20 years of Hardscape MagazineBy Tom Hatlen
August 2023 marks 20 years since Charles Vander Kooi hired me to launch Hardscape Magazine. In the years leading up to that, Chuck had seen the hardscape industry taking shape across North America. Prior to that hardscape wasn’t widely recognized as its own market. People weren’t even familiar with the term.
Chuck found himself getting more and more invitations to present seminars on behalf of hardscape suppliers. He became involved in ICPI, the forerunner of CMHA and he began to understand that the hardscape market was growing fast and was being underserved by the media. That’s when he came up with the idea for Hardscape Magazine.
It didn’t matter that Chuck had never really been involved in the publishing business. He had been heavily involved in business and business management for years. He had an amazing grasp of the numbers straight from the gut, what costs would be to run a magazine and what income could be expected.
The first issue of Hardscape Magazine didn’t publish until November of 2003. Chuck believed in the project enough to pay my salary and other start-up costs for 4 months before getting any income to help cover even part of his costs.
It would be 3+ years before he was actually making any money on individual issues of the magazine, and probably a couple more years to break even on his startup costs. I’m still in awe of his vision and willingness to see it through.
Although I must admit I did update my resume when we completed year 3 and weren’t seeing a profit. Year 4 was the difference maker. We had established ourselves among industry suppliers and saw a healthy sustainable increase in advertising sales. Since subscriptions are free, advertising sales are what sustains trade publications like Hardscape Magazine.
Time keeps marching on. Chuck passed the magazine on to me in 2015 and passed away a year later. After 20 years Hardscape Magazine is still going strong. It seems somehow fitting that this issue, our 2023 HNA Showcase, is our highest grossing sales issue ever.
Chuck always spoke and wrote from the contractor’s point of view. That was our connection from the beginning. We’ve always focused on providing information you can use to improve your business. I plan to continue guiding Hardscape Magazine to provide information you can use.
I don’t much care for writing a column like this that focuses on us. Next issue we’ll get back to using this space to help you improve your business. That’s a promise.