30 Years of Monthly: Celebrating 3 decades of Connecting the Lowcountry

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For 30 years, it has been the privilege of Hilton Head Monthly in all its various forms to share the stories, people and places that make the Lowcountry such an inspiring place to call home. It’s a different Lowcountry than it was when a black-and-white newsletter titled The Property Owners’ Report first hit doorsteps. As the area progressed, Monthly was there step by step, growing from such humble origins into the glossy first-rate publication you hold in your hands.

As we celebrate 30 years, we wanted to take a moment and look back, remembering significant people and events that have filled the last three decades with so many memories. If you’ll forgive us for turning the spotlight around a little too far, we’d like to begin by telling the story of Monthly.

THE BEGINNING

30yearsofmonthly01Monthly traces its roots back to 1985, when local real estate agent Don Koch started The Property Owners’ Report.  It was a black-and-white, tabloid-sized newspaper that was mailed to around 14,000 off-island property owners.

“The primary objective was to furnish interesting and useful information to owners of property on the island who lived elsewhere,” Koch said.

Most stories were related to real estate and financial topics, such as Bobby Ginn obtaining control of Sea Pines, Wexford, Port Royal and Indigo Run plantations in February 1986. The report also featured local news, such as the Sea Pines gate fee increasing from $3 to $5 in March 1986.

Each issue was around 16 pages, with an annual subscription cost of $18. Hilton Head’s population was around 17,000 back then. As the island grew, so did the The Property Owners’ Report.

THE BERGERON ERA

In 1987, the publication was sold to New Hampshire residents Joe and Terry Bergeron. Under their ownership, The Property Owners’ Report added spot color to its cover and grew to around 24 pages with more in-depth feature stories and stronger editorial content. An opinion section and a community calendar were added.

In 1988, the publication was renamed Property Owners’ Monthly. To serve the island’s growing business community, the paper added more business related stories. The Bergeron’s hired award-winning journalist Janet Smith as editor and added more photography to the paper.

Following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the publication was shortened to Monthly and added a third section devoted to social- and lifestyle-oriented stories.

THE WOLF ERA

Early transition from newspaper to magazine

The next significant change came in 1992, when the publication was purchased by Mark Wolf, a newspaper publisher from Ohio. Wolf kept the same editorial concept and was able to improve the look, navigation and organization of the publication. He continued with the motto “writing worth reading” that was started by the Bergeron’s.

Current publisher Lori Goodridge -Cribb was the only full time sales representative at the time. Wolf’s publishing experience and Lori’s love and knowledge of the island made for a successful team. With the list of advertisers growing, Monthly expanded to around 100 pages.

“He was amazing to work with,” Lori said. “He was quiet but had a great smile and a positive attitude. He helped teach me about selling. He introduced special sections for the first time.”

Monthly began transforming into a magazine in February 1993, shrinking from the shape and size of a newspaper to the size of Life magazine. Two advertising sections were added — the Real Estate Gallery and a rotating special section, covering a variety of topics.  In July 1994, Monthly switched formats from its larger Life magazine size to that of a traditional magazine, with a four-color cover and slick black and white inside pages.

Opinion columns  gave voice to respected islanders such as Buzz Carota, Cathy Goodelll, Cheryl French Stehle, Scottie Davis, Don Brewer and Todd Ballantine. More attention was given to lifestyle stories and event photography.

“People want to see people,” Lori said.

THE FREY ERA BEGINS

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In August 1995, current owners Marc and Anuska Frey purchased Hilton Head Monthly. The entrepreneur had been publisher of Golfer’s Guide since 1992, a network of eight regional golf, lifestyle and real estate magazines across the Southeast.

Marc, a native of Zurich, Switzerland, came from a family with century-deep roots in the publishing and printing industry. From 1981 to 1987, he served as CEO and chairman of Jean-Frey-Group, the second-largest media conglomerate in Switzerland, producing a monthly business magazine, a weekly newspaper and a number of special-interest publications. He had owned property on the island since 1987 and moved with his wife, Anuska, and their two sons here full time in 1991.

