"The partners knew they had to continue to expand operations in order to "feed the monster"
Follow The Leader
The History of Leader Publications
The Final Three Years!
As the back half of the '80's slipped onto the calendar things began to change in the corporate world as far as Leader Publications Limited was concerned.
Before we go any further in talking about the history of The Leader, there is one point that has to be made and it should probably be made now because the timing is right.
It was about the mid 1980's when the two partners realized they had created something more than just a small town weekly newspaper.
As Misselbrook likes to recall, "We had, in a way, created a monster." The firm had grown immensely over the years and this was evidenced by the number of publications that were now being produced; the number of staff members on payroll; and the fact the company was producing more than two million dollars of advertising and printing products in a year.
As was noted earlier the partners had talked about setting up a new company in conjunction with other publishers in southwestern Ontario.
"We had indeed created a monster, "Misselbrook challenged at that time, "And it's appetite was ferocious". The partners knew that they had to continue to expand operations (to feed the monster) or fall into a recession-type atmosphere and drop to a standstill.
They, of course, chose the first route and the first page of the calendar of 1985 had not yet turned when a new acquisition was completed.
The 110- year-old Bothwell Times changed ownership and came under the guidance of The Leader. It would make the third community newspaper that the firm would operate. The announcement was made on January 9th, 1985 that an agreement with the present-day owners, Murray and Janet McEwen and his mother, Hazel, had been reached and the ownership of the Bothwell Times and Newbury Journal would be transferred to Leader Publications Limted. It is not really known why the two titles were intertwined since there was really no mention of the Newbury Journal in the pages of the Bothwell Times and little news coverage was afforded to that small community six miles east of Bothwell.
For the McEwen's it was an emotional endeavour. Murray's late father had operated the newspaper for many years along with his wife. Murray was still a youngster when his parents took over the Newspaper and Murray had grown up in the business. The purchase price that the two parties agreed upon was $50,000. and entitled the new owners to the publishing rights and subscription list. No equipment was involved.
Bothwell, being a rather small community compared to either Dresden or Petrolia meant that advertising dollars were not as plentiful as in the larger centres. This posed a real challenge for the partners. They decided to continue with the same publishing pattern but to move all physical operations to the Dresden location.
John Price was named Publication Manager/Editor of The Bothwell Times
(Peter Epp, Editor, Voice of the Farmer, along with advtertising representative Mike Pilecki discuss marketing strategy with newly appointed Publication Manager John Price.)
John Price, an advertising salesperson for the company, was named publication manager/editor. He, along with one other employee Mary Jo DePelsmaker were responsible for the publishing of the weekly endeavour. An agreement had been struck with Murray McEwen to share a portion of his office space with the new owners. In exchange Mary Jo DePelsmaker would act as a receptionist and bookkeeper for McEwen who would continue to operate his printing business "Quad Printers" and who later developed a monthly newspaper called "Old Autos". The success of that publication was phenomenal and over the years grew into a major stand-alone publication (with over 20,000 paid circulation) for the many old car enthusiasts throughout Canada.
Sue McFadden was put in charge of composing The Bothwell Times, in January 1985.
When the composition of the Bothwell Times was switched to the Dresden offices, it meant the need for more help and that came in the person of Sue McFadden who had joined The Leader in December 1984. Sue was put in charge of composing the new weekly. It is interesting to note that some 25 years later, Sue is still in the employ at The Leader and oversees its weekly production.
Targeting the circulation and lowering distribution numbers for The Voice of the Farmer happened in 1985.
By the early 1980's times became tougher for farmers as crop prices seem to stay the same but input costs including everything from fertilizer to new machinery was on the rise. It was actually the recession of 1982.
The same occurred in the publishing business, and the partners saw a need to "fine-tune" the distribution of the now seven agri-newspapers that were being generated on a twice monthly basis. When the publications first emerged the rural routes of the all communities in the counties served were covered through Canada Post. While that method meant that the firm could boast of high circulation figures, it was known that many of the papers did not fall into the hands of farmers or purchasers of agri-products. "We were essentially wasting a fair bit of newsprint and ultimately costs through this method," recalls Clauws. Attempts to "target" the distribution lists were made and considerable savings were had.
FEBRUARY, 1985--A MONTH OF MISERY AND DISMAY
While not directly associated with the history of The Leader, several events occured during the weekend of February 24th, 1985 that was recorded in its pages.
Under the heading "Disastrous Weekend!" the events recorded included the following and the weekend activities will go down in local history as one that shouldn't have happened:
1. The Sydenham River went on the rampage, in what has been described as the worst flooding since 1968.
2. Word from Agriculture Canada is that the town's treated drinking water contains a carcinogen.
3. A positive case of tuberculosis was discovered at Dresden Area Central School.
4. The liquor store was flooded and closed for business.
Each one of those tragedies (with the exception, perhaps, of the fourth) caused great concern among the local residents as they purchased additional copies of The Leader to send to family and friends. It showed the partners that while they were still operating a small community newspaper they had to be prepared to provide top-notch reporting since the daily presses gave only casual mention of those events.
20th Anniversary Celebrations included a "Back to the Basics" program for local merchants.
As the year 1985 progressed, many activities were recorded in the pages of The Leader that involved both the partners, the company itself and its employees.
The first such item appeared in a March edition. The announcement was made that The Leader would sponsor a "Back to the Basics" program for the local merchants and business people.
Scheduled to appear as part of the company's 20th anniversary celebrations was Bob Shrier, publisher of the Goderich Star. Shrier, a personal friend of Misselbrook, was well-known in the newspaper industry, owning seven community newspapers in Huron County. Previously, he had spent 12 years with the Thomson organization advertising and marketing division.
As Misselbrook described the planned event, "I've heard Bob Shrier on several occasions and I believe he brings a message of encouragement and sound advice to those who come out to hear him".
The company issued invitations to the local businesses, including their staff members, and at a cost of $5.00 each provided a luncheon as well as the presentation by the featured speaker.
"It was a huge success, "recalls Misselbrook.
Misselbrook was named committee chairman of the Dresden Industrial Development Committee.
A month later, in April 1985, Ted Misselbrook was named committee chairman of the Dresden Industrial Development Committee. That committee had been established through the co-ordinated efforts of Municipal Council to seek out information that could be helpful in the future development of the town.
"The committee accessed funding grants and we hired Lee Highgate a local university student for the summer'' notes Misselbrook. Highgate developed a full colour promotional brochure that shone the spotlight on Dresden's most significant assets. A mailing list was created and the brochure targeted to hundreds of people, businesses, and industrial organizations throughout Ontario" remembers Misselbrook.
"We had about 20 meetings, " Misselbrook says today, "And while we could not provide a definite measurement of success, we all believed that we may well have played an important part in the future of the town."
Clauws was elected to the board of directors of the Canadian Community Newspaper Association in 1985-86.
(Gord Clauws a newly minted CCNA Director is welcomed
to the organization by President Kevin Hamm of Saskatchewan.)
The other partner was also kept busy during 1985-86 as he finished his term as president of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association and was promptly elected to the board of directors of the Canadian Community Newspaper Association.
"It meant a great deal of travel as well," comments Clauws today, "But it was an enjoyable endeavour and one that I look back on with pride."
Leader Home Phone Books had developed into a prosperous division at the publishing company.
By mid-summer of that year the growth in the home telephone directory business was starting to boom. As noted previously the publishing of the telephone books were an instant success with the public. That, of course, was because the type size was 42 percent larger that the traditional Bell Canada books and The Leader Phone Books comprised only 3 columns instead of Bell's usual 4.
Typing all of those telephone directories required a tremendous amount of time, recalls one of the partners, and it was decided that a second "night shift" would be required to meet the demanding deadlines. Darlene Groenberg became the head of the night shift workers which entailed two typesetters and one proofreader.
While on the subject of the Home Phone Books it is interesting to note that two individuals were hired to sell the advertising for those books. The first individual to come on board was Mike Smith who sold in the areas beyond Kent County including St. Thomas and Strathroy and some smaller communities.
Also hired at that time was Dave Simpson. Dave lived in Kitchener and sold advertising for the booklets that were initially produced for that part of Ontario, including the Niagara Falls area. It is interesting to note that Dave had a connection with Dresden, his grandfather being the late Walter S. Weese, a former mayor of the community. As well, partner Misselbrook and Simpson are first cousins.
A year or so later, John Price who had done an oustanding job at the newly acquired Bothwell Times, moved into telephone directory sales for the local markets in Kent and Lambton counties.
The year 1985 was also not without The Leader claiming it's share of provincial and national awards, some of them the most prestigious ever received.
Don Spearman, the firm's managing editor was awarded second place in the Canadian competitions for the best historical story "Uncle Tom's Josiah Henson's first vocational school in Canada." The Leader was also awarded first place for "In-House Advertising" and third place for original artwork. Both of those honours came from the provincial organization.
And, the company had the distinction of having one of its reporters nominated as "Farm Writer of The Year" for the province of Ontario by the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture. Dave Ducharme, know among his co-workers as "Dave the Wave" due to his hair style of the day, received that nomiation and was subsequently awarded the prize. It is interesting to note that Dave left the employ of the company in 1986 to pursue a career in publication relations for the Ontario Department of Agriculture.
An addition to the Leader Press Building is completed.
It was previously noted that an addition to the web press building located in the town's industrial park became a requirement. While plans were discussed within two years of the opening of the original building, it was not until 1985 that the addition was actually completed.
