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Norman Finegold Interview: Brushware Anniversary

As part of our 125th-anniversary celebration, Brushware is offering an article related to the history of the magazine in each edition for 2023. For our first installment in the series, we present the following interview with the magazine’s previous owner, Norman Finegold.

Age: 74

Current Location: Fairway, Kansas (Kansas City Metro)

Role with Brushware: Owner from 1999 to 2019

How did you get into publishing?

When I graduated college, I went to work for Arthur Andersen, which was a big public accounting firm and I hated the life of a public accountant. I then got a job with a company called Cadence Industries as a corporate analyst — going into the divisions and doing internal audits. I was assigned to the publishing divisions and one of their divisions was Marvel Comics. The other company was Magazine Management. They were both in the same building on Madison Avenue in New York City. About two years later, they fired the controller of Marvel and put me in that role. So I was the controller of Marvel Comics for about five years. At the time, they didn’t do anything with movies, but they would produce 60 comic books a month — from Captain America to Hulk to Spiderman. I reported to Stan Lee.

Then, before buying Brushware, I moved around to various other publishing companies. I worked for Worldwide Magazines, which was the biggest exporter of US magazines. I was a controller there for a number of years but I got sick and tired of corporate America.

I married my wife, Karen, in June 1999. She had no experience whatsoever in magazine publishing but was game to learn. So we went out and bought Brushware magazine. Karen was the designer and did everything except, magazine sales, advertising sales and subscriptions. We became a good team and so in 2004, we bought a second trade publication called the American Window Cleaner Magazine.

From the day-to-day perspective, what was your favorite part of working on Brushware?

My favorite part was working with the advertisers, they were so nice. I didn’t enjoy the actual travel to conventions, but once I was there I so enjoyed mingling with the advertisers. Yeah, I was there to sell advertising, but it was also wonderful just to BS with them. From a day-to-day standpoint, it was always a challenge to keep an advertiser in or try to get a new one, and I sort of enjoyed that.

What would you say was the strength of Brushware during your time running the magazine?

Well, we had the highest circulation, so we had the strength of circulation and also the strength of great editorial. We focused on what we thought our advertisers and subscribers wanted to read, and I think that separated us.

Is there anything about the Brushware workflow/process that might come as surprise to readers and advertisers?

There was a lot of conversation and discussion about what articles to run. The editorial calendar took a lot more time than I think any advertiser or reader would really realize. Bob Lawrence, Mark Battersby and every single writer would contribute ideas for what we should do each August. Karen and I would do that as well. Then Karen and I sat down and looked it all over, and I would ultimately decide which stories we would go with.

What have you been doing since moving on from Brushware?

I got myself involved in umpiring for high school baseball, which I totally love. I started with the lower-grade kids and got frustrated. However, at the same time that I was frustrated, it was imperative I learn the rules better than I knew. When I started, my knowledge of baseball and the rules came from watching the Yankees play baseball on TV, but there were so many more rules that I had to learn. There are so many rules that I probably still don’t know.

Now I’m doing a lot of seventh through 12th-grade baseball games and the higher you go, the more competitive is. It’s just wonderful, I so enjoy it.

I also do volunteer work at the University of Kansas Health System at the Cancer Center on Friday mornings. I have a beverage cart for the patients and families … they’re there for chemo or other treatments. The funniest thing happened to me while I was doing that. When somebody asks me for a cup of coffee, I say, “How do you take it?” Normally, the answer is black or one cream, 2 sugars, Sweet and Low, or something like that. About two months, a guy asked me for a coffee and I said, “How do you take it?” He said, “In a cup.”

I’ve also been going to grandkids’ soccer games and basketball games, watching them grow up. That’s fun. When I grew up, no one played soccer. I grew up in New York City, so … you know, we had beaches and we had other stuff to do. There are no beaches here in Kansas or Missouri, as you know, and the sports here are just amazing. It’s every sport in the world and they play it and everybody plays.

Is there anything about the current Brushware that stands out to you?

I love the publisher’s page. I like the length of it, the detail of it and you know, and I’m enjoying the articles.

What are your thoughts on Brushware celebrating 125 years?

Well, it’s absolutely amazing that the magazine is that old and I’m so happy that I was a part of the history of Brushware. I’m happy that you’re doing well with it and that I passed the baton to somebody who took it and is running with it. Karen and I were happy to be part of the industry and to meet some wonderful, wonderful people.

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