It’s Thursday morning and I’m sitting at a desk in an office in a building that my world has, in many ways, revolved around since before I was born.
My baby shower (which I attended) was held in the Bradford Academy building. The building was the home of first BEHIND THE TIMES and then IT’S CLASSIFIED and has remained so for over three decades.
The trim in the office is a smoky blue. I painted it when I was twelve years old, smearing as much paint on myself as the walls purely for the spectacle. The bathroom downstairs was blue for weeks (and I was rather unpopular).
The desk, in theory, is mine, though I rarely sit at it. It’s still stacked high with random bits of paper covered in my mother’s illegible scrawl. It’s been just over a year since she died, but her travel mug is still here, and her reading glasses, and the hunk of stone engraved to let all comers know that “A cluttered desk is a sign of genius.” This is her desk. It has been for as long as I can remember.
In the same vein, for my entire life Thursday has meant one thing to me: deadline. From the early nineties of my first memories to now, I have always known that, no matter where I was in the world or what I was doing, Thursday was the day the paper went to press, even if getting it there was stressful and painstaking.
It is almost unimaginable that today will be the last of these deadline days; the last time IT’S CLASSIFIED’s layout makes its way to the Upper Valley Press to be replicated thousands of times in paper and ink that smudges my fingers and smells like home. This truly is the end of an era. The end of a chapter in a story about community, and family, and a quirky little paper filled with artwork, originality, and heart that has woven us all together for so long.
Since 1989, our family has had the privilege of connecting local people and businesses all across the Upper Valley to one another. I was a baby when IT’S CLASSIFIED was founded, but I remember the heyday of thirty-two page papers full of ads that were typed in long strips and laid out by hand on large pieces of paper that were placed in a flat blue box before being driven to the press. I remember offices full of interesting people, and diet coke, and slightly dark humor, and reference books.
Most of all, I remember being with my mom.
Frances “Fanny” Mallary was the bedrock of this publication for most of its existence. She was our partner, wife, mother, friend, and fearless leader. She was brilliant, funny, talented, and endlessly knowledgeable. Already a historian, a champion trivia player, and the Managing Editor of IT’S CLASSIFIED, in the last ten years of her life she added “novelist” to her resume, publishing nine novels and numerous novellas. She was, frankly, inspiring.
She was also a realist. She saw the writing on the wall about the rise of the internet and what it would mean for a business like ours long before most and launched a website all the way back in 2006 that functioned for twelve long years (but we all know that story already). She would have thought fighting the rising tides of the internet—especially when the paper was already struggling after her long illness—was Sisyphean. She would have told me, in the way only the person who loves you most in the world can, that I was an idiot for taking it on. It would have made us both smile.
I miss her.
Even when she was incredibly sick, even once we had a terminal diagnosis, I never really believed my mother would lose her battle with cancer. Even as our pages dwindled and costs skyrocketed, I never really believed we would stop printing IT’S CLASSIFIED. There are few constants in life but these were two of mine and losing them was almost beyond comprehension.
The paper is not my mother, certainly, yet I still feel a profound sense of loss. However what the past year has taught me about loss is that life really does go on around you even when you think it couldn’t possibly, even if you don’t want it to. If you’re not careful, life will go on and leave you struggling to catch up.
This was not an easy decision for our family, but as so many of you know, this is a hard time to be a small business. It is an especially hard time for print publications. Of course, we’ve also had our share of less global, more personal troubles in the last year or so with what seemed to be an endless parade of website issues that were beyond our control. The price tags of printing and delivery continue to grow. As a free publication we just can’t sustain the cost of being in print any longer.
In the end, when faced with the decision, I wondered what my mom would say. She’d tell me I tried my best, mistakes and all. She’d tell me it was always an uphill battle. She’d tell me the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. She’d tell me it was time to try something new.
So, we’re going to give that a shot.
We had always planned to keep the website up through the remainder of the run of all current ads, but after an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea on our social media accounts, we’ve elected to remain open as an online publication for the time being. We truly believe there is value in a resource that connects local people with truly local goods and services (we’ve all experienced the frustration of suddenly realizing that an item we’re looking at on a larger platform is actually located in Burlington or Massachusetts rather than nearby), and it seems a pity to waste our brand new website now that it is up and running. (Yes, we know, the site still has a kink or two, but they’re finally working themselves out.)
We’re going to migrate as much of our print content online as we can, including our business card directory, community events calendar, and movie listings. You’ll also see that fun header artwork we all know and love, as well as vintage Classified of the Week drawings from some of our nearly 1500 print editions. While we will be closing our physical offices, our phone number, email, and PO Box will remain the same and, yes, you can still submit your handwritten ads—classified forms will be available to print on our website and there will be a drop box with forms in the lobby of the Bradford Academy. More information about all of this will be forthcoming on our website and social media in the coming weeks.
Our customers have been amazingly supportive and kind through all of the trials and tribulations we’ve face in the last few years and we are so grateful. What we really want is to say thank you. To all of you. Thank you for your business, your time, your patience and warmth, your friendship, and your willingness to invite us into your homes (and shops, and cafes, and cars, and a million other places) for three decades. It has meant the world to us. This business, and all of you, have changed our lives forever.
My father and I genuinely believe that IT’S CLASSIFIED is special and, more importantly, that the Upper Valley is extraordinary. A family friend who visited from California after my mother’s funeral told me that, being here, she finally understood the draw of this place: that this is a truly blessed community. We could not agree more. There is magic in what we do here, all of us together, and we very much want to continue to be part of it, and of your lives, in whatever way we can.
One way or another, I’m so glad that we will have more Thursdays together.