Monadnock Profiles: Continuing a family legacy

  • Yankee Publishing CEO Jamie Trowbridge looks over the latest edition of Yankee Magazine in the conference room of the company’s Dublin offices. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Yankee Publishing CEO Jamie Trowbridge has worked tirelessly to carry on the family legacy started by his grandparents more than 80 years ago. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Jamie Trowbridge. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/6/2019 10:48:47 AM

There’s this feeling of responsibility that Jamie Trowbridge carries with him.

Like any CEO, Trowbridge wants to see that Yankee Publishing thrives in the media landscape, but it’s about much more than the numbers on the bottom line. Trowbridge’s grandparents, Robb and Beatrix Sagendorph started the family-owned business in 1935 with the creation of Yankee Magazine and it has operated within the confines of the family ever since.

With publishing companies being acquired by larger conglomerates around every corner, there’s a sense of pride that Trowbridge has given the fact Yankee has remained an independent operation for the entirety of its 84 years. In an effort to see it continues to operate in a similar fashion, Trowbridge recently oversaw the beginning stages of a transition to an employee stock ownership plan that will put control of the company squarely in the hands of the people who work there.

“It’s just a change in ownership over time,” Trowbridge said. “I feel a lot of responsibility to keep the business going, partially for the legacy of my grandparents, that’s one reason, but also on behalf of the employees who have sustained this business for 84 years.”

Trowbridge remembers going into his grandfather’s office as a youngster to grab a sour ball off his desk, and worked maintenance at the company during the summers as a teenager. After working at a small weekly paper in Seattle and a publication for nonprofits after college, Trowbridge wanted to come back to the area where he grew up. He always thought that one day he’d be part of the family business.

“Lets just say I never made a different plan,” Trowbridge said. “I didn’t have another vision and I did like the work. It was attractive to move back here to be near family and work at Yankee, a business I had a lot of respect for.”

Prior to joining Yankee, the business was thriving. It had almost 300 employees, a number of different publications around the country they had slowly acquired and the future looked bright.

“My father really encouraged me to work here all through my childhood,” Trowbridge said. “He was very proud of it as a family business and he wanted to see that continue.”

He came on as production manager, but soon after the business dramatically changed. Some of those publications didn’t work out and Trowbridge quickly realized that the past success didn’t necessarily mean it would continue in the same manner.

There were some difficult times, as the company was forced to cut back on its number of employees, close down some if its investments and transition to the reality of putting out a similar product in a much different way.

There was the investment in digital, which was a slow and difficult process, but one that was necessary.

“Everybody said this is where it’s going and we paid attention to that,” Trowbridge said.

After his father stepped down as CEO, Joe Meagher took over, the first person outside of the family to run the company, and at one point even recommended selling the company.

“The younger generation (of the family) said we don’t agree and that we should keep it going as a family business,” Trowbridge said.

And so they did. Trowbridge took over as CEO in 2000 and for that first decade, the company essentially broke even – which was a plus considering the way the media business and the economy as a whole were going.

These days, the company is doing much better, having made some strong acquisitions over the years, including McLean Communications, which is best known for New Hampshire Magazine, and Family Tree Magazine. And of course, the stalwarts of the company – Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer’s Almanac – continue to thrive. Yankee purchased The Old Farmer’s Almanac in 1939 and as Trowbridge puts it, “it was the best business decision we ever made.”

Trowbridge grew up in Dublin and attended Phillips Exeter Academy, but has resided in Peterborough for much of his adult life. Now it’s just him and his wife Laura, with their four children, Lila, Will, Annie and Caroline, off doing their own thing. Lila is the closest, living in Concord with her husband Matt and their 5 month old daughter Oona.

The reason Trowbridge and his wife decided to move back to New England (Laura is originally from Massachusetts), apart from Trowbridge’s inkling to work for the family business, was because they wanted to raise a family in the country.

“I consider it a privilege to have been able to raise my family here,” Trowbridge said. “And I was very fortunate my wife stayed home with the kids and made it possible for me to do this.”

He grew up exploring the woods and wanted the same for his children. While he loves all the seasons, winter has always been at the top of the list. He skis, both downhill and cross country, and a few years ago picked up ice boating. It came as a recommendation from his close friend Swift Corwin and Trowbridge was almost instantly hooked.

You lay down in what equates to a sailboat on blades and there’s no braking system.

“You go much faster in an ice boat,” Trowbridge said. “There’s almost no resistance and you just have to go in circles till you stop.”

He enjoys gardening, handling the vegetable side of the growing season. That’s because Laura is the real gardener in the family, having owned her own garden design business for the last eight years, so she takes care of the work that makes their yard look beautiful.

“The division of labor works for us,” Trowbridge said.

They like to travel with many trips consisting of going to see their children, even going to Istanbul when Lila was there on a rotary exchange. But they have also used their trips as a way to visit gardens, most notably in England.

In the spring, he will MC the Black Fly Story Hour, while also helping the storytellers to shape their stories.

“First person storytelling is just very compelling,” Trowbridge said. “And it brings us together as a community.”

As the CEO of Yankee, Trowbridge is asked to speak at engagements and to groups, and this summer gave a talk at the Amos Fortune Forum.

At 59 years old, Trowbridge isn’t ready to retire. He wants to see the transition to the employee stock ownership plan through and then evaluate if he’s ready to step away.

For now, he enjoys the challenge of running the family business – located in the heart of the town he grew up in.


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