“I looked at it as an opportunity to prove myself with an editorial-driven publication in the USA” Marc said. “I felt that the publication could serve an important role as a forum to connect the Island.”

LET THERE BE COLOR

30yearsofmonthly04His first move was to strengthen the editorial credibility and give the publication a consistent look by introducing full color to the inside of the magazine.

Marc said. “I felt if we put out a product that our community wanted to read, the advertisers would follow.”

It was a bold move, considering that Monthly advertising wasn’t an easy sell at the time.

“I was working with a client and they opted to buy an ad for the Watermelon Festival instead of Hilton Head Monthly,” Lori remembers. “Marc and I looked at each other and said, ‘Alright, that’s it. We’re going to become a primary advertising buy. Our mission was to have the best stories, the most beautiful photography and the most interesting layouts. It’s a goal we set that day and is something we’ve never stopped chasing.”

A WINNING FORMULA

In December 1995, Marc promoted Lori to publisher and made her a shareholder.

“When asked what a publisher does Marc told me it was easy,” Lori said. ‘You just have to engage the readers and make the advertisers happy.  Everything flows from there. I didn’t have much of a business background. I didn’t know much about budgets. Luckily Marc was there to mentor me through all that and helped me make good business decisions.”

Lori was the operational person while Marc kept an eye on the big picture. For Monthly, it has been a winning partnership for the past 20 years.

SUCCESS FOLLOWED THE INVESTMENT

The investment in good content and quality presentation paid off.

 Local businesses quickly realized it was being mailed to and read by a majority of local homeowners. With the area’s rapid growth, it became a primary buy both on and off the island.  

“We weren’t trying to rehash all the negative things the newspaper would cover,” Frey said. “Our goal was keeping a positive vibe about Hilton Head and focus on what makes this community special. When we did tackle a tough or negative issue, we made sure we balanced it with other types of content and most importantly all of our content was local written by local writers and illustrated by local photographers.”

The 120th issue of Monthly was printed in February 1997, with distribution now exapnded to all homeowners from Sea Pines to Sun City Hilton Head and second-home owners in all 50 states. 

MONTHLY CONNECTS WITH THE WORLD

30yearsofmonthly03In 1999, Monthly became one of the first local businesses to unveil a website. Many other print media companies ignored the Internet until it was too late.

“Very early on, Lori and I agreed that we are in the business of connecting our clients with the end consumer,” Marc said. “There are many was to accomplish this. It can be an event, it can be an email, it can be digital copy of the magazine. We knew that with the Internet we can now connect to our audiences around the clock everywhere in the world and that it would lead to even greater readership.”

Keeping up with technology was a high priority. Monthly’s website, www.hiltonheadmonthly.com, has been redesigned every two years since it was launched and its readership continues to increase steadily. Other digital assets were also added, including a newsletter, dedicated e-blasts and social media releases.

TELLING ALL SIDES OF THE STORY

By the early 2000s, Monthly had grown to around 160 pages. The editorial team took advantage of the extra space with editorial content that delved deeper into local topics and features.

“We could actually take some time and devote space to telling the whole story,” Lori said. “Other outlets just didn’t have the time, space or resources to do that. It’s something we became known for and are still doing to this day.”

Like many other local businesses, Monthly took advantage of the talent drawn to the Lowcountry. Over the years, many distinguished writers, designers, editors and sales representatives have worked for the magazine simply because it was the largest and most respected magazine in the Lowcountry. It has resulted in a publication of much higher quality than is expected from a community of this size.

“We hear it all the time when we talk to our printer in Pennsylvania, who also prints many major city magazines,” Frey said. “We also get confirmation from readers who came here from much larger markets. A lot of them are surprised by our quality.”

In addition to talent, Marc credits the magazine’s success to the moral integrity of the company.

