising agency. The agency wanted Marty’s roommate to come up with what we would call today a “promotional product” to promote Heidelberg beer to college students.

“You wouldn’t think you’d need to get college students interested in beer—they can do that on their own,” Marty thought.

So, Marty volunteered to help his roommate out by creating a backpack that would hold two cases of beer as well as textbooks and other supplies. He designed pockets on the outside to hold ski goggles—making the pack as useful on the slopes as it could be on campus.

Marty had a prototype of his pack made by a small manufacturer on Rainier Avenue in Seattle. The Heidelberg folks loved the pack and ordered 500 units, which the manufacturer made in about a month. In fact, the pack proved so successful, Heidelberg ordered thousands more.

The Seattle manufacturer took out his calculator and told Marty, “It’s gonna take me 25 years to make that many packs.”

So Marty found an importer who could make the packs in Japan and fulfill the order.

As part of their deal, the Seattle manufacturer had extended credit to Marty. In order to pay him back, Marty needed a checking account. While at the bank, the teller asked Marty how much he wanted to deposit to set up the account. Marty took $1 out of his pocket and opened the account—essentially starting SanMar for just $1.

The “Marty Pack,” as his rucksack has become known throughout SanMar and the industry, was the right product for the market at the time.

To celebrate SanMar’s 50th anniversary, we updated Marty’s legendary pack and created The Original Pack by Port Authority® which features a padded laptop sleeve, zippered organization pocket and genuine leather trim.