That addition came with the installation of a loading-dock for the easement of unloading the huge rolls of newsprint that the web press was devouring at breakneck speeds. At one time the press plant was getting a transport load of newsprint every week, a far cry from the earlier days when a semi load would last five or six weeks.
Besides the additional storage area for newsprint, the addition allowed for the installation of a huge collating, stitching and trimming machine that the firm purchased. Bill Worshly, the Toronto-based web press installer, was called back into action to complete the installation. Measuring over 25 in length the machine was capable of collating four sections as well as a cover....sending it through a stapling unit...and yet another unit to trim the booklets on three sides.
The machine was utilized in producing the many Home Phone Books the company was involved in as well as the four-time yearly booklet for St. Clair College.
"I think that machine, which we purchased from a used printing machinery dealer in Toronto cost us a little over $60,000." Clauws recalls, "But it was a tremendous labour saver and probably paid for itself within a year."
A new computurized office management system was installed on April 1st, 1986.
(Office Manager Eldine Bedell is shown closing-out an older office accounting system that is soon to be replaced by a new state-of-the art office management system)
With the continued growth of the company and the many hundreds of advertising accounts that were dealt with on an almost daily basis, the accounting department had its hands full. While the system was partially computerized at that point in time, it had become antiquated and it was time for an update.
The partners spent many hours searching out systems and by April 1986 the decision was made to purchase a complete office management system from Antara Systems of Guelph. Actually, the system was not specially designed for newspapers and hence considerable changes to the programming were required. Once complete and the "bugs" worked out, the system gave the owners a much more acceptable method of billings procedures and accounts receivable, including a general ledger and almost daily update on overdue accounts.
The entire system, which comprised of two work stations a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and screen, Epson Printer and programming cost $22,900. with a renewable yearly licence of $99.00
Managing Editor, Don Spearman announces his retirement effective fall 1986.
(Ted Misselbrook and Gord Clauws toast friend and Leader Managing Editor Don Spearman during his retirement party held in the fall of 1986).
By the fall of 1986 a major change occurred in the newsroom at the Leader headquarters.
After more that 21 years of writing weekly editorials, as well as a popular column "Mostly from Memory", Don Spearman announced that it was time to retire.
Spearman's association with Clauws dated back to 1955 when the young high school student went to work after school at The Dresden News. Spearman was editor and general foreman at The News at the time and took Clauws under his wing. Clauws recalls that it was Spearman who actually got him interested in the reporting side of newspapers. "I found it intriguing," Clauws recalls, "Especially after a major news event occured in the community and The Dresden News office became headquarters for news reporters from across Canada and the U.S.
That event, which occured in the summer of 1956, was the collapse of a wall of dirt in an excavation for a new water treatment plant for the town of Dresden. Five men were trapped and were killed under the tons of dirt that fell on them.
"I remember one reporter from one of the Detroit Newspapers using the phone in the back room of The News office and relating the news story in great detail of the gory death that the five men met," Clauws reminisces, "I was hooked on news reporting".
By 1959, Spearman decided to venture off on his own and started a paper in the town of Zurich, along with a commercial printing endeavour. Within three years, he sold the newspaper publishing rights and moved his commercial printing plant back to Dresden to be known as Observer Press.
The friendship between the two continued and when plans for the founding of the North Kent Leader came about, Spearman was readily available for suggestions and help.
The majority of that help came in the form of writing weekly editorials that became one of the strong points of The Leader.
The two firms worked together on many projects throughtout the years and by the early 80's, Spearman accepted an invitation from the two partners to come on board full time as managing editor. This he did and oversaw the editing of all publications that the company became involved with.
To commemorate the culmination of nearly 50 years being associated with the newspaper industry, a retirement party was staged in which members of the community as well as his present and many former fellow employees attended to offered congratulations. It was at this celebration that the two partners had arranged to present a "Bronze Quill" denoting his 48 years service to the community newspaper industry. That award was made possible through the Ontario Community Newspaper Association.
After his retirement from active duty in 1986, Spearman's love of community history came to the forefront and he became involved in a variety of projects.
One such project was the development of a set of history books that contained the history of each Dresdenite who served in either of the two World Wars and the Korean conflict. Those books are still on display in the Chatham-Kent service centre of the community.
Spearman also went on to publish two books. His first was "Landmarks From The Past", a pictorial review of the history of Dresden. Copyrighted in 1987, the book was first published in 1991. That book was followed by a collection of his columns which appeared in the Leader from 1982 to 1986 under the title "Mostly from Memory". As outlined in the dedication of the book by his family after his death, at age 72, "they are the love letters of a long time newspaper man, a memento to the community that sustained him in heart and nutured him in soul throughout the decades."
Following Spearman's retirement, Peter Epp, who had been editor of the Petrolia Topic since its purchase in 1979 returned to the company's headquarters to take over the reins as managing editor.
The Mainly for Seniors group of publications was launched in January, 1987.
MORE NEW PUBLICATIONS
TO "FEED THE MONSTER"
As the year 1986 progressed it became evident that more publications would be required to "feed the monster" as Misselbrook often opined in those days.
The first such publications was destined to come on board on January 1st, 1987 and took the form of "Mainly For Seniors". The idea was certainly not original. In fact, both partners will agree that the idea was "borrowed" from a well-known Toronto publishing firm Metroland, owned by The Toronto Star. Metroland was actually a publishing arm of Canada's largest daily newspaper responsible for publishing community newspapers in and around metro Toronto, including such areas as Mississauga, North York, Oshawa, to name but a few. That firm also published a newspaper geared exclusively for seniors...which they labelled as anyone over the age of 50.
"If it worked in Toronto, why not Kent County?" the two partners asked themselves. Within weeks of that decision the first edition of Mainly for Seniors-Kent Edition became a reality. The pages of the monthly were filled with articles geared towards seniors, from health to wealth and everything in between. It was amazing just how many advertisers were looking for such a vehicle to reach that segment of the population.
Destined to be a "free" publication, the first edition's press run of 10,000 was distributed through several outlets including variety stores, seniors centres, rest homes and anywhere else that the publishers felt seniors would see the pile of newspapers and pick one up. "We actually had a very broad distribution system considering the number of towns, besides the city of Chatham, that had to be covered," recalls Clauws.
And, the ink was barely dry on the inaugural Kent edition, and plans were put into place to start a similar publication to serve the county of Lambton, including the city of Sarnia.
With the mould already cast, it was not difficult to get a second publication up and running.
"We simply hired more people to sell advertising and asked for contributors for the news columns, "added Misselbrook. The broad range of reporters already on staff throughout the seven county area of Southwestern Ontario were also called on to contribute stories of interest to seniors that they encountered during their other "news beats".
And so, the "monster" got fed again with the two new senior publications and before the end of 1987 a third such publication serving the city of London was initiated. That publication, however, caused a much greater workload, especially for the distribution of the newspaper. "The city of London is one big centre, "recalls Clauws "And we finally decided to retain the serves of a distribution company to complete the task of placing the paper each month in the selected pickup areas."
It should be noted as well that by March of 1988, the fourth "senior publication" came into being with the publishing of Mainly for Seniors--Windsor edition.
ANOTHER WAY TO MAKE A BUCK
It seemed that no matter what came along, if the two partners thought they could make a buck at it...they'd try it.
Such was the case when it decided to get into the "Self Help Tapes" business as they were referred to in the advertisements that appeared in nearly all the publications that the company was involved in at that time.
The idea came about after Misselbrook returned home after
a stint of advertising seminars in western Canada. It was during one of his sessions there that he came in contact with one E. Evan Scott, a certified hypno-therapist who was attached to the Academy of Holistic Hypnosis. During their chat it was revealed that Scott produced self-help tapes and was looking for a way to market them.
Misselbrook, thinking of the large circulation numbers that Leader Publications was involved in with the various publications took the discussion a bit further and suggested that he just might have an idea that could work.
Back home, Misselbrook bounced that idea around with Clauws and after several phone conversation with Scott, came up with the plan.
The Leader would advertise the self-help tapes under the title "Help You-Help Yourself". With circulation figures well over the 100,000 mark we could reach a broad range of households in the seven county area, as well as a sizeable number through the community newspapers. Orders would be sent to the Leader office, with payment attached, and then the names would be sent to Scott who would ship the tapes directly to the customer.
"It was sort of a win-win situation for us" recalls Misselbrook, "We didn't have to outlay a cent and got a comfortable return on the $14.95 plus $1.50 shipping and handling charge that each tape was sold for".
"Customers had a choice of 11 tapes to pick from, including, "Stop Smoking"; "Lose Weight"; "Self Confidence"; "Relaxation"
"Better Memory"; "Better Health"; "Arthritic Relief"; "Headache Relief"; "Pain Management"; "Stop Drinking"; and "High Blood Pressure.
While the orders didn't stream in, there was a steady flow for a short period of time and a few more dollars made their way into the Leader coffers.
"We couldn't say it was an astounding success, "smiles Clauws, "And if we had to pay for all the advertising that was placed it would certainly have been a losing proposition. But it was just another project that we got involved in."
The Chatham Shopper was born in 1987 .
THE MOST BIZARRE STORY IN
THE HISTORY OF PUBLISHING
What follows in the next few pages records what will go down in the annals of the history of publishing as one of the most bizarre events to ever occur.