“We are who we are because we tried to make a credible product first that would reap success and profits later,” he said. “I see so many publishers fail by trying that the other way around. They come in with the glitz and glamor with the initial motive of turning a profit, then they don’t back it up with substance over time. All of the successful publishing names I can think of started with integrity first.”

MONTHLY EXPANDS TO THE LOWCOUNTRY

Monthly decided to cross the bridge in 2000, starting a new magazine to serve the rapidly growing communities of Bluffton and Okatie. The magazine was called Lowcountry Monthly and was mailed to many homeowners in both communities. Like Hilton Head Monthly, it was a full-color magazine filled with 100 percent local content.

“We realized by adding Bluffton, we double our market size,” Frey said. “We knew it wouldn’t double our advertising revenue, but knew it had the potential to over time. While Bluffton has its own identity, it is connected to Hilton Head in many ways.”

FIGHTING THROUGH ADVERSITY

30yearsofmonthly05As businesses rapidly downsized and closed around 2008 and 2009, all advertising-driven media publications suffered; Monthly was no exception. 

“It would have been easy to just give up, close the doors and move on,” Marc said. “But this was too important to us. I think we were always focused on the bigger picture. We took on some debt, tightened our belt and reshuffled things to work our way through it.”

BACK TO GOOD

While the recession made Monthly temporarily smaller, it’s commitment to 100 percent local content and the community never waivered.  As local economic conditions slowly improved, so did the publishing entity and new horizons could be envisioned again.

“The long-term success of a brand depends on having a good vision and a team that is capable of executing it. To do that day in day out you must have a talented, hard-working team. We feel very lucky to have such a good team in place,” Lori said.

As an example of the drive for expansion Monthly started to target the tourist market in 2014 by launching a new visitor oriented website www.HHIGO.com and publishing the Hilton Head Island Vacation Guide and the Hilton Head/Bluffton Visitor’s Map.

Along with a full array of digital products, it puts Monthly in a position to be viable for another 30 years.

Technology will certainly change the way content is consumed over the next 30 years. But there will always be a need to connect clients with the end consumers, there will always be an audience for local stories written in a professional matter and there will always be a need to keep up with what is going in your neighborhood.

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

To help celebrate our 30th anniversary, we asked advertisers in this issue to tell us how long they've been serving the Lowcountry.

0-10 YEARS

4M Metal, 9 years
Affordables Apparel, 2 years
American Wood Reface, 6 years
Bishop Eye Associates, 8 years
Bluffton Center for Dentistry, 2 years
Bomboras Grille, 5 years
Budget Blinds, 10 years
Clark Cramer Frank-Sea Pines RealEstate, years 7 years
Charbar, 3 years
Coastal Bliss, 2 years
Crast Custom Homes, 6 years
Daybreak Adult Care Services, 2 years
Delishee Yo, 5 years
Diamond Realty & Property Management, 6 years
Ela’s Blu Water Grille, 5 years
Equilibrium, 5 Years
Esposito Construction Inc., 7 years
Foundation Realty, 9 years
Gifted, 5 years
The Greenery Antique & Garden Collectibles Shop, 10 years
Hampton Lake, 10 years
Harbour Health Insurance Solutions, 6 years
Hilton Head Dental, 9 years
Holy Tequila, 1 year
HUB International Southeast, 4 years
Island Bagel and Deli, 6 years
Island Medical Spa, 9 years
KPM Flooring, 8 years
Local Pie, just opened
Merchant Service Center of HHI, 10 years
N Hance Wood Renewal, 3 years
Palmetto Moon, 4 years
Porter & Pig, 1 year
Radiance, 7 years
Rupp Dengler Team, 3 years
Summit Cancer Care, 10 years
Sungate Medical Center, 2 years
Weichert Realty-Coastal Properties, 10 years
Wright Home Services, 8 years
Yadkin Mortgage, 3 years

