THE SHOPPER REFLECTS ITS CLIENTS:
Entrepreneurial, family-owned, the foundation of America
by Judi Tull
This story is largely the work of our late, long-time editor, Judi Tull.
We have updated it through today as we begin our 36th year.
It would be easy to tell the story of The Shopper's first 35 years with just the facts - how Jean Loxley bought a printing company, started a publication with a hand-delivered circulation of just 3,000 copies, and grew that publication until it is now ten editions direct-mailed each month to 100,000 homes and businesses from the Oceanfront to Smithfield and from Norfolk south into North Carolina. And how it is poised to continue its growth not only in circulation but in the exciting world of e-commerce as well.
But The Shopper's story is not one of facts alone, and neither is the publication itself.
The Shopper is about feelings, about a philosophy founded on Jean's belief in the value of doing well and promoting others' well-being and success. It's about a way of doing business that supports the highest ethical standards and encourages employees to have not only successful careers but also richly lived family lives outside of the office.
"We all like to do business with neighbors whom we know and who know us.
It's that simple idea that is at the core of our business.
We love telling our clients' stories."
- Jean Loxley-Barnard
Jean's intention from the beginning - and it hasn't changed in those 35 years - was to have a publication that focuses on getting to know the people behind the businesses readers do business with, their hopes, their dreams, their histories.
"We all like to do business with neighbors whom we know and who know us, she says. "It's that simple idea that is at the core of our business. We love telling our clients' stories. In these days of CNN and instant information, the magazine we want to sit down and read cover to cover is something much closer to home. And that's what The Shopper is.
At the time Jean bought Great Bridge Press Printing, she was a doctor's wife and the stay-at-home mother of two children who were 12 and 18. It was time to do something for herself. Writing and publishing had been in her heart since she'd worked as a hometown newspaper reporter become editor in Massachusetts, which had begun in high school, then continued throughout her college days with George Washington University's yearbook and newspaper. She thought then about a publication of her own one day.
That first issue of The Shopper went out on November 23, 1981, as Jean and her children drove around Great Bridge to place three collated and folded sheets of yellow bond paper inside doors in every other neighborhood, every other street, and every other house. The community response was immediate and wholly positive.
"People loved it, she recalls, beaming. "And they loved it because it was from their hometown, about their neighbors."
In those early days, she hired kids from surrounding neighborhoods to collate, fold, and deliver the emerging publication, which was still being printed in-house. The few employees she had did everything from selling ads to designing the pages, setting them up, and printing them.
A blizzard in Ohio, where the original yellow bond paper came from, created the first major change for The Shopper and the first of several events that seemed like catastrophes but turned out to be blessings. While Jean was away on vacation, one of her employees called to say that the paper wouldn't be arriving on time for deadline because the trucks couldn't get out of the snow. She had to make a quick decision. "Do it on newsprint," she said.
On newsprint it was; on newsprint it is.
The popularity of The Shopper skyrocketed in the new format.
"Over these 35 years we've grown, matured, and honed our neighborhood advertising magazine to the delight of our readers and advertisers alike," Jean explains. "Our readers have come to expect the highest quality writing for interesting stories about businesses in their community, informational columns written by professionals in a wide variety of fields, attractive ads, and photographs of neighbors having fun together and doing good works in the community.
Jean is highly involved with the
various publications and startled herself
a few months ago when realizing
her Loxley-Barnard Family Publications were
mailing 1.3 million issues in a year!
"Our advertisers know us as an advertising vehicle that works for them at prices even small businesses can afford. Some clients, such as Jerry Harris (Remodeling) and Brian Midgette, D.D.S., have been with us since the 80s," she adds.
The Shopper grew from the single Great Bridge Shopper to 10 distinct community editions, a fact that often comes as a surprise to people who think that "their Shopper is the only one. By offering such targeted niche Shoppers, advertisers are assured a menu of options for placing their advertising where it will directly reach the people most likely to do business with them.
Office space has grown to 3,400 square feet in Jean's building on Kempsville Road by the water tower at North Battlefield Boulevard. The team has grown, too. With six account executives, two full-time editors, a web developer, two graphic designers, office manager, administrative assistant, and freelance writers, all under the direction of Chief Operating Officer Nikki Young and the guidance of Jean as Chief Executive Officer and Publisher, The Shopper sails a tightly run ship where having fun and living well-balanced lives are as important as work done well.