It happened in October, 1987, and involved several individuals and other publishing firms in Kent County, but the major players were Darryl and Tom Kinley, owners of the Wallaceburg News, along with partners Misselbrook and Clauws. Others, who would have to be described as "bit players" in the drama, included Terry McConnell of the Tilbury Times; Gord Laurie, Blenheim News Tribune; Murray Scoyne, Ridgetown Dominion; Orval Schilbe, Thamesville Herald; and Rick Epplett of the Wheatley Journal.
If those names sound familiar, they should. They were the partners in the Kent County Newspaper Network which had been operating very successfully since 1984.
Now, back to the story of how a relatively modest investment in money...albeit a tremendous amount of sweat equity invested, was repaid ten-fold one year later.
Most of the information being passed along here came from the notes that Misselbrook had kept over the years. They explain how The Chatham Shopper came into being and what parts the various players had in seeing it evolve.
It should be mentioned here, that there was one other major player involved, although he played no active role as far as what was to come about, but his actions paved the way for the drama to unfold.
It started on October 1st, 1987....it is a day that will be remembered by Darryl Kinley forever. For it was on that day that she first heard the rumour that Steve Best had told his staff, "next week will the the last paper for the Chatham Shopping News...but you shouldn't have any trouble finding a job."
A stunned Shopping News staff began to tell their customers and from that point on the pace was fast and furious. Soon Chatham and Kent County was abuzz with stories, rumours and some fiction. One thing became obvious, Steve Best, for reasons of his own was stopping publication of the Chatham Shopping News.
Best was the second owner of the then 21- year-old Chatham Shopping News and from its early days had been a highly successful enterprise. As the major competitor to the Chatham Daily News for advertising dollars in the city as well as the outlying areas the publication had grown from a meagre beginning to what was believed to be a million-dollar operation. There was a second "shopper" serving the city and county, as well, published as The Pennysaver, a product of the London Free Press, but at that time in history was not a really strong publication.
The following day, October 2nd, Daryl Kinley related the story to Misselbrook who had just returned from a sales seminar he presented in Toronto. "I couldn't believe the story she was telling me, "recalls Misselbrook, "Best was shutting down the Chatham Shopping News, not selling it, not giving it to his staff, not telling the readers in advance, not doing anything considered normal".
"We talked for a few minutes longer and decided that we must be first in the market place to fill the gap left by Best, Misselbrook relates, "And we knew that we must have a publication--a-look-a-like--on the street the week after Best closed down, or not bother to put one out at all..or ever."
Knowing that the old Shopping News staff was a major key in "pulling off" this industrious project, Darryl agreed to contact Barb Green (the 20 year sales girl) of the Shopping News, to find out what was going on and what the staff felt. What Darryl learned was that Jack Byers of the Woodstock Shopping News, the man who started the Chatham Shopping News 22 years earlier and the current printer of the Chatham Shopping News was as shocked as anyone else about the Best decision. Byers, knowing the success of the Chatham Shopping News, had contacted Barb Green and offered her a "major" piece of the action if she helped Byers start a new Chatham Shopping News.
However, after several hours of talk-talk-talk, Darryl knew the old Shopping News staff could be convinced to join with her to start a new Chatham Shopper.
On October 3rd, a Saturday, Darryl called Misselbrook and after a short conference with Clauws, the two agreed that "we must go ahead and get a paper together, hire "The Staff" and get on with it." It was at that point that a decision was made to call an emergency meeting of the Network members. The meeting was set for 8 a.m., Monday, October 5th.
It was at this brief Network meeting that members were advised of the Chatham Shopping News situation. All agreed that action should continue and calls were placed to the former staff members to come to an "information meeting" the following day, Tuesday, October 6th at the Wheels Inn in Chatham.
Nine staff members were contacted, from the staff of eleven. The front office girl at the Shopping News was staying with Best to wind the business down and collect oustanding accounts. The other, a driver distributor, was on contract to Best and was not contacted.
The informational meeting started at 7 a.m. with eight of the nine invited in attendance. While the general feeling appeared to be that Steve Best was terrible to work for, a shot of loyalty ran through the veins of many staff members. "They did not want to appear to be doing something illegal or immoral," Misselbrook recalls, "And Darryl and I spent about two and one-half hours with them, answering their questions, telling them of our plans for a new Chatham Shopper, and wanting them to be part of it."
On Wednesday, October 7th, Darryl, Misselbrook and The Leader's sales manager, Bruce Smith met with the "new staff" at the Wheels Inn. A plan of organization was put into place. The sales staff would begin to make their sales calls. Classifieds and small display ads would be sold over the phone. Darryl would take some staff to the Wallaceburg News as a operating base and the rest came to Dresden with Misselbrook.
While all this was going on, Tom Kinley was dealing with the press and had an interview on CFCO Radio and also one with Bob Boughner of the Chatham Daily News. The News, however, wouldn't run the story of a new Chatham Shopper.
By the next day, October 8th, Darryl reported that three of the eight staff had quit. Fortunately the sales staff was still in place, but three production people had decided to call it quits, one because of health, the other two because of their loyalty to Steve Best, or their dislike for what the Chatham Shopper was trying to do.
Ad copy production for The Chatham Shopper was completed at the Wallaceburg News.
Ad copy production shifted to Daryl and Tom Kinley and their staff. Meanwhile, Clauws was re-arranging press schedules to accommodate The Chatham Shopper the next Tuesday, and finding staff to insert sections and prepare the paper for distribution. Classified advertisements were also set at the Dresden plant.
"All of this action was great, things were coming together" recalls Misselbrook today, "But without a distribution system for the City of Chatham, the circle was incomplete."
The name Terry Labadie of Terry's News Service came to the forefront, Labadie had set a system of distribution, including maps and routes for the Pleasure Seeker, a publication that operated in Chatham for a short time.
Clauws and Tom Kinley contacted Labadie and profiled what was needed to be done and when. "Labadie would be required to have a distribution system that works, kids hired and in place to deliver the Chatham Shopper by Wednesday October 14th....five days away," Clauws recalls.
Labadie agree to the plan. But, his system of maps and routes plus his role in setting up the carrier system would cost $4,000. The foursome, Misselbrook, Clauws and the Kinley's agreed to the deal.
By Friday, October 9th, things seemed to be coming together. CFCO Radio had been contacted and radio spots blasted all that day advising former carriers to come to the Wheels Inn on Saturday, October 10th at 10 a.m. to sign on with the new Chatham Shopper. A classified ad was ordered in The Chatham Daily News...actually 20 ads were ordered. The publisher allowed only one to be published.
On Saturday, Daryl, Ted and Terry Labadie and two Chatham Shopper staff members entertained thirty or so young people and their parents with coffee and pop. Labadie was successful in signing up most there, but realized more work needed to be done. After lunch, the staff travelled to Dresden to work the phones, and attempt to reach more kids to deliver the initial edition the following Wednesday. Working until about seven o'clock that night they were successful in gaining some additional carriers.
Meanwhile Tom Kinley and his crew, plus the Chatham Shopper staff were setting ads and pasting them up. At Dresden, classifieds were being set with a delivery time to Wallaceburg of five o'clock.
Darryl Kinley and Misselbrook took the time to find the "perfect building" to house the new Chatham Shopper. It was located at 584 Queen St., Chatham.
On Sunday, October 11th and Monday, October 12th (which happened to be Thanksgiving Day) activities continued in all areas. Clauws and Misselbrook met with Darryl and Tom Kinley to pickup negatives for printing and to go over who does what the next day. The premier edition encompassed two 16 page sections and the initial press run would be 27,500.
Terry Labadie spent the following morning Tuesday, October 13th at the Dresden office attempting to locate more carrieres. By two o'clcok the first papers were being inserted and prepared for delivery to the post office for rural deliveries. Shortly thereafter Labadie left with copies for the various stores in the city as well as stops for the carriers.
The first edition of The Chatham Shopper was now history.
A meeting for The Chatham Shopper partners was held at the Leader boardroom offices.
It was now time to call in the other partners to discuss what had gone on and to make plans for the future.
That meeting was held in the Dresden boardroom offices on Wednesday, October 14th, 1987.
The very first order of business was to discuss how the ownership of the fledgling company would be developed.
It was suggested by the chairman of the meeting, Ted Misselbrook, that the Kinleys deserved 30 per cent ownership. "If profitable they will benefit the most. If not they will have the most to lose, "the chairman stated. "They understand this to be a fact and stand ready to devote themselves to the project."
Misselbrook also conveyed his feelings that Leader Publications needed to be recognized for its major role in this creative project and stated that its share should be 25 per cent.
Leaving 45% per cent outstanding, it was suggested that each of the remaining five partners in the Network organization received nine percent.
Misselbrook pulled no bones about the offer. "this is fair, every Network member is being asked to participate in an ownership way. While not actively involved in the day to day operations of The Chatham Shopper, you would serve as the Board of Directors."
"All of us would be expected to fund the operational bank account of this project with real cash and perhaps a personal guarantee," Misselbrook continued.
An agreement was reached and the owners of the newly formed company continued to discuss items of prime importance...the financial picture.
Without any hard numbers to crunch it was felt that the new publication would have to generate at least $800,000. in advertising sales to break even.
The decision was made that each partner would contribute $1,000 for each percentage of shares owned, generating a total of $100,000 as "seed money" to finance the new endeavour. As well as, it was felt that an additional $100,000.00 line of credit would be required.
Before the meeting ended, Darryl Kinley was appointed president and general manager of The Chatham Shopper. Ted Misselbrook was named Chairman of the Board of Directors with Tom Kinley as Secretary, Gord Clauws as Treasurer. Also elected to the board of directors were, Rick Epplett, Gord Laurie, Murray Scoyne, Orval Schilbe, and Terry McConnell.
