By Steve Noe
Looking back at the rich, 55-year history of this magazine, I feel truly honored and blessed to have served as its editor and caretaker for the past 16-1/2 years.
Bill Quinn, who celebrated his 102nd birthday on May 15, founded this magazine as Lawn Equipment Journal (LEJ) in September 1959. Ten years later, he had the foresight to rename the magazine Outdoor Power Equipment, starting with the September 1969 issue. With the help of his wife Lynn (“Lennie”) and son Rix, Bill Quinn proceeded to grow OPE into the number one OPE dealer magazine for the next 20 years before he sold it for an offer he couldn’t refuse in 1988. Bill Quinn chronicles the first 30 years of this magazine in our cover story on pages 14-19, so I will devote the rest of this column to addressing the history of the magazine during my tenure.
When Bill Quinn switched the name of the magazine to Outdoor Power Equipment, I was only about 3 months old. And when I was named the editor of OPE, starting with the December 1997 issue, I figured that I would hang onto the job for about a year or so and then move on. Well, I took such a liking to this industry that I did the math the other day, and determined that the next issue will be my 200th as editor of OPE. And it has been one heck of a ride.
Along the way, I’ve had the great fortune to travel to several fantastic places, meet many incredible people, and make some great friends. I don’t want to name the names of those people because I’m afraid that I may accidentally leave someone out, but you know who you are. I’ve enjoyed traveling at least once to the following destinations: Cancun, Mexico; Las Vegas; Orlando, Jacksonville and Amelia Island, Fla.; San Diego and Napa Valley, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; San Antonio; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo.; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Portland, Ore.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Indianapolis; Hershey, Pa.; and Milwaukee and Kohler, Wis. And while I believe that I’ve been to Louisville 18 times, I look forward to going there every year for the annual trade show now known as the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO).
I’ve witnessed so many changes in this industry from consolidation at all levels (with many manufacturers being acquired and reduced to brand names and often discontinued) to the changing of the guard at companies and other organizations to product innovations and technological advances such as the emergence of e-commerce and Social Media. I remember when many dealers only used a phone and fax machine to do business. Many dealers didn’t own a computer and refused to use one, and they certainly didn’t have their own websites. Now, dealers must have both to survive, and probably should have multiple mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, as well as a Facebook page. OPE has undergone some transformations on my watch too from being published at a digest size to a standard size to a slightly larger-than-standard size and recently back to standard size again. As for my job, I’ve gone from serving not only as the editor of a monthly magazine, but also as the editor of a website (www.outdoorpowerequipment.com) and a weekly e-newsletter (OPExtra) to reach out to readers at least five times a month…and that’s not even counting staying in touch with you at the drop of a hat via our Facebook page at GreenMediaMags. Yes, we live in a much different, fast-paced world than we did when I started at OPE.
Where will this job and industry take me next? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m looking forward to continuing this journey, and I hope you will join me for the ride.