On a frigid Saturday in Jan. 2006, I packed my three children—ages 12, 14 and 15—into our family car, loaded to the axles with magazines. I’d mailed most of the 40,000 copies of our first issue, but to save money, I planned to distribute magazines door-to-door through Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. And so with the car and the same little red wagon I’d pulled them on as youngsters, we spent the day delivering magazines by hand (glove, really).
When you’re starting a business, what you know is dwarfed by what you don’t. After 20 years at the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette, I knew the editorial side. But sales? I’d been good at sales as a kid—sell the most subscriptions and win the football. But my last sales attempt was a different story. I was in college during the recession of 1983, selling expensive sailboats for a sideline business of my Dad’s. He gave me blue lead cards and told me what to say on the phone. “Hi, this is Doug Heuck from LaSalle Yacht Sales. Do you have a minute to talk about sailing?” The guy on the other end of my first call responded in a halting voice: “I just lost my job—my wife left me—and you want to talk about—sailing?” A real sales guy might have responded, “Yes, and that’s just when you need to talk about sailing…” I just felt guilty for bothering the poor guy, and that was it for me.
Later, at the newspapers, we journalists were strictly sequestered from the “dark side”—advertising. So when starting the magazine, I was at sea about advertising sales. I was telling a friend my worries about how to afford hiring an advertising director and a big sales team, when he interrupted me and said I’d need to become the most effective salesman. I considered it and then went straight to the library, borrowing every sales CD I could find. “How to Become a Salesman in 10 Days” was one of dozens. Some were ludicrous, some fascinating. I then took the plunge, and as you can imagine, I still feel a particular gratitude for those people who took a chance and supported our first issue.
When I was business editor at the Post-Gazette, we got lots of story pitches for businesses celebrating anniversaries—some 25 years, some 50, and some 100. We turned most down, having virtually no understanding of what staying in business that long meant. Now, on the occasion of completing five years of publishing, I understand a little more. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve been fortunate to have advertisers who believe in the product; to have the region’s best journalists; and to be in Pittsburgh, a city that values and supports a magazine like Pittsburgh Quarterly.
We set out five years ago to create a publication that would be worth our readers’ valuable time. With this issue, especially, I hope you’ll agree we’ve achieved that. In the pages that follow, we have an extraordinary combination of one-of-a-kind features, the result of unusually outstanding work by our staff and contributors.
Finally, whether you’re an advertiser, subscriber or contributor, thanks for your support, then and now.