August 25, 2009 | last updated December 1, 2011 1:25 am

Maine magazine debuts with blueberries and Belfast

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From Constantine Karvonides (Wed 8/26/2009 11:34 PM)

Thomas & Kelley deserve congratulations and applause for such a confident "yes, we can!" attitude. Just what's needed to deal with today's economic, as well as publishing, challenges. Based on what they've achieved with their Maine Home & Design magazine, they've got everything going for them. Great example of why print media will be with us for a long time yet. You just have to be really great, thoroughly relevant -- consistently -- and with lots of style and aplomb. They obviously have the talent and determination for it. Can't wait to enjoy the first issue ...

For Kevin Thomas, builder and publisher, everything is a matter of perspective.

That attitude honed his eye when he built homes for affluent out-of-staters eager to claim a piece of Maine as a vacation retreat or their new address, and again when he launched Maine Home & Design in 2006, a magazine that caters to the tastes of those new Mainers.

"Those people who moved here have a different view of Maine than I did growing up in Aroostook County," explains Thomas from his Old Port office. "But as a shelter magazine, we couldn't really talk about lifestyle issues. We were already pushing the limits, writing about restaurants and art, but we couldn't talk about a great hike up Katahdin or on a peninsula up the coast."

Now they can. With partner and editor Susan Grisanti Kelley, Maine magazine is ready to launch. Its 112-page premiere issue should hit the newsstands Thursday, in tandem with its coming-out party set for the same evening at 100 Waterman Dr. in South Portland. The new publication, whose first cover features two homemade blueberry pies oozing filling, blends stories and art that Thomas describes as "urban centric."

"The people who come to Maine for its energy, the vistas, the coast, they enjoy the restaurant and cultural scene and want to be involved in their communities ... that is the particular person that we want to attract," he says.

Thomas isn't cowed by a challenging market for magazines, nor competitors such as Portland magazine or Down East. Statistics from the Magazine Publishers of America nationally show declines in 2008 advertising revenue (-7.3%) and circulation (-0.4%) from 2007 numbers, but an uptick in magazines launched (8.4%) in 2008 over 2007. Closures of consumer magazines were down 16.9% in 2008 from 37.5% in 2007, according to the trade group.

But Thomas believes Maine magazine's content is different from any other Maine-based magazine and will attract both readers and advertisers. He points to the naysayers who told him Maine Home & Design would never find a market in Maine as proof that Maine can do well, despite a faltering economy and a high failure rate among startup publications.

"We turned a profit our second year, with a great advertising response," he says. "We're tracking at 25% to 26% over our previous year's numbers now."

Maine magazine has its roots in Port City Life, the lifestyle magazine publisher Laurie Hyndman sold to Thomas and Kelley last spring for an undisclosed sum. She and her staff of nine have joined the Maine Home & Design staff in their Pearl Street offices, collaborating on the content and look of Maine magazine.

Kelley says it will be unlike any other glossy out there. Its focus on Maine's urban areas will infuse it with energy and vitality and its list of regular writers and photographers will ensure it meets high standards.

"Maine magazine and Maine Home & Design have the same soul, but we want to present them differently," says Kelley.

The first issue offers features on Belfast, social innovators Pop!Tech, wooden surf boards and a tour of six new Portland restaurants called "Eatland."

Maine will offer sections dedicated to profiles on Maine businesses and people such as Thos. Moser cabinetmakers and home furnishings designer Angela Adams; features on unique places or events such as the Trek Across Maine; coverage of arts events; extensive calendar listings; style observations and restaurant and lodging reviews. Photos, including the cover, will be large, quirky and engrossing, says Kelley.

Maine magazine will be wrapped with the September issue of Maine Home & Design and sent to the shelter magazine subscribers, as well as former Port City Life subscribers. Maine Home & Design has a circulation of about 30,000; Port City Life was 21,000. Thomas says Maine has also picked up commitments from about 700 hospitality sources and issues will be available at more than 900 Maine newsstands. An annual subscription costs $19.95; newsstand prices are $4.95 per issue.

The new magazine "embraces the state's business community, so there will be more affinity between editorial and advertising" than is customary in traditional media, he says, adding an advertiser with an interesting story will find a receptive ear at Maine magazine. A full-page ad, depending on how frequently it appears in the magazine's 10 issues, costs between $1,800 and $2,200, according to the magazine's website.


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