Most weeks, I try to write about topics that impact or inform or amuse the greatest number of readers possible. This week, I’m taking a personal day for a few hundred of our readers, though maybe there’s a lesson for all of us beneath the surface.
Most of the longtime readers of The Leader know about our old office, which sat just south of the Oak Forest Post Office on East TC Jester Boulevard. In 1982, The Leader moved to that office on the southwest corner of the building, and we called it home until our lease expired at the end of June this year. If you’re counting at home, our office was there for 38 years.
When our company bought The Leader in 2012, I sat in an office near the front of the building, and my window opened to a metal rack that stored copies of our free newspapers. No matter what time of day I was there – early morning or late at night – the steady stream of cars stopping to pick up a paper always amazed me.
Each week, we set 10 bundles of newspapers at the front door (100 papers in a bundle), and by the end of the week, rarely did a newspaper remain. Sure, we had our group of sticky fingers, taking a handful to line a birdcage or stuff a moving box, but most people came and picked up one or two papers, looking for a job or a coupon or, every once a while, this column.
On Thursday mornings, when we’d fill the rack with the week’s papers, we’d always have a few cars in the parking lot, patiently waiting for a week’s worth of printed news.
If I sound nostalgic, it’s because I am. Our company has changed a lot since those quiet days at The Leader office. We own more newspapers and companies now, and our office – admittedly – is quite a bit nicer than the flood-prone flex space we once called home. These days, we sit a few blocks south at the Preserve office complex on East TC Jester near 610.
When our lease expired at the old office in June, we had to take all our belonging with us, including that well-worn rack that has been touched hundreds of thousands of times in the past decade. And as you might imagine, our phones immediately began to ring.
“Where can we get a copy of The Leader now?”
While our new office is only a few blocks from the old one, it’s hard for most of our readers to find. Our building is stuck in the back of a wooded area with limited parking, and we’re on the second floor, making it difficult for some of our senior readers.
After a few phone calls, we found a solution. We had a wonderful relationship with one of our neighbors at the old Leader office, Houston Dance Works. Autumn Rosemond, the owner, knew how many people came by to pick up newspapers, and said she’d love to have the rack outside her business.
A few days later, we had a new Leader rack a few hundred feet from the old one, making it easy for the hundreds of people who pick up newspapers there each week.
Except that didn’t last long. We got a call the next week that our newspaper rack was gone. We asked the property owner, Kagan Realty, if they knew what happened to it. They pleaded innocent, but also told us that the owner of the business did not want us to replace it.
Sounds odd, right? First, in the eight years our company has owned The Leader, we never once had a rack stolen from the property. Our business manager, Jane Broyles, worked at that office for 24 years, and not once did we have a rack stolen.
Then came the really odd call. Autumn at Houston Dance Works said she never asked for the rack to be removed, and I conveyed that to the folks at Kagan Realty. They backtracked and said since The Leader was no longer a tenant in the office, they don’t want us to have a newspaper rack there.
It doesn’t matter that Autumn asked us to put one there. That’s like C&D Hardware in the Heights not allowing us to have a rack at their store because The Leader doesn’t have an office there.
We all know what this is, and it’s too bad. Even though The Leader was a wonderful tenant for Kagan for nearly four decades, their pettiness means the hundreds of people who rely on The Leader for local information can’t make the same drive they’ve made for years to get a local newspaper.
Look, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal. People will get in a new habit, and we’ll all forget in the long run.
Here’s what I won’t forget, and maybe this is the larger lesson for all of us: One of the great things about our neighborhoods is that we treat this area of Houston as a close-knit community. Larger companies like Kagan obviously don’t get that, and it’s why we should do everything possible to support our locally owned businesses.
And in that spirit, the folks who spent years driving to The Leader to find a newspaper can now hop over to Shawn Salyers’ restaurant, Mytiburger on 43rd Street, and pick up a paper at our new rack there. And maybe on one of your stops, you’ll buy a burger from him and support another local business.