Several items of business were conducted during the meeting including the appointment of an accounting and law firm, as well as retaining the services of Terry Labadie as the distribution manager. He would make the weekly deliveries to the 71 carriers that had signed on, as well as to the stores and apartment buildings in the city and county. He would receive $325. on a contract basis.
Clauws reported on the financial commitments to date and he and Tom Kinley agreed to continue assuming up-front costs until such time as financial negotiations with the bank had been completed. The two were authorized to negotiate a line of credit with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. This was done the following week and a $100,000. line of credit was extended to the new company, based to a very large degree on the fact the owners of the new company were already succesful publishers in their individual communities.
Terry McConnell publisher of The Tilbury Times well remembers the events of October 1987 and the birth of The Chatham Shopper
ON HOW THE
CHATHAM SHOPPER EVOLVED
While developing this segment of the history of Leader Publications, one of the partners in the endeavour was asked to recall his version of how the Chatham Shopper evolved. Terry McConnell who at that time was owner of The Tilbury Times and now (2009) a columnist with the Edmonton Journal in Alberta wrote the following:
"I can still vividly recall walking into Bob Burns' office at the Royal Bank in Tilbury in the fall of 1987 and telling him I needed $9,000. to invest in a new shopper in Chatham. Getting the loan took only a matter of minuets. Within the next year or so, that sort of lending had been centralized in larger centres and I never would have been able to do what I did. But it was just one example of fortuitous timing.
For this bit of good fortune 'tho, due credit has to go to Darryl Kinley, who was the first to hear the whispers around Chatham that Steve Best was about to do the inexplicable--shut down his enormously profitable publication and lay off his staff.
Its intersting that all this came down around the first of October, which meant a replacement look alike publication had to be on the street within two weeks, since Steve's last paper would be on the eighth. Though the partners were kept abreast of things from the get-go, the first meeting wasn't held until the thing was on the street.
It must have been exciting time for the folks in Dresden and Wallaceburg--it's not every day you get to do something like this. I think the other partners felt a little left out--I know I certainly did. I can remember calling during that time, offering my services--I'd be willing to do anything; I'd even sweep the floors--only to be told everything was under control. In retrospect 'tho, I'm sure everyone involved had their jobs to do and too many cooks would just get in the way. But I was still sorry to miss the fun.
By the way, each partner in the KCNN (Kent County Newspaper Network) did not put an equal share of $10,000. I can still remember Gord Clauws calling to let me know that the plan was not to divide the Shopper shares equally, but to apportion them according to active involvement. The Kinleys were in for 30%, Clauws and Misselbrook for 25% and then the rest for 9% each. That was the $100,000. needed to get a line of credit for the same amount. (Amazingly, we never touched a penny of the line of credit.) At the time I wasn't thrilled about it, but certainly, apportioning shares that way was necessary to establish the hierarchy needed for the business to succeed--and succeed it did. The little beggar made money from Day One!
All the legal niceties followed from there. Then a year later we sold it at an obscenely inappropriate rate of return.
Was it luck? Not with the Leader boys involved. As Brooklyn Dodger's Branch Rickey once said: "Luck is the residue of design".
A FINAL WORD
And so ends the story of what many believe to be one of the most bizarre events in the world of weekly newspaper publishing.
Why would Steve Best walk away from a million-dollar-plus business? No one can answer that other than Best himself, and he took that answer with him to the grave.
It was a known fact that the KCNN had approached Best a couple of years before he shut the Chatham Shopping News down to see if he was interested in selling. He was adamant that he was not interested in the least. It is perhaps his knowing that the KCNN wanted his publication that lead to his devious decision to walk away hoping that someone else might pick up the reins.
In any event, the members of the Kent County Newspaper Network profited well when the publication was sold in October 1988.
And, there is no doubt that a big winner was Leader Publications. Besides sharing richly in the profits when the publication was sold, the printing contract for the new Chatham Shopper was equally rewarding. In the first year the contract was valued at more than $100,000, and it grew from there.
The estimate to install a new web press in 1988 was in excess of $1-Million Dollars!
THE FINAL YEAR
As the sun went down on the last full year that the partners would own Leader Publications, there was no doubt that the monster that had been created was alive and well.
The three new senior publications that had come into being were struggling a bit, but had a bright future. In March of 1988 the fourth senior publication for the City of Windsor was initiated.
And still the monster raged on. It was becoming evident that something else had to be done. About this time there seemed to be a stir arising within the publishing business throughout Ontario and indeed the whole of Canada. The larger publishing firms appeared to be on a buying binge as we witnessed several small community newspapers, especially in the area surrounding Toronto, being swallowed up by such firms as Metroland, a division of The Toronto Star.
Clauws and Misselbrook had many discussions about the goings-on in the publishing industry and knew it was either "get big" or "be swallowed up". That meant the Leader would have to start buying up established publications and that brought up an entirely new situation.
The News King web press that was operating at near full capacity by this time was starting to show its age. It was, without a doubt, only a matter of time, whether months or a few short years, that it would have to be replaced. And at what cost?
Estimates to install a new press ranged well over the $1-million mark and while several used and rebuilt ones were on the market, they still commanded a big buck.
The projected cost, along with the aspect of buying up other newspapers, weighed heavily on the partners' minds and it was during one "bull session" that the idea of selling hit the table. "It was fairly evident that neither of our families would be interested in continuing the business," says Clauws today, "And neither of us felt that we really wanted to go in the market place and borrow several million dollars to expand."
"We knew, however, that while Leader Publications itself was undoubtedly a valuable asset, we contemplated what the worth of a 'package deal' might be in the marketplace," recalls Misselbrook.
And so, a decision was made to approach the Kinleys in Wallaceburg to see if they would be interested in 'packaging'
with the Leader to enter the marketplace. The Kinleys were receptive to the idea and further discussions soon revealed that the year- old Chatham Shopper should probably also be included as a three-way package deal.
And so, it was soon decided that some professional selling help would be required to assemble the package deal.
Enter the scene, James C. Sterling, an American broker who specialized in selling newspapers and publishing houses.
Before that event took place, however, an agreement had to be reached with the other partners in the Chatham Shopper. The Leader partners, along with the Kinley's, being the major shareholders of the Shopper presented the idea at a special board meeting in early summer 1988. "I'm not sure the minor players where enthralled with the idea, especially since the Shopper was doing extremely well, "recalls Clauws, "But the decision was finally made and the three entities would be packaged for sale."
While Sterling was preparing presentations for sale of the three individual newspaper companies, the word escaped into the publishing world that several Southwestern Ontario publications were for sale.
Before long, and before Sterling even got the contract to market the publications, the first suitor came on the scene.
But before we go any further with explanation of how, when and who was successful in completing the purchase, there are a few other areas of interest that should be passed along.
SUBSCRIPTION RATE INCREASE
It has been noted in the previous sections of this history that the subscription and cost for individual copies of The Leader continued to increase as the years progressed.
And such was the case during the final period 1985-1988.
In August 1985 the individual copy price rose to 45 cents and a year subscription rose to $19.00, with the single copy price remaining the same.
In late 1987 another increase would be made to the cost of subscriptions as the yearly rate went to $20.00 and the single copy price rose to 50 cents.
And, the final increase that the partners would institute came in September, 1988 six weeks before the publications were sold. It was then that the annual rate went to $21.00 and the single copy price rose to 55 cents.
"We always disliked the idea of having to raise the rates to our readers," comments Clauws, "But the continuing high rate of inflation that we were facing during those years, especially with the increasing cost of newsprint simply necessitated those moves.
If one looks back to the purchasing records of those years it is revealed that the cost of newsprint rose nearly 50%. "We were buying newsprint for around the $600. to $650. a ton mark back in 1985, and by the time we sold a little over three and half years later it had risen to over $900."
The advent of "The Fax Machine" saved the Leader hundreds of dollars in travel time and gasoline.
(The advertising department was just one unit of the company that benefited from the introduction of the "Facsmile Machine" to daily business use.)
By the mid to late 1980's changes in technology were coming about at unprecedented rates.
There was one such development that occurred in early 1988 as Maple City Office Equipment in Chatham notified the Leader that a "Facsmile Machine" was now on the market and they felt certain that the partners would be interested.
"And interested we were, "recalls Clauws, "The 'fax' machines as they became known were the latest in communications."
An agreement to purchase two of the Canon Facsmile Machines was made with the Maple City firm at the astonishing price of $3500. each. A third machine was later added for the Bothwell office.
"The price, at that time, while seeming to be relatively high, didn't really faze us," the partner continues, "Especially since we would be saving hundreds of dollars in gasoline and travel time between various offices."
It is interesting to note just how prices have fallen since that time. In a recent sales flyer (2009) one could purchase a fax machine for less than $50.00, and if you had a computer and wanted to purchase a printer for less than $100.00 it came complete with photo copier abilities and a fax machine included.
Having one of the first such fax machines in the town of Dresden also presented itself with a new opportunity.
As a service to the general population (as well as an opportunity to make an extra dollar or two) The Leader offered fax services. A charge of $4.00 was made for an outgoing fax comprised of one sheet with each additional page costing $2.50. On top of that fee the toll charges from Bell Canada were added.
Incoming faxes and the necessity to notify the customer that a fax had been received were charged at the rate of $2.50 each.
