A Look Back And Looking Ahead — Maintenance Sales News Celebrates Milestone

By Harrell Kerkhoff Maintenance Sales News Editor  

Maintenance Sales News (MSN) — a trade publication committed to serving the jan/san and related industries — is celebrating its 40th anniversary. During this four-decade span, MSN has interviewed many distributors, manufacturers, and end-users alike, focusing on the latest in cleaning products, programs and services used in North America and beyond.

Just like its past, MSN continues to serve, educate, inform, and help advance the many facets of the cleaning industry. Every issue today features a specific jan/san distributor, as well as information on the latest in innovative products and developing trends in the industry. The magazine is owned by RDG Media, with President/Publisher Randy Green at the helm, and was purchased in late 2022 from Rankin Publishing, owned and operated by longtime publishers Don and Linda Rankin. The Rankins purchased MSN in 1993 from Creative Publishing, which started the publication. At the time of the sale, principal stockholders of Creative Publishing were Ray Tobin and Joseph Tarin, with Ted Tiss also playing a large role with the company.

Don and Linda Rankin were no strangers to the trade press industry. They were already publishers of Broom, Brush & Mop Magazine, an international circulation focusing on broom, brush, mop, and related manufacturers and suppliers; and Busline Magazine, edited for the private bus/motorcoach industry as well as the public bus transportation sector. Both publications have continued through the years, with Busline Magazine now also owned by RDG Media.

According to the Maintenance Sales News’ premier issue, publisher/editor of the magazine was Sheila Tobin, with the editorial director being Oscar Koeppel. In Koeppel’s first column, called “OK’s Corner,” he outlined the main purpose of the new publication: “Maintenance Sales News is intended to serve you, directly and indirectly… in the manufacture, distribution, application, teaching and in the successful infusion of the procedures and products of our industry into the civilized world’s cleaning scheme of things.”

Among the articles in the initial issue were those that focused on the criteria for evaluating outdoor power sweepers, how to groom new salesmen, highlights of the Interclean London trade show, how salespeople can add their personal touch for sales success, and several pages of “product news.” Other articles focused on the purchasing of quality mops, the best type of training for jan/san professionals, and the benefits and advantages of propane-powered buffing equipment. Also included was a “distributors in the news” section.

Advertisers in the first issue included Wilen Manufacturing, Pioneer/Eclipse, PortionPac, Misco International Chemicals, Best West, Hako Minutemen, Oreck Corp., Zephyr, Southwest Manufacturers & Distributors, Zimmerman Brush Co., Clean Ideas, Felton Brush, Briggs & Stratton, ETC of Henderson, Morgro Chemical Company, Windsor Industries, American Manufacturing Company, and Chicopee — among others.

The cover of the first publication featured colored pencil drawings of cleaning industry professionals at work. Along with the publication’s name, the nameplate also included the words: “Serving the Professional Needs of Salesmen and Distributors.”

A few of the advertisements were in color, although most of the publication was in black and white.

Over the years, new features were added, including company directories, extensive trade show coverage, advertorials highlighting various advertisers and their products, regulatory updates, educational seminars and — perhaps most noteworthy — cover features highlighting one distributorship per issue. That practice was started in earnest under the direction of Don and Linda Rankin.

The size of the featured distributorships did not matter — and continues to be the case to this day. From “mom and pop” to large corporations, it soon became evident that every type of distributor had a good story to tell. That included valuable information focusing on company history, the type of products and services being offered, and what worked best to gain new customers.

“I would say our in-depth distributor features soon became a real favorite among readers,” Linda Rankin said, during a recent interview. “We would get phone calls and notes from people telling us how much they appreciated those features. One of the biggest compliments we ever received was from a person who told us his company took our issues into staff meetings to discuss key points that were made in the in-depth features. Interviews with featured distributors highlighted both the good and the bad that was taking place within the industry. It was (and continues to be) a valuable source of information.

“Don and I were also very proud of the relationships built over the years with advertisers and readers. People viewed Maintenance Sales News as a very reputable publication, and still do. There is a lot being offered in terms of educational material, news, and advertising. The key to the magazine’s success has been the trust built with readers and advertisers, along with the value the publication brings to every type of person and company involved in the cleaning industry.”

As printing technology has changed, so has the process of writing, proofing, and putting together MSN. Computers are now used in every step of production. The publication’s website (maintenancesalesnews.com) and monthly eNewsletters have also been in place for several years.

“I was very excited when I heard that Maintenance Sales News was looking to be acquired. I had seen the brand over the years and knew I could do something special with the publication. After acquiring MSN, we immediately modernized the logo and redesigned the publication from cover-to-cover. We also have given the website a full makeover, have provided a digital offering and digital metrics for advertisers, and in 2024, will be expanding to eight issues,” Randy Green said. “This brand is part of a new market for us (at RDG Media), and it’s a brand that was well-established by the Rankin family. We are very excited to continue to see how we can make it grow in the jan/san space.”

Just as ISSA celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023 with great anticipation about what the future will bring, the same is true for Maintenance Sales News’ ownership, staff, advertisers, and readers. With the emergence of AI, robotics, safer and more advanced cleaning products and systems, and better training methods, many great stories will be shared by the publication in the years ahead. It will continue to be the focus on MSN to inform its readers about such exciting changes, along with various challenges in the business of cleaning. Stay tuned.

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