Business Issue: How I Did It Feature Package

For the "How I Did It" cover package in our ancillary business publication, I profiled two local business owners who faced obstacles and turned their companies into unexpected successes.


How I Did It
11 Inspiring Tales of Unexpected Success


Featured on the Cover:
CHARGED UP
Lew Hoff
President, Bartizan Connects; Chairman, Addressograph Bartizan


...“If I had any brains, I would’ve said that I’m not going to compete with these other companies,” says the Yonkers resident. “I knew nothing about manufacturing. I didn’t have any money. I wasn’t bright enough to evaluate my obstacles. But not knowing anything meant anything was possible.” Armed with no knowledge and diving headlong into his company, Hoff was able to create a business that sold millions of credit-card imprinting machines and today employs more than 20 people.

After graduating with a degree in economics from UMass Amherst, Hoff did a four-year stint in the Air Force and held a couple of sales jobs when he returned. When one of the companies went under in 1970, Hoff and coworker Ed O’Reilly decided to form their own business. “He had an idea for a portable credit-card imprinting machine,” Hoff says. Though they knew nothing about manufacturing, the duo jumped into an industry that already had stiff competition; indeed, two businesses that made the same devices were Fortune 500 companies. “Out of the five companies that made these machines, we were number five,” Hoff says.

Hoff and O’Reilly manufactured the machines out of a converted stable on 76th Street in Manhattan. Hoff also lived there, illegally. A floating crew of friends, actors, and the unemployed worked at assembling the machines, and Hoff and O’Reilly got jobs waiting tables at nearby O’Brien’s Tavern to make ends meet. “I’d work at O’Brien’s until four am and get home at four-thirty,” he says. “The people who worked for us would show up at about eight am. I’d have to be up when they arrived. Then I worked with them until I had to be back at O’Brien’s.”

PICTURE PERFECT
Anthony Trama
Owner/Operator, Creator’s Media Group


...Trama’s accomplishments become all the more impressive when you consider his background. When he was 9 years old, his parents went through a rough divorce—one that was especially tough on his mother. He was sent to live at Andrus, a residential school in Yonkers. “It’s tough being so young and without your family,” he says. “It’s like going to college when you’re nine years old. I had to take on a lot of responsibilities and learn how to take care of myself. When I left, I was twelve, and I was pretty self-sufficient.”

That sense of independence led Trama to start working when he was 13, caddying at a local golf club. “It was one of the best jobs you could have at that age.” He caddied every summer while he attended Valhalla High School. Then, in 1999, when he was 19, he enrolled in night classes at The Westchester Business Institute (now The College of Westchester) so he could intern at Creators, shooting and editing videos, which almost immediately became a full-time job. “Video was the medium you could do the most with,” he says. “It tested my creative skills.”

Click through to read the rest of the cover package online, or download the PDF of Lew Hoff's profile above.


Profile: FaTye

My profile of a local resident who went from near-homelessness to starring in regional theater.

Big River, Big Journey

...Though FaTye is a natural singer and performer, he still had a lot of ground to make up in his training. Luckily, the Westchester theater community embraced him. “Ninety percent of my training happened in Westchester,” he says. FaTye worked with the Broadway Training Center in Hastings-on-Hudson, the Actors Conservatory Theatre in Yonkers, the Lighthouse Youth Theatre in Thornwood, and the Lagond Music School in Elmsford, among others. “He’s incredibly hard-working,” Mallah says. “At Children’s Village, on one snowy day, he just got up early and shoveled all the walks.”

After high school, he studied at the American Musical Dramatic Academy and the Collaborative Arts Project before attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Not wanting to give up his apartment in Elmsford, he’d wake up at 4 am to commute to his 8 am classes. “I was never late,” he says.

Now, he’s starring as Jim in Big River, a show he calls “the pinnacle of my life” because of its parallels to his personal history. “Jim tries to get away from hardship, knowing something better is out there for him,” he says. “That’s who I am. I was always looking for the light, for the freedom.”

 

Click through to read the rest of the profile online, or download the PDF above.

914 Inc Premiere

My contributions to our recently launched business magazine:

Our Power Dozen: Catherine Marsh

Profiling a nonprofit leader for our "Power Dozen" cover story: "Philanthropy is hard. There’s deciding what kinds of organizations you support, vetting them for legitimacy, and setting up a payment plan, not to mention all of that paperwork. Catherine Marsh, executive director of the 30-plus-year-old, five-employee Westchester Community Foundation, makes philanthropy easy—and possible for people who wouldn’t be able to do the legwork otherwise...'It’s one thing to give away fifty thousand dollars,' she adds, 'and it’s another thing to say, "Where can this fifty thousand dollars have the most benefit?"'"

