Beacon Communications, which publishes the Warwick Beacon, Cranston Herald and Johnston Sun Rise newspapers, has acquired the Coventry-based Reminder, a buyer’s guide publication of classifieds and adverts that publishes 28,000 copies weekly and mails to 24,000 homes directly.
The deal was finalized on Thursday morning for an undisclosed amount and came as a result of about one and a half years of discussions between Beacon Communications publisher John Howell and the ownership of the Reminder, consisting of general manager Peter Stevens and office manager/editor Amey Stevens Tilley.
“We've been in the business since we can remember,” said Peter on Thursday following the official signing over of the Reminder, which was started by Peter and Amey’s father, Howard. “We'd go to sleep to the sound of my mom cranking a mimeograph machine.”
Howard Stevens began Stevens Publishing Inc. in 1954, as Peter tells it, not because he had a burning passion for selling advertisements but because he was trying to put food on the table for his family. After being let go from his job at the Gorham Silver Manufacturing plant in Providence, he fixed oil and kerosene burners to pay the bills.
Following a discussion with Peter’s uncle at a family picnic, who advertised his music store in a Connecticut publication, Howard got the idea to put together his own weekly mailer. It quickly became the true embodiment of a family business, with Howard and his wife, Luella, along with Peter and Amey, physically crafting, collating, stapling and bundling the publication out of their family kitchen before stamping and dropping them off at the post office each week.
Peter and Amey purchased the Reminder from his father in 1991 and has published every week since then. He said that it was simply time to hand the paper over to a capable team of new owners, which he believes he has found in Howell and Beacon Communication general manager Richard Fleischer.
“I have a real good feeling about the Beacon team,” Peter said. “I think they're honest, I trust that they will carry on what we have started. I think their heart is in the right place and that makes me feel good about it.”
Donna Zarrella, a 13-year veteran sales representative for Beacon Communications, will assume Amey’s role as manager. Zarrella, who gets the Reminder as a resident of West Warwick, said she believes in the spirit of the publication and its value to the local communities it serves.
“I'm very familiar with the publication and what it's all about,” she said. “I remember finding a painter and a guy to clean my gutters. You just feel like because it's a neighborhood thing, you kind of trust them a little bit more than if you went online and don't really know them.”
Beacon Communications was founded in 1969 by Howell and acquired its flagship publication, the twice-weekly Warwick Beacon, before growing to include weekly publications in Cranston and Johnston. Howell has resisted buyout opportunities in the past from large newspaper corporations, believing in the importance of community newspapers remaining within the heart of those communities, run by people with an attachment to the areas they cover.
Howell told employees on Thursday that he was excited about the opportunities that will arise as a result of the acquisition, which will grow the potential audience for Beacon Communications considerably. At the same time, Howell reassured those in the Reminder office earlier that morning that it would be business as usual while bigger picture discussions were ongoing in the coming weeks.
“Here we are growing in what some people say is the death march of print,” said Howell.