We Even Got Into The Lending Business
(Harry Stemp was Executive Director of OCNA during the time of the association bail-out).
Never in the wildest dreams of the two partners would they have come to believe that they would actually become "money lenders".
Such was the case, however, in April 1988 when the Ontario Community Newspaper Association was declared to be in financial problems and a "bail-out" was required by the association members.
Not every member, of course, had ready cash to lend to the association but with the serial notes being issued with an interest rate of six percent, the partners decided it was a good gamble. And so the partners went on the hook for a note in the principal amount of $12,500 to be paid immediately to the association. The Leader's indebtedness amounted to one-fortieth of the total $500,000 that the association was seeking to raise.
The association was successful in its endeavour to raise the required funds and the maturity of the notes was dated to be repaid five years later in April 1993. The interest payments were to be paid every six months with the first such payment due on December 31, 1988.
The partners weren't around for that first payment since the company was sold in October of that year.
The $12,500 note was transferred to the new owners with the principal amount being paid to the partners when the sale of the company was completed.
A CONTINUAL GROWTH WAS VERY EVIDENT
When August, 1988 rolled around, marking the 23rd anniversary of the founding of the company, it was interesting to note just how much the company had grown over the years.
Back in 1966 when the first anniversary had been observed the total sales for the company was slightly over $32,000.
In the intervening 22 years the growth of the company was rapid at times, but always fairly steady.
By August of 1988, the last full financial year that the partners owned the company, the total sales were recorded as $2,351,525.
It is interesting to note that that year the company expended more than $1,033,108. on wages and benefits for the 60 employees then on the payroll.
In fact the company laid claim to being the third largest private employer in the community after Canadian Canners and National Hardware Specialties Limited. Not included in that calculation, however, was the Kent County Board of Education which had both more employees and higher payroll figure in the public and secondary schools.
(Michael Atkins President of Laurentian Publishing Group.)
SALE OF THE COMPANY
As mentioned before the decision to sell the company, in conjunction with The Wallaceburg News and Chatham Shopper had been made by early summer 1988.
Before the American firm, Stirling and Associates, charged with packaging the three firms for public sale came on the scene however, a suitor came calling.
Newfoundland Capital Corporation, a publicly traded holding company, based out of Nova Scotia, arrived on the doorsteps of The Leader. NFC (the symbol on the Toronto Stock Exchange) was involved in transportation and communications. At that time it owned almost all of the daily and community newspapers in the province of Newfoundland and had a few holdings in Nova Scotia.
The "bean counters" (accountants) as Misselbrook liked to refer to them, came to Dresden and spent several days examining the books and doing research on just what Leader Publications along with its two "business partners" had to offer.
It was well known, however, that NFC was also looking at other publishing establishments in Southwestern Ontario, including the Tillsonburg News which included a few community papers in that part of the province as well as having a successful web press operation.
And, while NFC was doing its research, a second suitor came calling the in the person of Mike Atkins.
Atkins was well-known to the two partners and his Northern Ontario Sudbury firm, known as Laurentian Publishing Group, was deemed to be a highly successful and diversified operation.
While a bidding war never really evolved, Adkins made it known in his initial telephone conversation that he was definitetly interested in making an offer to purchase the three operations. When informed that the firm had already signed on with an American broker, Atkins made it very clear he was not interested in purchasing through a broker and wanted to deal directly with Clauws and Misselbrook.
This, of course, put a kink in the planned sale. The two partners, however, decided to abide by Atkins' wishes and notified Sterling that he would have to sit out the bargaining process, but was assured that his commission would be safe should the sale be completed.
And, while the partners didn't disclose to Atkins that Newfoundland Capital was also interested in purchasing the group, it was evident that both he and NFC knew what the other was doing.
Newfoundland Capital had already completed its detailed study of the companies and decided that it was not interested. They eventually purchased the Tillsonburg operation, along with the neighbouring Delhi News-Record company and its various publications.
The door was now wide open to entertain an offer from Atkins.
"I remember the moment very well, "recalls Clauws," It was a Friday about three o'clock when the call came and Adkins informed me that he was prepared to make an offer and would fax it along later that day."
"Ted was out and about with friend Bob Ellis (they usually spent Friday afternoons conducting a 'crop tour') when the call came in, "says Clauws. "And it was not until later that afternoon that I was able to convey the message to him."
Atkins had put a proviso in his offer that he wanted complete openness to all financial details of the three companies.
And hence, the following Monday, after the partners, along with the Kinleys and the Chatham Shopper individuals agreed to the purchase price, Atkins sent his "bean counter" to Dresden. "He spent almost two weeks going over everything we had done in the past and examined every conceivable financial report we had ever produced," smiles Clauws.
His report back to Atkins was a positive one and the machinery rolled into action to complete the sale.
The sale of Leader Publications Limited was front page news on October 12th, 1988
In making the announcement of the sale of the company on October 12, 1988, it was reported: "The decision to sell the company was made after months of soul-searching and consultation," Clauws said, "In coming to an agreement with Laurentian Publishing Group, we feel we've made the best match for our people and products."
Further commentary which appeared in that addition included the following: According to Clauws and Misselbrook, the "three companies-Leader, Wallaceburg and Chatham-were sold together because they are a natural fit and in the end one company operating these products can provide better service to the Kent County area. We are very pleased to be able to work with Tom and Daryl Kinley of the Wallaceburg News and other shareholders in The Chatham Shopper, to be able to put this very powerful package together."
According to Atkins: "We are very excited about our investment in Southwestern Ontario, and hope we can continue the fine tradition established by Gord, Ted, Daryl and Tom."
Following a normal transition period, both Clauws and Misselbrook will be leaving the company.
It was not revealed until the day of the completion of the sale, held in law offices on Bay Street in Toronto, who was actually supplying the money for the purchase.
While Atkins was very involved in the purchasing decision, it became evident that he was not bankrolling the purchase.
That was done by First City Trustco Inc., known in the financial circles as First City Trust.
That firm was controlled by the Bellsberg Family in Vancouver, BC., and it was soon revealed that that family was interested in getting into the communications field in Ontario and was working with Atkins to complete the various purchases they had planned, of which the Leader package was the first.
"I remember sitting in those law offices that waiting for the funds to be transferred from Vancouver and with the three hour time zone difference, we had a lot of time for visitation, "recalls Clauws," And once the funds had been transferred to our lawyer's trust account, we spent another three hours waiting for a junior law clerk to travel from Toronto to Chatham to complete land transfers for the various buildings and properties that the Leader owned and were included in the sale."
Once the sale was completed, Atkins presented each one of the signing officers, Clauws, Misselbrook and the two Kinleys with an engraved gold Cross pen. "I cherished and used that pen for years," smiles Clauws today, "And in fact, it is still sitting on my desk at home.
And so the curtain was coming down on a 23-year partnership between Clauws and Misselbrook
During the transition period, one of Atkins' top administrators, John Thomson was appointed as publisher of the "Southwestern Ontario " group.
Thompson had been involved in community newspapers in the Toronto area for several years before joining the Laurentian Group a year or two before coming to Dresden.
"I didn't dislike Thomson," said Clauws today, "But this management style was not suited, in my opinion, for small town Dresden. He had simply spent too much time in the big city."
As a result the transition period was very short. For Misselbrook, it last less than a week when he cleared out his desk and left the building. For Clauws it lasted a bit longer. Three weeks after the sale, on Clauws' 47th birthday, November 11th, 1988, he declared his retirement from the publishing business and left as well.
That was, however, not before enjoying, a slice of cake that the Dresden staff had brought in to recognize the "old bosses" birthday".
When the sale was completed, it was interesting to record the list of publications that the Leader was involved with:
The North Kent Leader
The Petrolia Advertiser Topic
The Bothwell Times
The Voice of the Kent Farmer
The Voice of the Lambton Farmer
The Voice of the Essex Farmer
The Voice of the Middelsex Farmer
The Voice of the Elgin Farmer
The Voice of the Huron Farmer
The Voice of the Oxford Farmer
The Farmers Connection Shopper
Mainly for Seniors London
Mainly for Seniors Windsor
Mainly for Seniors Chatham-Kent
Mainly for Seniors Sarnia-Lambton
The Sun Magazine--published twice
in the summer for Grand Bend and area.
Leader Publication Limited
Not active or in Use by Leader
at this time.
The North Lambton Sun (weekly)
The Dresden News
The Wallaceburg Shopper
The Newbury Journal
Outdoor Trade and Post
The Shoppers Connection
Today's Home Real Estate Magazine
Chatham-Kent Real Estate Today
Peter Epp was Managing Editor of Leader Publications in 1988
A FINAL WORD
And so, concludes the history of Leader Publications. From a humble beginning in September, 1965 to a thriving completion in October 1988, the intervening years were a combination of joy, sadness, laughter, apprehension, satisfaction and probably a host of other adjectives that could be included.
As a final word, each of the partners penned a closing statement which was published in the October 19th, 1988 edition.
Preceding those statements, however, managing editor Peter Epp chose to write a special column honouring the two partners.
That presentation read as follows:
NEWSPAPER'S FOUNDERS EARNED
RESPECT FROM THEIR EMPLOYEES
Gummer Spearman was the first person I spoke with from Dresden. It was over the the telephone. But Gord Clauws was the first person from Dresden that I met face to face. And Ted Misselbrook was possibly the second.
