IT all started in the basement of a printing plant in Great Neck, NY. After graduating from art school in 1978, Martin Stevens worked entry-level positions as a graphic artist at newspapers and magazines throughout New York. In 1979, after his first marriage he decided to launch out with his own graphics arts company, housed in the basement of a printing plant in Great Neck, Long Island. As with any start-up, things were slow and Martin was barely grossing $10,000 annually as he built the business. Sometime in 1980, his free rescue cat Ralph got sick and needed expensive medical attention, which added to mounting credit card debt.
THE need for extra income was pressing and with no retailing history, Martin entered the flea market business as a vendor selling gifts and novelties. Rather than start with one location, Martin arranged for three different markets (very spread out) and worked one booth while his wife and an employee worked the two others. Martin recalls the hardest part of the flea market business was finding merchandise. There was no internet (1980) and no magazines for vendors. The only source of merchandise was a small area of the Sunday NY Times that had “Offerings to Buyers” where Martin sourced merchandise.
DURING the Christmas season of 1980, with a grueling 7-day work week Martin had the light bulb moment! After talking with many fellow vendors about how they source their merchandise he thought about a newsletter for flea market vendors.
WITH $100 and a lot of determination, Martin wrote and photocopied a sales letter that he mailed to wholesalers around the tri state area to convince them to try an advertisement in his new newsletter, Flea Market Forum. The initial printing costs for the first run would be $800 and distribution would be hand-done by Martin on the weekends at various flea markets. Martin mailed the letters and waited for the checks to roll in. Without the funding from the new advertisers the newsletter was not going to happen. So, there was a lot of anxiety.
WEEKS went by and enough money and ads came in to print the first issue, which was a 12-page newsprint magazine. May of 1981 was the first issue of the magazine and the rest, as we say is history.
WITH no competition and the availability of his own graphics equipment and talent, Martin was able to grow the magazine every month, doubling the revenue for the first several years of the magazine. Eventually the graphic arts business took a back seat to the publication and as new technology came out, computers and the start of the internet, the small business had quickly grown into a multi-million dollar operation by the 1990’s.
FROM a small basement office space the company expanded twice until it settled into its corporate offices in beautiful Centerport, Long Island. The company has expanded over the years to publish two independent magazines, Retailers Forum (specializing in independent stores) and Swap Meet Magazine (servicing the flea market industry). In addition to the magazines, the company has over two dozen trade directories, search engines, a full service printing company as well as a marketing and sales company.
THE wholesale/retail industry has seen many changes over the 30 years that Forum has been publishing and one thing that has been consistent is Forum Publishing. Martin established the first magazine to connect retailers and wholesalers and has paved the way for many other fine magazines and websites who service the community.
Forum Publishing wants to thank everyone in the industry for their support and encouragement as they enter their 31st year in the business. We invite all interested in our company to visit our main website: www.RetailersForum.com and view our latest issue as well as partake of our content.