The Little Engine That Could Can’t Anymore
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us”.
These words from the famous writer Charles Dickens could easily sum up life here at Mug Pub Inc. over the last decade or more. We have experienced the best of times when our pages were full to the brim with advertising, and the worst of times when we didn’t know where our next ad dollars were coming from. In the age of wisdom, we felt sure of our ideas and plans that would benefit our readers, and in the age of foolishness, we brought you the very short lived “House Paint” magazine (anybody remember that?).
The epoch of belief was us thinking we could conquer anything we set our minds to, any story, any problem. The epoch of incredulity came from all the broken promises and cancelled schedules from industry manufacturers through the years—especially this year! The season of light shone so bright on us for so many years, but the season of darkness came far too often as well.
Every spring ushered in the “spring of hope,” knowing that we would find great companies and their great products at NHS—products and concepts that would benefit our readers—but the “winter of despair” came earlier each year as more and more small to medium-sized companies disappeared from the landscape or got absorbed by bigger companies who never advertised those companies’ products in our industry again.
When my father, Chris Mugler, started this magazine nearly 28 years ago, and again when I came on board 14 years ago, we seemingly had everything before us, but now, we have nothing before us…and to that end, we have made the exceedingly painful decision to close our doors here for good at the end of this year.
Telling it like it is is what we do, so 2018 has been our worst year to date. While we struggled all year to gain enough ad dollars from industry manufacturers to increase the thickness of our books and keep this little engine that could chugging up the tracks, we simply can’t do it anymore. In an advertising and marketing world full of ad agencies that believe they can reach YOU with their messages through social and digital media, we say to them “good luck!”
Rising printing and postage costs are our biggest line items every month by far, but the fact that so many industry manufacturers are not running print ads has been our undoing. It’s not that these manufacturers are turning their backs on the industry, for the most part they are not, but they do feel there are more effective ways to reach their core audiences (YOU) and they have been pursuing these new strategies this year, and seek to expand and expound on them in 2019.
When Dad started The Paint Dealer, he created a magazine that was unlike any other in the industry, in fact, there was nothing like it in the industry. Dad targeted the independent paint store owners as his readers for TPD. Sure, there was the venerable “decorating” mag from the old National Decorating Products Association (NDPA), now the PDRA, but paint, not decorating, was our target. Paint is what independent paint and hardware stores sold the most of, at least at that time, and many still do. For Dad, it wasn’t about being philanthropic or about raising money for charity or an association. It was all about the needs of the indies and what we could do in our pages to help their success…and by any measure, successful we were.
As the big boxes moved into the landscape, TPD became the “voice for the independents”. With every issue, with every passing month and every article, you, the independents, are the folks we tried to help to be successful at every turn. We strived to bring to you the best business practices, the best industry information, the best products, and the best-case studies and dealer profiles to illustrate to you that you were not alone out there, that someone was fighting for you, and that there were others like you who were having success running their stores. Hopefully you learned from what we wrote about; plenty of you contacted us to say yes, you did.
In hindsight, I probably should have shut this down a year ago. I certainly didn’t have the money to lose that I have lost, but it was more important to me to try and make another go of it, to provide jobs for my employees and income to their families, and to honor my Dad and Mom by keeping their dream alive. Dad and Mom are both gone now, and at the end of this year, so will be this company. While I am glad they were not around to see our demise, I know they would be happy that we fought the good fight and tried as hard as we did to succeed.
Over the years, I have personally spoken with hundreds of store owners in North America. So many of you have been so positive, so complimentary, and so thankful for what we have been able to do for you. All I can say back is thank you to each and every one of you for giving us insight and wisdom into what it takes to run your business.
And the Winner Is…
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some outstanding individuals in our industry who have done more than help us along our way…Roland, you were the first person Dad introduced me to in the industry, and your generosity and loyalty will never be forgotten. The late John Lahey was a champion of ours and we still miss him dearly. Spillane from Ben Moore was always a straight shooter to us, someone who could be trusted, someone who still bleeds paint for the industry, and Deb (also at BM) has always been honest and upfront with us. Tom Hardy is just a genuinely great guy. Makowski made a great product line and showed his loyalty to us yearly until he sold his company. Cohen was one of the most difficult negotiators I ever faced, but in the end, he was always fair and above board with us. O’Brien made one of, if not, the best product (Dizzolve) we ever worked with!
Rocky was a good friend to us, and his paint was fantastic! Ben is one of the most remarkable men we ever met, who called it like he saw it, but has always been a champion of ours and the independents! Dick Hardy was a huge supporter—he sold his successful product line to RPM. Pat and Meg from 3M believed in us when many others didn’t. Bruce, the Paint Doctor, always had our back. The late Steve Ellis always made sure his message was in our pages. John Trenta has been thoughtful and open to what we have tried to accomplish. Ward was always a stand-up guy to us. The folks we work with at Shurtech Industries are a collection of some of the best people in the industry. Tony at EVO for believing in us! Dan at Kelly-Moore for working with us as much as he could. Herwig placed a lot of trust in us and we hope we delivered for him.
Lee and the Richard family for always being in our pages. Sarver makes some wonderful products and he stood by us through thick and thin. Tom at Dripless trusted us to carry his message to the indies. Brown and Paas at I-tape were always big supporters and always had some great industry insight to provide our readers. Russo at NHS always treated us with respect and helped us more than he knows. I know I have left some people off this list, for many of them, it was not intentional.
We’ll be back one more time—and yes, we are still accepting advertising for our final issue, December’s PaintPages Directory & Buyers Guide! Thanks to our many friends for their support, trust, advice and good times…and to our loyal readers, THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING US TO HELP YOU STAY ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS! It’s been a wild ride! Peace Out.