A Picture of Success in Tarrytown

How one local performing arts institution has been successful during the recession: "In tough times, economists say life’s little extras—like tickets to concerts and plays—are the first things slashed from the family budget. Maybe those economists should study the Tarrytown Music Hall. Today, when many arts organizations are pulling back, the historic Main Street theater is growing. The Music Hall saw an increase of 31 percent in paid attendance from 2008 to 2009—just when Wall Street was hitting its roughest patch—and those numbers have held steady for 2010. Look back further, and the picture gets even rosier: attendance has grown more than 400 percent since 2005."

November, December, and January

Best of the Decade
An editorial feature package—edited by me and written with other editorial staffers—about the best county institutions that have been in business since the magazine was founded ten years ago. "One decade. Ten years of tireless research, experimentation, and reporting. Year after year, we scout out the most superlative offerings in Westchester County for our annual 'Best of Westchester' issue. Now, we’ve undertaken the enormous task of reviewing all of our previous editors' picks, distilling them down to the absolutely essential—the most stupendous, the most stunning, the most delicious, the most thrilling, the most dazzling—to bring you the 'Best of the Decade.' Think of it as the Best of the Best of Westchester."

Then & Now
A feature about how the county has changed in the past ten years: "Where do you go when, on a warm and breezy day, you want to have a drink or a bite to eat along the Hudson River? X2O? Half Moon? Red Hat on the River? The Day Boat Café? The Boathouse? A decade ago, none of these summertime staples would have been an option. The Hudson was not where we went to have fun. The river wasn’t for recreation—it was for work. (Not glamorous work, either—Riverkeeper called it the 'region’s sewer.') The water was polluted, the sites were choked off from the rest of the county, and it still had the workhorse vibe of lingering manufacturing industries, many of which had already taken flight, leaving chemical-filled messes in their wake."

She Checked It Out
A Q&A with writer Marilyn Johnson: "The old stereotype of the librarian with the tight bun, horn-rimmed glasses, and finger pressed to her lips in the 'shhh' position has been shattered. Now, you’re more likely to see librarians with tattoos, funky haircuts, and blogs that—rather than being meek and reserved—actually are quite loud-mouthed and opinionated. Marilyn Johnson, Briarcliff resident for the past 24 years, is one of the writers to shatter the fussy old preconception about librarians. Her book, This Book Is Overdue!, published in February, chronicles the work librarians do today, from getting the library plugged in to fighting the Patriot Act."

Happening Holidays
A round-up of holiday events outside of the usual performances of Handel and The Nutcracker: "People often forget that A Christmas Carol is one of the best ghost stories of all time. If you love Christmas/Halloween mash-ups, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and want to see the Dickens tale become even more ghastly, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has a new show just for you. A Sleepy Hollow Christmas Carol, adapted by Jean-Paul Richard, weaves together A Christmas Carol and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In it, Scrooge, played by Mamaroneck’s John Treacy Egan, is visited by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman."

Totally Goth
A review of a local production of Jekyll & Hyde: "Behind every great man there’s a great woman and, in the case of split personalities, there are two."

Four Questions For...David Harbour
A Q&A with an actor in The Merchant of Venice and The Green Hornet: "'Al Pacino is a real gentleman—generous and gracious. He’s really grounded in being an actor and loves working on scenes. But, on stage, he’s like an untrained animal—you never know what he’s going to do.'"

Hepladock the Mylagoat
An item about a locally produced game that uses nonsense words: "'People think the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with the idea, but it’s not—it’s getting the idea in front of people,' Phelps says. After the meeting with the buyer, Barnes and Noble agreed to stock 48 copies of the game. Today, five years later, Yamodo sells more than 30,000 copies per year through Barnes and Noble, Toys R’ Us, and independent retailers, as well as its own website (yamodo.com)."

Book Clubs' Best Reads
A round-up of what local book clubs are reading: "Looking for a great book recommendation? Look no further than local active readers—the ones who go to their book-group meetings having actually read the books, not just to socialize."

November Culture Highlights
Barenaked Ladies, Anna Deveare Smith, Kathleen Hill, and more.

November Home Theater
The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, The Pacific, and The Goonies.

December Culture Highlights
Cyndi Lauper, Judy Gold, and more.

December Home Theater
Inception, The Other Guys, Despicable Me, and Futurama Vol. 5.

January Culture Highlights
Citizen Cope, Twelfth Night, the African American Writers and Readers Literary Tea, and more.

January Home Theater
Genre movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Machete, The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, and Justified.

Please click the links to read the articles in full.

January, February, and March


We started 2010 with lots of service, and I put together some great packages for the beginning of the year.

How to Do Just About Anything

A huge package full of tips on picking up any skills, from beer pong strategies to nuclear-meltdown preparedness. "Look back on your New Year’s resolutions. Did you vow to become a smarter, handier, more well-rounded person? That’s all well and good, but did you come up with a game plan for how to do it, too? No? Lucky for you, we did. Westchester’s packed with experts ready to teach you everything from the art of faking conversations with wine snobs to shedding those holiday pounds (while at work)."