It was a Monday morning, April 9, 1979 and it was my first day at work. I had never been to Dresden, having been hired a week earlier through a telephone conversation with Gummer, who I probably called Mr. Spearman. It would be an understatement to suggest that Mr. Spearman left me with a glowing impression of Dresden. In that typically dry sense of humour that I soon grew to appreciate, Gummer described the town and the responsibilities I would have at the newspaper in the most discouraging manner. To quote Tony Stathis, "it was "incredulous"
(*Stathis was a former municipal councillor in the town of Dresden and operated a Greek Restaurant.)
Nontheless, some of what Gummer told me about Dresden appeared to be true. When I left the telephone, I thought Dresden must resemble something like Dodge City as I puttered into town that early spring morning, I half expected to see Matt Dillon and Festus suntering up the sidewalk. The main street was ripped up for storm sewer work, and my Beetle and I had to dodge mud-filled puddles that threatened to swallow us.
Safely at last in front of Leader Publications doorstep on Main Street, I realized I was far too early to begin work. It was 7 a.m. but the lights were on, and inside I met Gord Clauws who, with a darkroom technician, was busy opaquing negatives for a press run for one of the agri-newspapers published by Leader. The sun had only reached the rooftops and Gord was busy as a beaver.
This work ethic, this industry among the two owners of the company, impressed me then and impresses me now. In fact, it is the most vivid and perhaps endearing memory I have of Gord and Ted. As owners of the company, they didn't sit back and let someone else do the work; they rolled up their sleeves and climbed right in.
Years ago it was Ted Misselbrook who sold the advertising for the North Kent Leader, and it was Gord Clauws who wrote the news. In fact, up until a few years ago, Gord was active in the newspaper's actual production and religiously attended the town council meetings.
As Leader Publications expanded and new publications were developed, the two owners had to rely on others to attend meetings, write the news and sell the ads. But their interest and hands-on approach to the company never diminished , providing the employees with an example for what was expected.
But I don't want to write what sounds like an obituary, now that these two business partners have sold their company. So I'll be brief.
I don't think Gord or Ted ever demanded the respect of their employees. But they certainly earned it and I believe they received it.
And more importantly, they took the time to listen to the concerns of the editorial staff, the advertising people and the production folks. Subsequently, most of us were inspired to do our best, to reach our potential, to accept challenges and to stretch our limits.
But we only followed their lead.
The most recent example of limit-stretching has been the four-monthly publications this company produces for the 50-plus markets in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton, London and Windsor. Ted conducted the market research in mid-1986 and within four months Mainly for Seniors in Chatham-Kent was being published- a brightly coloured, inspiring tabloid that has been an amazing success.
Three months later, Mainly for Seniors in Sarnia-Lambton was launched, followed by Mainly for Seniors in London in September 1987, and Mainly for Seniors in Windsor in March, 1988.
Within a space of 14 months, this company was churning out four new newspapers for a combined circulation of 60,000 readers in Southwestern Ontario.
Needless to say, the 50-plus market is the fastest growing segment of the newspaper and magazine publishing industry in Canada. Mainly for Seniors in Chatham-Kent was only the eighth such publication to be launched in Canada. Now there are dozens in Ontario alone.
I recently heard of a manager at the Windsor Star who said he was amazed with the quality of content and reproduction contained within a particular issue of Mainly for Seniors in Windsor. He was equally amazed with how fast it took a small publishing company in a small town to launch such a newspaper.
"If we tried this at the Star, it would take us twice as long and it would probably cost us twice as much," he commented to one of our reporters. "It's amazing that you could produce this thing in Dresden."
No, it's not amazing. What's amazing is what can be accomplished with a lot of ambition and a lot more work. And it helps if the owners of the company have as much interest in the project as you have.
This is my first column for the North Kent Leader. This is also my last. I prefer to leave the writing to writers, and the selling to sales people. But this is a perfect time to break that rule.
Leader Publications Ltd is sold. And with that announcement comes the need for me to pack 23 years of books, files, junk and stuff, and truck it home to R.R. 1. Croton.
My last official day at Leader is October 21. However, I see a long term association with this talented group of people who make the Laurentian Publishing Group work so well. They've asked me to take my Misselbrook Marketing sales training and advertising seminars to their staff in Northern Ontario, and I'm delighted to do just that.
This much I know: Michael Atkins' Laurentian Publishing Group are the right people at the right time to take Leader Publications into its next phase of prosperity and development. They have a beautifully positive attitude about people who work with them, and a strong sense of community. I have little doubt that Leader Publications will continue to provide quality newspapers and other products, while maintaining a strong focus on serving the needs of the readers and advertisers.
If all this sounds like I'm up on this new bunch, well, you're right: I am.
Looking back is kind of a fun exercise. When I do that with Leader Publications in mind, I think of its fantastic growth from a single publication, the North Kent Leader in 1965 to a
group of 12 publication titles today, and printing press facility. I'm still just a little bit amazed about all this, but certainly proud of what Leader Publications has become.
Trying to centre out one or two specific things that have happened over the past 23 years would be an exercise in futility for me. Too many memories, I guess. But, interestingly enough, the times I recall most fondly are the high pressure times. Moments when we played "Beat The Clock" with deadlines or new product launches. All of this would cause gobs of stress at times, but also a fantastic amount of fun.
For Gord Clauws and me, it's been a rewarding 23 year marriage. That's not to say that we haven't been tempted to head for the divorce table. We've fought, screamed and scratched, but somehow, if by magic or plain determination, we've come to find a common goal and, with the help of a lot of talented staff people, built the foundation of the company on trust and respect for one another.
This IS a time for thanks and while I don't believe in luck, only the challenge of opportunity, I must say I've been blessed and have had my life enriched by the people I've met along the way. Our readers of the North Kent Leader have kept us sharp and committed to product excellence. That's something that will not change!
So, speaking for the Misselbrooks, Pat, Jill, Beth and me, our very special "fuzzy warm inside" thank you to all those significant others who have impacted upon our life in such a meaningful and positive way.
One last thought. At one of my seminars recently, a participant presented me with this author unknown script about attitude. I like it. Maybe you will too.
If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but think you can't
It is almost certain you won't.
If you think you'll lose..you've lost
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a person's will_
It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
It's all in your attitude.
Be happy. Have fun.
And Clauws, who used his "Scratchin' Around With Clauws" column heading for his final and last contribution wrote:
AN EASY WORD
"I'm not sure where the symbol came from, other than to remember that more than thirty years ago when I entered the newspaper business as a "printer's devil", that was one of the first things I recall having impressed upon my then juvenile mind.
I can't recall the exact conversation, but I do remember it was an elderly gentleman by the name of Arthur Ross, then owner of the Dresden News, who explained in simple terms that it means "the end". It tells all who came in contact that there was no more to come.
And so it appears with my career in the newspaper business: it has come to an end. After three weeks less than 33 years, I will write "30" to my association with the newspaper business in Dresden.
It is not easily done!
But, like all things, including life itself, an end is inevitable. In some cases, we don't have the choice; the end comes without warning. In others, we do have the choice, and such is my case in reaching a decision to retire from active newspaper involvement.
It was not an easy decision to reach, but one whose time had come. As publisher of the North Kent Leader and major shareholder of Leader Publications Ltd. I believe that we have nurtured the infant through adolescence into adulthood. It is now time to step aside and let those with more energies continue the role of providing guidance and leadership.
I speak of course, of the North Kent Leader itself, the basis from which the company grew. Founded 23 years ago in September, 1965, by myself and partner Ted Misselbrook, it was always considered the "flag ship" of the company. As other endeavours and publications came into being, the "flag ship" was dwarfed by comparison but always remained close to the heart.
(So that you know my arithmetic is correct, I did work in the newspaper business for 10 years before embarking on the development of the firm that would grow during the next two decades into a recognized publishing company.)
And, it took a close relationship with a partner to watch our "baby" grow and prosper. While there are many aspects of the newspaper business that I'll miss, including a truly fantastic staff, a host of loyal customers and countless steadfast subscribers...I will miss an endearing friendship and partnership of 23 years.
Most won't recall, or perhaps know, that the newspaper business was actually the second enterprise for Clauws and Misselbrook. Back in the early 1960's we joined forces in the disc jockey business and so it is that as we now part company from a business standpoint, it is actually the end of an association of more than a quarter of a century.
It is hard to say good-bye!
It has of course, been challenging, interesting and I suppose one could use countless adjectives to describe the happenings and memories, both happy and sad, that have occurred during my association with the newspaper business in our community.
In the early days with both the Dresden News and the North Kent Leader, I was the fellow who snapped the pictures, wrote most of the stories and attended numerous meetings and events. I'm not sure there are any records to verify the fact, but I know I missed very few sessions of Dresden municipal council during the period 1959-1983. I remember well the time frame, because I was tempted to continue for another year to lay claim to the the fact that I had covered municpal council sessions for a quarter of a century. Plans however, to serve our newspaper association as provincial president, a most time-consuming but rewarding endeavour, forced me to "retire" from active writing at that time.
As one sits back and scrolls the mind for highlights of one's career, it becomes mind-boggling indeed. As you recall one event, another snaps into focus, overshadowing the previous thoughts. You soon realize it is an impossible task.
If I were asked to say thanks to those who had helped in any way during my association in the publishing business in Dresden, it would take a special edition to list the names alone...they are numerous.
There are, of course, three people in my life to who I indeed owe a special that you.
No make that four!
The first three are my immediate family--wife Marilyn and sons Shawn and Darren. Thanks is simply not enough for the encouragement and understanding over the years.