The Shopper was offering "flex time" long before the phrase was even coined.
"I've hired adults who are exceptional, Jean says. "It's good for business and good for our team members to be in an atmosphere that supports families and their needs, emotional as well as financial. That's one of our foundations of success."
Another secret to success has been Jean's indomitable spirit in the face of crisis and change, and her ability to see the ultimate benefits and blessings in events that might have thrown a lesser person off track.
By 1992, it became clear to her that her long-time marriage was ending and she was on the cusp of being involved in an unpleasant and very public divorce. She knew, too, that she would need to focus on herself and her well-being through this difficult time. A buyer came along, and, with mixed emotions, she realized a six-figure sale of the publication she'd given birth to.
Three years later two things happened: she'd come through the worst of the emotional devastation, and the man who had purchased The Shopper was suffering the results of out-of-state management. He closed up shop.
"I sent him a fax," Jean recalls. "I told him, 'You came along when I needed you. You were always a gentleman to deal with and what I'd like now is to have the business name back, along with our client list and furniture.' As gracious as ever, he gave me everything I asked for, no strings attached, even though he was under no legal obligation to do so."
The impact of his generosity and the often-surprising turns life takes were not lost on her.
"I saw the return of The Shopper to me as truly a gift from God," she says.
Since Jean resumed publishing in March of 1996, The Shopper's business has tripled. She took part in the emergence of the Internet by hiring Terry Young of Internet Marketing and Design to create what was then a state-of-the-art web site in 1998. In 2007, they launched a redesigned TheShopper.com to give clients and readers even more exciting opportunities.
COO Nikki Young has been here almost from the beginning.
"Jean has had me longer than my parents have," Nikki says with a laugh. "I came to work with her when I was 21 and that was 30 years ago."
"I've watched Nikki grow and mature," Jean says fondly. "She has been pivotal in our growth and success. She knows every aspect of our business and oversees our day-to-day operation with integrity, fairness, and efficiency. I've yet to see her horizon."
For Nikki, The Shopper's success is founded on a clear, simple principle: "We are a local business, locally owned. We are part of the community," she says. "Our advertisers know that we're just like them."
Having married Terry Barnard in 1997, Jean (now Loxley-Barnard) enjoys having her husband, an accomplished photographer, partner with her in publicizing both business clients and charities through words and photos in the magazines.
The Shopper's success
is founded on a clear, simple principle:
"We are a local business, locally owned.
We are part of the community.
Our advertisers know
that we're just like them."
Jean's role within the company has changed in many ways; she no longer sells ads, writes stories, and acts as a "Jill of all trades" on a daily basis. She has been very active within the community and is a long-time Rotarian, sat on the Board of the Chesapeake Alliance, was named First Citizen of Chesapeake in 2011 and was honored as 2004 Woman of the Year by the Women's Division of the Chesapeake Chamber of Commerce. Over the years Jean has served on many regional boards and commissions and has committed The Shopper to tithe by promoting local charities and organizations.
"I'm enjoying my role as Publisher and CEO, Jean says. "This gives me an opportunity to be a representative of our business in the community, to deal with larger concepts and to look ahead. I see my involvement becoming more of a catalyst and helping facilitate the next steps for The Shopper.
In 2009 Doctor To Doctor Magazine, mailed twice a year to physicians and dentists in Southside, was launched, and is now ready for expansion to reach patients. Main Street, The Business to Business Magazine, was introduced in 2014.
Jean is highly involved with the various publications and startled herself a few months ago when realizing her Loxley-Barnard Family Publications were mailing 1.3 million issues in a year!
Looking back over the last 35 years, Jean can see where The Shopper has been, but her particular skill is looking ahead and seeing where the future will lead as they enter year 36.
"When I started The Shopper, I had several specific goals. I wanted to create a publication I would enjoy and to make a difference in the world. I wanted to shine a good light on people in business and to highlight the 'everyman' and 'everywoman' who are good neighbors," Jean explains. "Every one of us can change the world in our own small way."
And The Shopper will continue doing just that. Stay tuned.
133 Kempsville Road
Chesapeake, VA 23320