Read This and Save a Bundle
Another service-packed feature, this time about saving money in the county: "How smart you are, you will think as you gaze at the best buy in your closet, that you were able to find that of-the-moment hot-ticket item for half price while your neighbors had to pay top dollar. And that’s what the best shoppers do: they don’t buy cheap items—they hunt, scour, and hustle until they can find great items at lower prices. And, believe us, it takes a lot of work. Lucky for you, we’ve done a lot of that work for you. We asked the pros, expert shoppers, and proud cheapskates (meet some of them here) to tell us how to find the best bargains in the county. Put down those coupon-clipping scissors and read on."

The Producer: Emily Gerson Saines
A profile of the executive producer of Temple Grandin: "When Cynthia Nixon accepted the Best Actress Tony Award for her performance in Rabbit Hole, there were only three people she mentioned by name: the playwright, the director, and Emily Gerson Saines."

Theater Review: 42nd Street
A review of a local production of the classic musical: "The characters in 42nd Street are excited to be cast in a new Broadway musical, not just for the sake of their showbiz careers, but because the economy is bad and they’re grateful for the jobs—sound familiar at all? Luckily, even if you haven’t been touched by the recession, the Westchester Broadway Theater’s 42nd Street gives you a lot of show for your money."

Five Places to Propose
Where to pop the question: "With Valentine’s Day in the air, and thoughts turning to romance, are you feeling inspired to buy a ring and ask for your true love’s hand? Finding someone to marry is the hard part—proposing should be easy. And, now, it’s even easier with our helpful list of five perfect places to pop the question. Take your pick from our à la carte menu of proposals."

January Highlights
Marianne Faithfull, Gregg Allman, and more.

January Home Theater
The Simpsons, Moon, and more.

February Highlights

Mardi Gras galore!

February Home Theater
A Serious Man, The Wolf Man, and more.

March Highlights
Henry Rollins, Ronnie Spector, and more.

March Home Theater
Kids' movies: Ponyo, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and more.

October, November, December


I've been a bit behind on posting recent articles, so forgive the pile-up. The December issue just came out, and I had the pleasure of writing the cover story for it.

52 Reasons to Love Westchester
"Most people assume that people who live in Westchester are going for a New York City Lite experience. It’s an easy mistake to make, since we eat BLT steaks, get our hair cut at Devachan Salon, shop for new wardrobes at Rothman’s, and commute down south for a job, a night out, or a Broadway show. The truth is, while we may spend a lot of time in the City and patronize City-based businesses, we choose to live here precisely because Westchester is not New York City. We want to give up the steel and concrete for a little bit of greenery and some breathing room."

Guitar Hero
A profile of local guitar-maker Rudy Pensa: "Pensa got his start building guitars when he was just 13 years old. 'In Argentina, when I was playing in the late sixties and early seventies, it was difficult to find good instruments,' he says—so he started building his own. He opened the famous-among-music-geeks Rudy’s Music Shop in New York City in 1978 and has been commuting there from Scarsdale for almost three decades."

7 Days of Holidays
A round-up of local holiday events: "For you, our true loves, we present seven sets of seasonal events—no leaping lords or milking maids required."

Culture, Etc.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the Subdudes, and more.

Home Theater
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, and (500) Days of Summer.

November Culture, Etc.
Neko Case, Linda Eder, and more.

November Home Theater
Star Trek, Up, and more.

October Culture, Etc.
Sumi Jo, Wallace Shawn, and more.

October Home Theater
Drag Me to Hell, Karloff & Lugosi, and Trick 'r Treat.

Halloween Happenings
A round-up of Halloween events.

Where the Pros Go for Halloween Clothes
A look at the best costume shop in Yonkers.

Witch Craft
A Q&A with The Blair Witch Project's Michael C. Williams

August Issue


Crude Awakening
My interview with director Joe Berlinger about his documentary, Crude: "Boy, I’ve never appreciated my home in Westchester more than in making this film. First of all, it was extremely hot—one-hundred-twenty-degree heat. We were in the rainforest, in a part that was devastated by pollution, so the air smelled and you’d go back to your hotel room with a splitting headache...The first night I checked into my hotel in Shushufindi, somebody had been shot in front of the hotel. The crime was being cleaned up as I was checking in. It was really a dangerous part of the world to be in."

Archie Pops the Question
A small item about Archie Andrews's upcoming nuptials: "Whether or not Veronica will keep her maiden name of Lodge or become Mrs. Veronica Andrews has yet to be decided."

Culture, Etc.
This month's highlights: the International Noir film series, M. Ward, B.B. King, and more.

