IFIRST ME T BILL D’ALEXANDER on a hot and hazy summer day in Chicago in 2000. He was the owner and publisher of Grocery Headquarters, a magazine that he said was fifth in a four-book field, and he was
not happy with it.
Our first meeting was awkward. I worked
for a competitor and he wanted to pick my
brain. I wanted to
see if there was an
opportunity for me
at his company, and
as they say, did not
want to give any
away for free.
I joined the team
soon after, figuring that Bill had the
vision and desire to
make some exciting
things happen at the magazine. He told me
he wanted to hire good people who understood both the magazine business and retail.
He wanted people who were willing to roll up
their sleeves and use their heads. I fooled him
into hiring me.
Bill owned the company until late
2004, when he sold it to the Macfadden
Communications Group, its current owner.
In those four-plus years I had the opportunity to work side-by-side with a man who
truly cared about the grocery industry and
his own magazine, not to mention the people. His rules were simple: Get the job done
in the best, most efficient way possible and
create a magazine that helps to educate the
retail community. Oh, and have fun doing it.
The results are still being felt today, 12
years after he sold the company. Grocery
Headquarters went from an also-ran in the
supermarket business publication industry
to the largest, and I think, the most respected
magazine in the field. We did it because of
the people Bill hired, many of whom are still
with the publication years after Bill left.
Bill passed away at the age of 89 in mid-July.
He will be remembered by many for his
generosity, caring and hearty laugh. He loved
a good Italian meal and may have told the
same story once, twice or 10 times too many.
He was a great family man, but his family
went a lot deeper than his sons and his wife.
If you worked for Bill, he considered you part
of his family and took the time to get to know
you and know your life.
He also wanted to serve the supermarket
industry. He made it a point to get to know
retailers around Chicago and find out what
issues they had and what kept them up at
night. Then he told us to go figure out ways
to solve these problems. It was not an easy
task but we did the best we could.
The best way to remember Bill, I believe, is
to keep doing what he taught us. Publish a
magazine that educates the grocery community, but do it in such a way that is exciting
and challenging—and most of all, fun.
I stayed in contact periodically with Bill
over the years. Mostly it was to ask advice
when times got tough. He was always there
with a helpful idea and still wanted us to succeed even if he was no longer involved.
Thanks for everything, Bill. You will be
missed. Bang the drum slowly.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
GOODBYE OLD FRIEND
Paying tribute to Bill D’Alexander, one-time owner and publisher of Grocery Headquarters.
By Seth Mendelson
Seth Mendelson is publisher
and editorial director of Grocery