Then There Were Three: As I Get Ready to Leave, Lori, Greg and Karen Remain

Dec. 11, 2019

”Hey, Bobby, there’s a job opening over here at Modern Tire Dealer. You should apply.”

With that phone call in March of 1985, former MTD Senior Editor Jim Smith changed my life. I did apply for the job of assistant editor, got it, and began working before the month was over.

Never mind that Jim, a good friend of mine, received a $100 finder’s fee for the hiring.

The editor was Dave Burkhart, who, along with Greg Smith, hired me. In addition to other corporate responsibilities, Greg helped oversee the magazine as special projects editor.

Lori Wiese was our managing editor, and Mike Mavrigian the group technical director. Karen Runion was the production manager. Virginia Caswell was the circulation director. John Millar was vice president of sales.

There were others on staff who worked from either their homes or the New York office, where our owner, Bill Communications Inc., was based. But I saw these eight people every day when I first started at MTD.

Three of them, Jim, Dave and John, have since died. Virginia has retired.

Mavrigian went out on his own to form Birchwood Automotive Group. He is the editor of our sister publication, Auto Service Professional.

Amazingly, as I prepare to retire after more than 34 years at the magazine, three of the people who were here before me remain: Lori, Greg and Karen.

You may be more familiar with Lori as Lori Mavrigian. She married Mike in October 1985.

I met Lori eight days before my career at MTD began. Jim had invited us to lunch following my interview, and was hoping she and I would get along. He really wanted that finder’s fee, and was hoping Lori would put in a good word for me.I guess she did. We bonded over our mutual dislike of Disney World’s “It’s a Small World” ride.

It was Lori who taught me the ropes, and helped me navigate office politics. As managing editor, she is more facilitator than journalist, but she has won numerous writing awards in her 40-year career.

No one is more responsible for my long career than Greg, who started at MTD about six months before Lori did and is now the publisher. Although I didn’t work directly under him until I became editor — he was promoted one month before I was hired — he guided me from assistant editor to senior editor to executive editor to editor.

Sometimes he was subtle. Sometimes he was blunt. Heck, often he was blunt. But I learned about the industry and independent tire dealers from him. He was/is my mentor. We remained a satellite office even after being purchased by California-based Bobit Business Media Inc. There is no telling how many times Greg shielded my mistakes from the parent company. And I made my share.

Now to Karen, who was here even before Lori and Greg joined MTD. She has helped produce nearly 600 issues of the magazine since September 1974, when she was hired as assistant production manager. That’s 45 years, longer than any employee in the magazine’s 100-year history.

Let me repeat that. She has been with MTD longer than any person ever. There are many people who think of Karen when they think of MTD.

She has survived through six of MTD’s nine editors. When Executive Editor Mike Manges takes over on Jan. 16, 2020, she will have worked with seven out of 10.

She also happens to be younger than either Lori or Greg. So she was the first person in and may be the last person out.

Lori, Greg and Karen have a combined 125 years in the tire industry, which means I am leaving the magazine in great hands.

For all the three of you have done for me in the last 34 years, I sincerely, and emotionally, thank you.    ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at [email protected].  

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.