Home Theater
Adventureland, Flight of the Conchords, Battlestar Galactica, and more

July, July!


The cover of our July issue was illustrated by J.J. Sedelmaier, of TV Funhouse fame.

Best Of: Arts & Leisure

The best artistic and cultural offerings in the county: "Just down the street from the Jacob Burns Film Center, the professionally outfitted Media Arts Lab is buzzing with people who want to know more about filmmaking. Three- and four-year-olds learn the basics of telling visual stories. Eight- to 10-year-olds practice using the real tools of animation. Teenagers make music videos using the same programs as the pros, with professional producers as their instructors. College-aged and adult auteurs are taught how to make documentaries with an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker. Everyone, regardless of age, discovers how to tell an effective story in this increasingly digital age." (Also: Bargain Arts.)

Best of Festchester

A round-up of local festivals: "If you plan your summer right, you can get your live music (classical, cabaret, jazz, rock, and even Celtic reggae), world-class theater, ethnic food, enviable crafts to purchase, and kids’ activities all from these seasonal extravaganzas."

Super Senior

Why I want to be like Lois Steinberg when I grow up: "At age 70, Lois Steinberg was ready to leave her job as VP of a market research firm, where she worked with big-name clients like AT&T and Citibank. After 20 years in the corporate world, was she going to retire? Heck no. The Larchmont resident and mother of two baby boomers enrolled in Sarah Lawrence College and earned another master’s degree in health advocacy (on top of the PhD she earned from Fordham—in 1978)."

Culture, Etc.

Fountains of Wayne, Maya Lin, plus this month's Quadricentennial events.

Home Theater

Watchmen, Coraline, The State, and Peanuts.

And one I assigned:

Local Currency, Local Comfort
An essay on how to use the current financial climate to reinvest in our communities: "The great cathedrals of Europe were not funded by any central bank or the Vatican, but by small communities looking to invest their profits in their own futures. The cathedrals they built drew pilgrims from around the world, and bequeathed prosperity to their grandchildren."

December Issue


A list of the county's nicest (checked twice), some holiday happenings, and a word of caution for New Year's: a hefty December issue.

Westchester's Most Influential Residents

Profiles of two county movers-and-shakers who keep the cultural community alive (second and third item): "Next month, just a block away from the cinema, students of all ages will be able to make films in a setup that’ll rival D.W. Griffith’s old digs in Mamaroneck, with 15 editing suites, four workshop spaces, two sound stages (with full lighting rigs and a garage door for load-ins), a recording studio, an isolation booth, a foley room, an animation workshop space, and a 60-seat screening room to teach animation, cinematography, editing, and sound design from leaders in the film industry."

The Top Scorer

A top-five list of silent films from somebody who performs live accompaniments: "The Larchmont native discovered the Charlie Chaplin classics at the age of three, went to New York Times drama critic Walter Kerr's house to watch silents when he was in his teens, provided piano accompaniment for film class when he was in college, and went on to score hundreds of silent films."

8 Holiday Musts

A round-up of outstanding holiday events: "We know what happened to Rip Van Winkle after his big nap, but what did he dream about during those long years? The same experts who created the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze take their best guesses with their Winter Wonderlights, which goes on until January 3, 2009 at Washington Irving's Sunnyside. The grounds of Irving's home are transformed into a wintry dreamscape with the help of some rad LED technology."

What Are You Typing New Year's Eve?

An item about the popularity of texting in New Year's Eve: "When the clock strikes midnight this New Year's, you shouldn't be worried about finding someone to kiss--you should be finding someone to text."

<you should="" be="" looking="" for="" someone="" to=""> Home Theater

The Dark Knight, Hamlet 2, Casablanca

Culture, Etc.

Béla Fleck, Mike Doughty, and more.</you>

June Issue


Our first summer issue: summer vacations, summer books, and more.

Summer Reading

A round-up of the buzz books for summer, including new works by David Guterson and Alan Furst.

Take a Few Days Off

Our huge feature on weekend getaways includes my contribution about The Villa at Saugerties in the Catskills: "Say goodbye to the chintz, the brocade, and the stuffy Victorian furniture. Just because you want to get away for the weekend doesn’t mean you want to leave your sense of style behind with the babysitter." (About three-quarters of the way down the page.)

Grilling the Experts

Grill tips from the pros: "McGrath says that natural wood chips are the best source of fuel, but if you’re using charcoal, 'you want it to be white-hot, not red-hot. That’s the best way to grill something.'" (Second item down)

The Director's Cut

An article about Bruce David Klein, director of Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise: "Klein, Meat Loaf says, 'is a pesky little thing and he manages to wiggle and squeeze himself into places that I didn’t necessarily like all of the time.'" (The link to this story is being repaired.)

Culture, Etc.

A new art exhibition about space exploration, Chuck Mangione, and more.