I'm sure other parents have on occassion found it most difficult to explain why it is impossible to do certain things with a youngster bubbling with enthusiasm. But, to watch the sadness cross a youngster's face when you attempt to expalin that you can't join him in the father and son bowling tournament because you have to attend an emergency meeting of municipal council can be heart-wrenching. And to return home delayed for a planned dinner party because the fire siren kept you well past the appointed time and you simply couldn't get to a telephone, but found an understanding, smiling wife.
Understanding of that nature is indeed beyond a simple "I'm sorry".
And the fourth person, my partner of almost a quarter of a century, Ted Misselbrook. His understanding, loyalty and friendship can never be forgotten.
And as I often said in my Scratchin' Around With Clauws column that appeared in some 900 editions of the North Kent Leader, "nough said".
I'll write "-30-" to this before more than a mist prevents me from seeing the computer screen.
Bruce Smith was General Sales Manager of Leader Publications Limited in 1988
While October 1988 marked the end of the involvement by the two partners in Leader Publication Limited , there were many activities and changes that came about in the ensuing years.
One of the first major moves by the new firm was the purchase of a reconditioned News King web press which was located in the company's press building in the town's industrial park.
John Thomson who had arrived at the Dresden office of the firm just prior to the completion of the sale managed the Southwestern operations. He continued in that position for a couple of years before he was transferred back to Sudbury by the parent Laurentian firm.
Bruce Smith who had been involved primarily as the general sales manager, but who had become involved in other management duties, was overlooked by the new owners.
"Bruce would have made an excellent general manager or publisher of the firm," comments Clauws today, "The new owners simply passed up the opportunity. One could not have found a more dedicated employee than Bruce Smith."
As a result, within a year, Smith moved on and returned to the Windsor Star as an advertising salesman. He completed his career with that firm, retiring in 2007 and moving back to his hometown of Dresden.
ANOTHER PUBLICATION PURCHASED
The Laurentian firm continued in its buying spree following the completion of the purchase of The Leader. Shortly after it was announced that the firm had purchased a printing and publishing firm in Uxbridge, north of Toronto.
On the local scene, the firm purchased the Ridgetown Dominion in June 1989 and shortly thereafter the Rodney and West Lorne newspapers.
Other purchases were also being made, including a business publication in northeastern United States.
It was apparent that the Bellsberg family were certainly on a mission to establish themselves in the publishing business in a big way, utilizing the Laurentian publishing firm as its front people.
A VERY DIFFICULT CHANGING
TIME IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD
As time marched on, however, another recession was looming on the horizon and it arrived in late 1990 and early 1991. While not as severe as some recessions that had occurred in the past, it was of great concern to those who had become highly leveraged in recent buy-outs. Such was the case for the Bellsberg family and First City Trust.
In November, 1991, an announcement was made by Michael Atkins that Laurentian was looking to sell it Southwestern Ontario publications that they had owned only three years.
John Thomson served as publisher of the North Kent Leader initially and later moved to Chatham as group publisher of the Southwestern Ontario division. Serving brief stints as publishers in Dresden were Peter Epp and John Daneluzzi.
The subsequent purchaser of the publications was Citizen's Communications Group and it was then that Denise Thibeault was named publisher of the North Kent Leader, the Petrolia Advertiser Topic as well as the Voice of the Farmer publications. She continued in that position until 2006.
Another sale was completed during those years when Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distribution Ltd. took ownership. That firm was a division of the Toronto Star.
In June 2003, the company was purchased by Osprey Media Group Inc., a young and progressive communications company that operated 21 daily newspapers and 35 non-daily newspapers in 50 markets across Ontario. Two of those dailies included the Chatham Daily News and the Sarnia Observer. It was during their ownership that Denise was relieved of her publisher duties and replaced by Jim Blake, then publisher of the Chatham Daily News.
It was sometime during those early changes in ownership years that the decision was made to get out of the printing business. The News King press was sold and the press building went on the auction block. It was subsequently purchased by Stacey Gall of Tate's Welding and Fabrication.
The printing of the firm's newspapers was then moved to an unrelated printing plant in Wyoming, Ontario.
The last ownership change occurred in 2007 when the entire Osprey group was sold to Sun Media Corporation, the same firm that owns the London Free Press among many other daily and weekly newspapers throughout Ontario and indeed Canada. Sun Media is a Quebecor Media Company, and is the largest publishing company in Canada.
MANY OTHER CHANGES
As time progress so did the numerous changes that occurred in the publishing business, and the Dresden operations were not to be left out.
The seven Voice of the Farmer publications continued to thrive for several years before changes in the agricultural sector took its toll. Added to that were other changes in the communications industry, including the introduction of the Internet, which offered another venue for farmers to obtain information. All of these changes resulted in the consolidating of the farm publications until today there are just two left: one serving Lambton, Middlesex, Elgin, Huron, Oxford and Perth counties. And the other serving Chatham-Kent and Essex counties.
The Bothwell Times also took a hit in the early 1990's. Another weekly newspaper, The Spirit, started in opposition to The Times and was eventually deemed the winner. That town simply could not support two community newspapers and the Times fell by the wayside.
It is interesting to note that The Bothwell Spirit endured since that time and at some point became the property of the same firm that owned The Leader.
The Petrolia Advertiser Topic saw little changes over the years with the exception that it changed formats....from broadsheet to tabloid size.
The Senior publications also saw changes as the London and Windsor editions fell by the wayside. Both the Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton editions, however are still published today.
The telephone directories which were so popular back in the mid-1980's also saw many changes. Many of the major daily newspapers undertook to protect their sales territories and published their own directories. Such was the case in the City of Chatham.
As a result the Osprey Group sold off the remaining telephone directories and exited phone book publishing.
The Wallaceburg News continued to operate for several years before it also ceased to publish. The opposition Wallaceburg Courier became the dominate community newspaper in the town and continues today. It is interesting to remember that just a couple of years ago the Wallaceburg News reappeard on the scene. Also of interest is the fact that today, both the Wallaceburg Courier and the Wallaceburg News are owned by the same company. The company has since closed The Wallaceburg News.
The Chatham Shopper continued to excel for several years but as time went on it also lost its lustre and ceased publication in October, 2001, fourteen years after Misselbrook, Clauws and the Kinley's founded it.
The exact same situation developed in Ridgetown as an opposition newspaper started against the Ridgetown Dominion and was also declared the winner a few years hence.
While not meeting everyday, the two still get together, usually at least once a week for the coffee club ritual.
WHAT THE PARTNERS DID
Following the sale of the company the two partners went their separate ways, although for many years they continued to meet each day to take part in the coffee club activities to which they had become accustomed in the preceding two decades.
Today while not meeting daily, the two still get together, usually at least once a week for the coffee club ritual.
For Clauws reitrement from the newspaper business became permanent. He and wife Marilyn took off for warmer climates and took up residency on a six-month basis in Florida. Today they still enjoy those six months in the south, especially since youngest son, Darren has married, lives in Florida as well, and has the couples only grandchild. Darren, a Master of Business Administration graduate from the University of South Florida is a financial analyst with a financial management firm in Tampa.
The couple's other son, Shawn, continues to be single and resides in Chatham where he operates a lawn care service. For several years Clauws joined with his son in the summer-time
business and today still manages to help out a couple of mornings a week. "Helps keep me in shape when I'm not on the golf course, smiles Clauws.
For Misselbrook, retirement from the company provided ample time for him to continue with his sales training and motivational speaking engagements. As well, his interest in classic cars continued, and along with his brother Alan, they set up a company Nice Car Sales (Dresden) Ltd.
Misselbrook and his wife Pat also enjoyed the warmer climates offered in Barbados. For more than 15 years they rented a modern two bedroom bungalow from a Bajian friend and property owner Mrs. Alice Daghliesh. That arrangement ended when the property owner died. "It was a wonderful place to winter, and we would travel back and forth to Barbados starting in November to as late as the month of May" recalls Ted. "We also had family and friends enjoy our winter hide-a-way as well" remembers Ted, and it was a lot of fun. Misselbrook recalls that he and Pat were allowed to rent out the bungalow to others, and they did. " We had repeat visitors year after year, and the rent they paid us, made our holidays in Barbados quite inexpensive" smiles Ted.
Today, his interests lie with the Internet and he continues to operate Misselbrook Marketing Methods a firm that helps local businesses set up their own individual web sites.
As noted in the history chapter, daughter Jill continues in the communications business being employed by Blackburn Radio in Chatham. She is married and has two children, the only grandchildren for the Misselbrooks.
The couple's other daughter, Beth, remains single. She studied child care management and is employeed as a nanny in Montreal.
Ted's daughters Jill and Beth as well as Gord's sons Shawn and Darren also worked at Leader Publications in various departments after school and during summer breaks.
Shawn Clauws also worked in various departments at Leader Publications during his school years and for a time after that.
Darren Clauws also did a stint at Leader Publications during his high school years, and like the rest of the "Leader kids" enjoyed the money and maybe even the work.
TED GETS A SPECIAL
AWARD FROM OCNA
The Ontario Community Newspaper Association as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations held an awards presentation in Toronto.
Held in 2000 at the Mariott Airport Hotel, the executive and members of OCNA played host to 50 people who would be honoured for their contributions to the newspaper industry in the past 50 years.
Misselbrook was one of the fifty so honoured.
He recalls, "I was shocked, humbled and deeply honoured to be recognized by my peers for my work as an industry advertising sales trainer and seminar leader. It was one of the highlights of my 40 year newspaper career."