11-20 YEARS

A Floral Affair, 18 years
Art Café, 16 years
Bauer Dental Associates, 17 years
Beach Properties Hilton Head, 20 years
Big Bamboo Café, 20 years
Coastal States Bank, 11 years
Concours d’Elegance, 14 years
The French Bakery, 17 years
Groomingdales, 11 years
H2 Builders, 20 Years
HIlton Head Heroes, 15 years
Hilton Head Rentals & Golf, 17 years
Island Car Wash, 17 years
Island Girl, 12 years
KBRS MicroFactory, 20 years
The Litter Box, 15 years
Monica Davis INC- Charter One, 17 years
Palmetto Eye, 14 years
Pyramids Hilton Head , 17 Years
Red Fish, 14 years
Rick Saba, 15 years
Sea Grass Grille, 12 years
Serendipity Medical Spa, 11 years
S.M. Bradford, 16 years
SouthCoast Health Imaging, 18 years

21-30 YEARS

Andy Twisdale, 23 years
The Back Door, 27 years
Beyond Exceptional Dentistry - Dr. Brad Durham, 30 years
Bruno’s Landscaping & Nursery, 26 years
Cera Products, Inc., 22 years
Charles Sampson, 30 years
Community Foundation, 21 years
David Carroll, 29 years
Distinctive Granite & Marble, 21 years
Drew Butler, 30 years
The Ferguson Real Estate Team, 26 years
Good Health Unlimited, 29 years
Group 3 Designs, 29 Years
Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, 29 years
Healthy Environments, 25 years
Heritage Fine Jewelry & Gifts, 30 years
Hilton Head Beach & Tennis, 30 years
J Banks Design, 29 years
Jeff Hall, 26 years
Kennedy & Blackshire, 24 years
Mortgage Network, 26 years
Old Oyster Factory, 26 years
Reed Real Estate Group, 29 years
Salty Dog Café, 28 years
Spring Island, 25 years
Dr. Timothy Gross Dental Excellence, 23 years
The Vacation Company, 28 years
Westin Resort & Spa, 30 years
Windmill Harbour Real Estate Co., 25 years

31-PLUS YEARS

Barry Ginn-Exit Real Estate, 34 years
Beaufort Memorial Hospital, 71 years
Bess' Delicatessen and Catering Specialists, 33 years
Candler Hospital, 211 years
Captain Woody's, 33 years
Chamber of Commerce, 58 years
Charlie's L'etoile Verte, 33 years
Children’s Dentistry, 32 years
Coligny Plaza, 60 years
DAS, 61 years
EAC Heating & Air, 34 Years
Evergreen Pet Lodge, 40 years
FACES DaySpa, 32 years
Forsythe Jewelers, 34 years
Fringe, 40 years
Georgia Infirmary, 183 years
Grayco Hardware & Home, 40 years
The Greenery, 42 Years
Hargray, 75 years
Hilton Head Choral Society, 40 years
Hilton Head Exterminators, 47 years
Hilton Head Hospital, 40 years
Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, 34 years
Hospice of the Lowcountry, 33 years
Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks, 48 years
Ken Oliver, 36 years
Knickers, 44 years
Lancaster Real Estate, 37 years
Lottie Woodward - Charter One, 36 years
Mary Telfair Women’s Hospital, 129 years
Moss Creek Community, 41 years
Outside Hilton Head, 36 years
Palmetto Electric, 75 years
Patrick & Taylor Real Estate, 36 years
Pelican's Point Restaurant (formerly Kingfisher), 33 years
Plantation Cabinetry, 31 Years
Plantation Interiors, 43 years
The Porcupine, 40 Years
Pretty Papers & Gifts, 32 years
Resort Rentals of Hilton Head Island, 57 years
Richard MacDonald, 35 years
Schembra Real Estate, 39 years
Sea Pines Montessori, 47 years
Sea Turtle Getaways, 40 years
St. Joseph’s Hospital, 140 years
Truffles Café, 32 years
University of South Carolina Beaufort, 56 years 

THE EVOLUTION OF MONTHLY

report1985: Real estate agent Donald Koch starts The Property Owners’ Report, a 16-page, black-and-white newspaper published once a month. Most stories are related to real estate and finance. It is mailed to virtually every property owner on Hilton Head Island.

