The Rockaway Times is five. We launched this sucker five years ago this week and I can’t decide if it feels like five or fifty.
It really started out as a mess. We had a typo before we even published our first edition. The day before the paper launched, the big, beautiful Rockaway Times sign was hung on the front of our store. (We occupied the booth, current home of Belle Rock car service, at the time). It looked great except for the missing “a.” The sign said Rockway, not Rockaway. “Take it down!” I shouted in panic.
They fixed it and put it back up and all was good. We decided to add an awning as well. That lasted about three days before a truck going into the next-door parking lot knocked it down.
Misspelled signs and crushed awnings were the least of my headaches. I realized the person I had started this business with was a very bad fit. After the first edition, I ended the almost-partnership and set out solo. And she set out to destroy The Rockaway Times. She called advertisers and printers and told them I was a blankety-blank so-and-so and not to do business with me. That caused some difficulties. You’re trying to get a new business going and there’s someone hell-bent on making you fail. Badmouthing me wasn’t enough, though. She then started a grudge newspaper. Anyone remember The Rockaway Beat? I think it ran for seven weeks. For other reasons, said person is now finishing up a stretch in federal prison.
Anyway, while trying to fend off her attacks, plenty of pain was self-inflicted. An advertiser wanted to add a coupon: $4 off a dozen cupcakes. We ran an ad that said $4 for a dozen (which equals about 33 cents a cupcake). Dumb of me. But soon, I proved even dumber. I ran the wrong ad again the following week. I think that was the low point.
I felt like quitting, but my salesman, Fred Marino, sold me on staying with it and reminded me that readers were generally happy with the new paper in town. He said advertisers wanted to be in a newspaper that highlighted good stuff in Rockaway. (Yep, I was sold and now he’ll probably now ask for a commission).
Less than a month after launch, Pat McVeigh (with big help from Carol Kelleher) came to my rescue and started making sense of the books. She’s been my right-hand man ever since.
Katie McFadden started writing for us in August and in October she was asking me if the paper was gonnna make it. I think my answer was, I dunno. Katie is still here and now my answer is, I think so.
Of course, I couldn’t have done it without unwavering support on the home front. I worked crazy hours, always bordering on going insane but my wife, Kathy, was a rock and helped in direct and subtle ways. I got help from my mother, too. She talked up the paper to friends and businesses and helped with proofreading—which is kind of funny because her obituary in The Rockaway Times had a typo. It was the first sign she’d be missed. And still is.
Honestly, no one had the cold heart to tell me about that typo. But I’ve heard plenty about some others. We meant to report that there was a crab boil but somehow it showed up in the paper as crap boil. We got some shit for that. (Sorry, Mom—I’m still coarsening the language).
Yeah, mistakes, we’ve made a few (ok, a few hundred) but the paper has won awards every year at The New York Press Association convention. Pretty good for a free paper. You know what they say, the best things in Rockaway are free. The Rockaway Times is still free and, we say, worth every penny.
I recently flipped through that first issue, June 26, 2014, and see that that Rockaway WISH, The Wharf, CROM, Rockaway Properties, World Champion Karate, Curran's, Boarders, Kimball Construction, Walsh Properties, and Blue Bungalow Spa (now Spa Rockaway) were in the first-ever edition. I’m happy to say, they’re all still around and they're still advertising with us.
McManus Mechanical, Hot Yoga, Bungalow Bar, Neponsit Realty, UMA’s, Zwerling, Amstel Auto, Nicole Frontera, Casino Towing, Glider’s Gym, Cuisine by Claudette, and Brady & Marshak discovered us the next week and have stayed with us through 250 weeks or so. That’s some serious loyalty!
Plenty of others joined in the first few weeks, just to be nice, just to give a new business a boost. And I remember who you are! I try to do the same with new businesses now. If they mess up, they know it. They don’t have to be scolded online when they’re just starting out. We were lucky, or deaf to bad news, because the encouragement we got from YOU kept us going.
Oh, we can’t say Happy Anniversary to ourselves without giving a big shout out to the Be Well, Be Happy women (Helen and Paulette) who have written from week one. Pete Mahon, the Broad Channel, Between The Bridges guy (Hey Pete, you’re due to write again), was there at the beginning and so was John Cori. Ask The Doc by Pete Galvin arrived in September 2014 and he’s been clockwork ever since.
In that inaugural issue five years ago, I said hello to Rockaway and wrote: As for mistakes and growing pains, I’m only making one guarantee. We’ll have this right before the jetties get here.
So, we’ve still got time.
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