40th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDING OF THE COMPANY
In October, 2005, in recogition of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the North Kent Leader the then current staff of the day decided that a celebration was in order.
Headed by publisher Denise Thibeault, the celebration took the form of an open house at the Dresden offices, complete with an anniversary cake.
A few weeks later a gathering of the present and past employees of the company was held at the Kinsmen Hall in Dresden. Marilyn Leitch was one of the inspirations behind that endeavour and managed to establish the lengthy list of former employees during the preceding 40 years.
All were contacted and while many could not attend, a large number managed to find their way to the event. A great social afternoon was enjoyed with stories and tales from the preceding four decades being exchanged among those attending.
A group photo was taken of those attending the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the North Kent Leader
A group photo was taken of those attending and since identification is rather difficult because of the size of the group, the following names were attached from the guest register: (in no particular order) Mike Partridge, Colleen Cadotte, Penny Robbins, Betty Vitek, Marilyn Sayers, Luanne Clark, John Thomson, Millie Konecny, Pat Brewer, Todd Lozon, Lillian Misselbrook, Lynda (Tiffin) Cunningham, Kari (Ellis) Salenbien, Diane Miller, Jack Thomson (the firm's first subscription salesperson), Cynthia Lockrey, Cheryl O'Hara, Judy Annett, Garry Comeau, Karen Smith, Sue McFadden, Jill Gale, Peter Epp, Connie McFadden, Bonnie Thomson, Jane Gallie, John Daneluzzi, Deb Gignac, Liza St. Pierre, Dan Murphy, Jill Misselbrook, Sandra Hern, Marie (DeBruyn)Carter, Marilyn Leitch, Phil Dunlop, John Phair, Bob Komacker, Joan Martin, Ted Misselbrook, Helen (Gawne) Geady, Denise Thibeault, Gord Clauws, Jeff Carter, Donna Garland and Nancy Schlereth.
And while some could not attend in person, they sent along messages of congratulations. One such letter came from a "character reporter" from the past, Dave (The Wave) Ducharme.
He wrote in part: I am certainly disappointed that I am not able to make it to the 40th anniversary of the North Kent Leader.
I still remember my very first day arriving at Leader way back in the summer of 1984. Gummer asked me where my belongings were and I told him I didn't bring any. I think from that he figured I wouldn't be sticking around long. But, I did...for almost two and half years.
Gummer was one of the greats and it was privilege having worked for him. He was so wise, interesting, and funny as hell. On days that I was a little tardy in showing up for work, he would telephone me and recite the same army "poem". I won't repeat it, but it had something to do with picking up your socks.
I often wonder about that video that was made at Gummer's retirement party. I remember sticking my face into just about every shot there was. I wan't letting Gummer forget me!
I had a wonderful time working at Leader. And what made it so wonderful was the people. Scotty (McLachlin), Linda Tiffin, John Weese, John Roberts, Peter Epp, Marilyn (Leitch), Gord Hardy...I can picture so many but can't remember all the names. The first reporter I met was Paul "Rusty" Russell. What a riot he was. Last I heard he was editor of some newspaper up in North Toronto. I still remember him writing, or rewriting, the words to "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to give it a Leader theme. "Twas the night before Christmas all through Leader, there wasn't a reporter stirring, not even Peter." Of course, Peter was Peter Epp.
Ted Misselbrook was an inspiration. I still (try to) live by his motto, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got". I even worked that into a speech for a former federal minister of agriculture and he loved it.
And Leader seems to follow me. A couple years ago I visited a journalism instructor at Algonquin College in Ottawa. On his wall was a picture of him receiving an award. That picture immediately took me back to Leader because the exact same picture hung on Gord Clauws' wall. It was of Gord, when he was OCNA president, presenting an award to Steve Forester, the instructor I met.
Anyway, my sojourn in Dresden was meaningful and definitely a positive learning experience.
It is interesting to note that Dave, after he left the Leader, got a university degree in History and later a Master of Communications degree from the University of Western Ontario.
Today he is senior communications advisor in Internal Communications with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
AND "__30__" IS WRITTEN TO THE NORTH KENT LEADER
And now, as the final words are written on the History of Leader Publications and the Epilogue, the final "_30_" is also written for the North Kent Leader.
It is no secret that small community newspapers have struggled in recent years, attempting to retain readership, not to mention enough local advertising to keep the bills paid.
And such is the case of the North Kent Leader.
It was with great sadness that the two partners learned in late December, 2008 that the North Kent Leader would cease to exist in its stand-alone form.
The present-day owners, Sun Media, made the corporate decision that the Dresden and Bothwell community newspapers should be merged into a single publication and hence on December 31, 2008 the inaugural edition of "Leader-Spirit" appeared on the street.
A few weeks before that evolved, all production facilities in Dresden were shut down and transferred to a new location in Wallaceburg. It became apparent that production for all publications that Sun Media owns in Kent and Lambton counties will now be centralized.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU!
Ted and Gord would like to offer a sincere thank you to long-time and faithful employee Sue McFadden for her help in arranging times for research at The Leader and for her help in finding negatives and photos from the past.
The "new Leader-Spirit was introduced at the end of December 2008. The start of a "new era."
"They (the publishers, Sun Media ) announced a "new era begins" said Clauws, "For us (Ted and I) it was the end of an era...the end of a dream that lasted for more than four decades".
Posted to Facebook
July 30th/2013 by Ted Misselbrook
Closed by owners Sun Media
Local media and facebook are reporting, that Sun Media, the operators of The Leader-Spirit newspaper serving Dresden and Bothwell have closed down the weekly operation, with the last issue date July 25th/2013.
I must say, on personal level, it saddens me to see a community without... a home-town newspaper. A Dresden paper has published in this community since The Gazette was born in 1871 when in 1873 the name changed to The Dresden Times.
The inovative Bowes Brothers would aquire the Times in the 1950's. In 1938 Charlie Ross launched The Dresden News and operated until 1968.
Admittedly, my connection to this story is a little closer than most, given that the late Gord Clauws and I started the "The Leader" in 1965 and owned the group of weekly newspapers, farm publications, senior magazines and large type phone books as well as a printing operation until sold in 1988.
As for "The-LeaderSpirit"...RIP!
Co-Founder of Leader Publications Limited, Gordon W. Clauws, died January 29th/2013. He Was 71 years of age!
Former weekly newspaper publisher Gordon Clauws was a reporter at heart.
Friends and former employees are remembering a man who once co-owned Leader Publications Ltd., a Dresden-based newspaper company that at its peak in the mid-1980s published dozens of newspapers and employed upwards of 100 people.
Gordon Clauws died Tuesday in Florida. He was 71.
With his long-time business partner Ted Misselbrook, Clauws founded the North Kent Leader in Dresden in September 1965. Through Leader Publications, the two eventually owned and operated community newspapers in Petrolia and Bothwell, along with farm newspapers in nine counties, a string of seniors' newspapers and a dozen or more community home phone books. The products were produced and printed in Dresden.
The partners sold the company to a Sudbury-based newspaper company in 1988.
In 1984, Clauws served as president of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association. He was also a charter member of the Rotary Club in Dresden, in 1986.
Misselbrook said Wednesday that his friendship with Clauws went back over 50 years. "We had a very strong business partnership; we were always in touch."
That friendship began when Clauws was working at The Dresden News in the late 1950s and hired Misselbrook as a 14-year-old printer's devil.
"I started working after school and Saturdays, but after a few years left to go work for the Chatham Daily News. I was there for three years, and then Gord and I got back together in 1965 and started Leader Publications."
Misselbrook, who was the company's first ad salesman, said with Clauws "intregrity was foremost... you could depend on what he said to be true. And he had a tremendous work ethic. He set the pace, and in the early years if you didn't work 70 or 80 hours a week you might be falling behind."
Misselbrook said his former business partner was very devoted to his wife Marilyn and their two sons.
"As busy as he was, they counted and they counted deeply."
Sharyl Turner of Dresden was hired in 1972 by Leader Publications and eventually looked after the company's national sales accounts.
"He was a good boss," she said of Clauws. "They were easy to work for. They were fun to work for. But you knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play."
She said Clauws, who served as publisher and editor for many years, was very approachable. "You could always talk to him. And in terms of newspapers, he knew it all. He always kept abreast of the industry. They were always looking down the road at new equipment and a lot of times they were first in the region to get something, and then the other publishers would come to Dresden to see what was going on. They were very progressive."
Turner said Clauws was a reporter at heart. Prior to the North Kent Leader, he worked as a stringer for the Windsor Star. He covered the regular meetings of the Dresden town council for upwards of two decades, only stopping when elected president of the OCNA in early 1984. But he still wrote a column, published weekly for 23 years.
She recalled that Clauws "never became so important in his own mind that he couldn't do it himself... if we had a problem with a piece of equipment, he would try to fix it himself. He was very handy."
Most of Leader Publications' growth came in the 1970s when the partners introduced bi-weekly farm papers into five counties in Southwestern Ontario. They purchased the Petrolia Advertiser-Topic in 1979, installed a printing press in Dresden in 1982, expanded the scope of their farm newspapers to include several more counties, and purchased The Bothwell Times in 1985. They also were instrumental in establishing the Chatham Shopper in 1987, in partnership with other community newspaper publishers.
Clauws, who in recent years lived in Chatham, leaves behind his wife Marilyn and their two sons.
Funeral and visitation information was unavailable on Wednesday.