1987: New Hampshire residents Joe and Terry Bergeron purchase The Property Owners’ Report, adding color to the cover, a community calendar, an opinion section, more in-depth features stories and stronger editorial content. The newspaper grows to 24 pages.

30yearsofmonthly0141988: The Property Owners’ Report is renamed Property Owners’ Monthly. A section called Enterprise Monthly is added to follow Hilton Head Island’s growing business community. Award-winning journalist Janet Smith is hired as editor, increasing the paper’s editorial credibility.

1989: Property Owners’ Monthly is renamed Monthly Hilton Head Island. A third section called Accent Monthly is added to cover lifestyle stories and social events on Hilton Head Island.

1990: Enterprise Monthly and Accent Monthly are combined and renamed Monthly Hilton Head’s “Section Two.”

30yearsofmonthly01151991: Monthly Hilton Head is renamed Hilton Head Monthly. Current publisher Lori Goodridge-Cribb is hired into advertising sales.

1992: Hilton Head Monthly is purchased by Chillicothe, Ohio, newspaper publisher Mark Wolf. The new owner keeps the same editorial concept but decides to focus on making the publication more visually pleasing.

30yearsofmonthly01161993: Hilton Head Monthly begins to shift from newspaper to magazine, shrinking to the size of Life magazine.  

1994: Hilton Head Monthly introduces a four-color glossy cover on the outside complemented by slick paper on the inside, becoming a true magazine. All ties to the publication’s newspaper beginnings are permanently cut.

1995: Hilton Head Monthly is purchased by Marc Frey, a native of Zurich, Switzerland, and publisher of the successful Golfer’s Guide magazines. Full four-color pages are added to the inside. Lori Goodridge-Cribb is promoted to publisher.

30yearsofmonthly01171997: Hilton Head Monthly undergoes a major redesign with crisper, cleaner and more modern layouts. The magazine continues to grow to meet the expectations of its growing and demanding audience. The first “Intriguing Islanders” section is printed.

1999: Hilton Head Monthly unveils, its first website, www.hiltonheadmonthly.com. It is one of the first local companies to have a site on the Internet.

2000: Hilton Head Monthly launches a new publication named Lowcountry Monthly to cover growing Bluffton and Okatie. The publication is mailed to many homeowners in those communities.

30yearsofmonthly01212001: Monthly introduces Home Resourcebook, an editorial-based magazine geared toward consumers who are buying, building or remodeling. The publication reaches six out-of-area markets and has a readership of nearly 600,000.  

2007: Lowcountry Monthly ends but homeowners who received the publication start receiving Hilton Head Monthly. Rack distribution in those communities is also introduced. Monthly also introduces a new real estate website, Hilton Head Real Estate Properties. Monthly hosts its first Hilton Head Bridal Show.

2008: Monthly redesigns www.hiltonheadmonthly.com.

2009: Monthly introduces its first digital magazine.

30yearsofmonthly01192011: Monthly introduces a new bridal website, www.hiltonheadbridalshow.com.

2012: Monthly starts a weekly newsletter, emailing information to 20,000 subscribers. The most popular component to the free services is the “Your Week Ahead” calendar. Monthly’s website also undergoes another major redesign.

2014: Monthly introduces Bluffton Monthly and begins producing the Hilton Head Island Vacation Guide and the Hilton Head/Bluffton Visitor’s Map. Yearly distribution is 150,000 for the guide and 120,000 for the map. Monthly also launched a health website, www.yourlocalhealthchoice.com.

30yearsofmonthly01202015: Monthly launches a mobile-friendly, responsive new website with more images and user interaction.