Excellent customer service and loyal employees steered him through tough times
■ By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor
The days of going it alone against all competitors appear to be behind Winston Greene this summer as he and wife Jeri vacation in Aspen and contemplate what it will be like working with a competitor instead of against one.
Greene’s brainchild, the Easy-Ad display and classifieds advertising publication, an iconic magazine he and his father founded 43 years ago, is merging with the area’s leading weekly newspaper, The Valley Chronicle.
It’s an idea he and Chronicle Publisher Eric Buskirk have been kicking around for years, but the time just seems right for Greene, who recently sold the Easy-Ad building on Harvard Street to Hemet property owner Simon Chu.
While he may be stepping back from the some of the responsibilities of putting out a weekly publication, Greene intends to keep working with the Easy-Ad advertisers and the Chronicle to help ease the seamless transition to a combined publication. Greene and his former employees at Easy-Ad are already planning the next issue.
The publication started out as a competitor to the Dollar Saver before he and his father, Winston Sr., joined forces on Easy-Ad, and in the course of building up the business, the pair moved several times until they finally bought the building at 155 S. Harvard St.
“It was a real challenge at first,“ says Greene. “It wasn’t until Jack Gosch began advertising with us that we had credibility in the marketplace.”
Competition over the years turned out to be stiff, too. There were the PennySaver, Hemet News, Press Enterprise, and others all competing for the same advertising dollar. Says Greene: “Easy-Ad persevered, however, and earned its customers’ business by providing excellent customer service and making sure that the advertisers knew ‘the customer is always right’ – at least most of the time! “
Despite setbacks the company has endured over the years during a series of business recessions, many of the company’s employees have been with the firm for more than 20 years, including Karen Rogers, office manager of 23 years, and Sue Estrada, who recently retired after 27 years. Greene is proud that he has been able to keep them and earn their loyalty over so many years. He also is pleased that Easy-Ad has been a family business that has allowed his wife Jeri to work when she chooses as well as his sister, Melissa Greene. The business also has allowed him to put two children through college.
While it may be easy to advertise in Easy-Ad, anyone who has owned a small business, particularly a publishing business, knows it’s not easy on the owner. Once the company was sued by Frank Sinatra when it inadvertently used his likeness in an ad.
Despite the challenges, Greene somehow has managed to keep it all together and still find time to enjoy his hobbies – hiking, mountain biking, and reading. With some of the workload off his shoulders now, he says he is considering taking up golf!
“The backbone of our business has been the small business owner – the mom and pop shops in Hemet and San Jacinto that have been loyal customers throughout the years,” says Greene. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Easy-Ad has a loyal following who delight in the little games and puzzles sprinkled throughout the publication such as “find the fork” and assembling scrambled words from an anagram. The publication also lists what’s playing at the movies, something the other publications choose not to do unless they are getting paid for it by the theaters. The magazine also contains drawing contests for children and has sponsored promotions where readers win trips to Catalina and other destinations.
Greene has fostered goodwill throughout the valley by running numerous ads for nonprofits at no cost. Despite its seeming that there are a never-ending number of them these days, Greene has always been willing to give back to the community and has befriended organizations such as the Exchange Club, Assistance League, and Valley Restart.
He’s highly optimistic about the future of Easy-Ad and its merger with The Valley Chronicle because it makes sense economically. “Instead of printing and distributing two publications, you combine them and greatly reduce both printing and distribution costs,” he says. The concept of placing the publication in the mail also represents a big plus for Easy-Ad readers, something that was impractical for an advertising-only publication due to postal regulations favoring newspapers.
“It’s a win-win for both Easy-Ad and The Chronicle,” says Greene. “And with our plans to increase readership of the newspaper, I know the advertisers will be delighted to be in a publication that features first-rate content like the Chronicle, content that has been shown to maintain reader interest.”