Today’s #MediaMonday comes from someone who I just recently had the pleasure of meeting (and pitching!) at the 2016 SPJ Valley Publicity Summit in September. Doug Towne, a badminton champion, artist, and the editor of Arizona Contractor & Community magazine shares the story about how his publication came to be and how it has remained prominent in the building and architecture communities.
Doug, time to share.
What do you want to tell the blogosphere about yourself today?
The only thing more fun than putting together Arizona Contractor & Community every quarter is describing the crazy way it came together. If there’s another local magazine that has a more interesting genesis, I’d love to hear about it.
Our publication is the result of a chance meeting between a drummer and an artist at a funky Grand Avenue art space six years ago.
The venue was the Trunk Space, the famed hub for live music since 2004. While the Trunk Space is noted as an incubator for musicians and performance artists, Arizona Contractor & Community is likely the only publication to trace its roots to the nightspot.
Billy Horner, a third-generation Arizona construction worker, is the catalyst behind the magazine. A blade operator for Ace Asphalt, he’s also an accomplished drummer who performs regularly around the Valley. Despite his demanding day job, musical inclinations, and tinkering with collectible vehicles, Billy was determined to launch a publication for the state’s construction industry that highlighted its early companies, iconic individuals, and vintage equipment. But he needed an editor.
One night before his band went on stage at the Trunk Space, Billy conveyed his vision for the publication to Trunk Space co-owner Stephanie Carrico. She told him that a guy named Douglas Towne would be a perfect fit for his project. As proof, Carrico gave him a copy of another publication I edit, the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal, which focuses on roadside architecture and history.
My connection to the Trunk Space was through the annual Grid Show art exhibit, which for more than a decade had brought together an eclectic roster of artists to create pieces around a local history theme. I had met the art space’s co-owners, Steph Carrico and Jason Nosaj (aka JRC) while freelancing for the Phoenix New Times, and had become curator of the Grid Show, along with Hip Historian Marshall Shore, in its fifth year.
Billy’s ideas for the magazine dovetailed with my interests. I am a long-time history buff, and, since 2008, I had been a frequent contributor to PHOENIX Magazine, writing about the significant – and sensational – events, places, and people from the Valley’s past.
Another crucial player for this fledgling publication was Chuck Runbeck, a spry and energetic octogenarian. Chuck had worked on magazines such as Arizona Builder & Contractor, Arizona-New Mexico Contractor and Engineer, and Southwest Contractor since 1953. He also served as Executive Director of the Associated Equipment Distributors of Arizona for 34 years. Chuck retired in 1997, only to have Billy lure him back to work as the magazine’s advertising manager.
Arizona Contractor & Community was all set, except for an all-important production manager/graphic artist. Billy proceeded to find the perfect candidate on a blind date. Laura Harley (now Horner) quickly grabbed the graphic designer reins. Adept at learning new software, Laura put the magazine layout together and automated the essential business aspects of publication.
But would this crazy effort to launch a new magazine that focused on the Arizona construction industry, then and now, succeed? Particularly only a few years after the Great Recession when print media was on life support?
My initial expectations for the magazine were minimal: I figured the project would be a quiet failure, imploding after a few issues. Afterwards, Billy, Laura, Chuck, and I would occasionally get together and reminisce about what may have been.
But this perfect storm of unique individuals and their talents was destined for success. We had no hidden agendas or overblown egos, just infectious enthusiasm to create Arizona Contractor & Community. With that outlook and the generous support of our advertisers and readers, we are celebrating our five-year anniversary and the magazine’s future looks brighter every day.
When not writing or editing, I dabble in art creating floating montages which incorporate roadside vintage imagery. The resulting pieces are as much social commentary as they are homage to the past. My art has been featured at Modified Arts, Tempe Public Library, the Trunk Space, Tohono Chul Park, the Downtown YMCA, @ Central Gallery, and the Frontal Lobe Gallery.
A badminton enthusiast, I’ve smashed shuttlecocks to win competitions in seven states and one national title. I live in mid-town Phoenix with my lovely wife and the secret to my success, Maureen.