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Huntington direct mail advertiser bought by industry giant


Charleston Gazette-Mail

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — After starting in a garage 24 years ago and moving operations six times, a Huntington direct mail advertising company is now under the wing of an industry giant with a reach of roughly 23 million households.

Preferred Mail Advertising, founded by Huntington residents Ed and Sherri Crouse, was purchased last week by the Alabama-based Mspark.

“They really fit what we do,” Sherri Crouse said of Mspark. “We’re a rural market shared-mail company, and that’s what they are, just quite a bit larger.”

Mspark serves 531 markets, according to its website, but did not have a foothold in West Virginia prior to the Preferred Mail purchase.

Preferred Mail serves 10 West Virginia markets, including Charleston, along with six Ohio markets and two Kentucky markets for a coverage area of roughly 550,000 households. It serves a variety of clients, ranging from fast food and dine-in restaurants like McDonald’s and IHOP to drug stores like Rite Aid and Fruth Pharmacy.

Crouse said Preferred Mail staff could no longer handle the production demanded by a rapidly growing customer base. With Mspark’s markets bordering Preferred Mail’s and the two companies offering similar services, the Crouses realized it could be a “natural fit” when Mspark first reached out to Preferred Mail about a possibly buy in December 2016, she said.

Both companies were a part of the Allied National Network Extension, an organization of direct mail businesses, and Mspark had recently acquired two other companies within the network when negotiations began, according to Crouse.

“We needed to get some help, and they were the best out there that was the most like us,” Crouse said.

Preferred Mail customers shouldn’t see any noticeable disruption, and Mspark will still serve them the same way, Crouse said. Mspark had already been shouldering some of the production load for Preferred Mail in the past few months, she added.

“So it’s not like they haven’t already been doing the work for us, they just now own us,” she said.

Mspark now has taken over most of the production, outside of a portion of the Huntington facility’s production, Crouse said. By October, all Preferred Mail productions and operations will be moved to Indianapolis, where one of Mspark’s two production facilities is located, she said. Crouse and two other Preferred Mail employees will be Mspark consultants for one year to ease the transition process.

Preferred Mail has five full-time employees and several part-time employees, many of whom will have to find work elsewhere after the transition is completed in October, Crouse said. But she added that the companies will help them find work, possibly with Preferred Mail clients.

“One of our customers has said anyone [Mspark] couldn’t use can call him,” she said. “I would like to hope [Mspark] can give jobs to them, but I have every bit of faith that they’ll find other positions.”

Crouse said she expects Mspark to continue building upon Preferred Mail’s established customer base and to take advantage of the budding rural marketplace for print ad distribution.

“We’re excited that the company that bought us is also in rural markets, because a lot of direct mail companies have shut those down,” she said.

As for the Crouses, they aim to spend more time with family once the consulting gig winds down, she said.

“We have three children, and the oldest one lives here in Huntington,” she said. “He has a 2-year-old baby, so we won’t stay far away from her.”

An Mspark spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Reach Max Garland at [email protected], 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

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