Having worked at Mountain Xpress for 20 years, I have seen many changes — in staff, in technology, in delegation of duties and, of course, in the growth of the paper.
Back when I started in 1994, Xpress had only a dozen employees or so, and not all were full-time. Jeff Fobes, our publisher, oversaw each facet of the operation in every department. When printing deadlines came up, cover designs needed to be chosen, a story needed editing, we needed more ads, a computer wasn’t working properly or papers needed to be distributed, Jeff was there helping.
Many of us had multiple tasks. In those early days, I was doing data entry, keeping the books for the company accounts and payroll, invoicing for ad sales and making deposits. On top of that, every Wednesday morning, I’d jump in my van to distribute the paper up and down Merrimon Avenue, throughout the UNC Asheville campus and out into Weaverville.
I remember Jack, an older gentleman, who was our receptionist for some time. The billing computer had a DOS operating system and was located near Jack’s desk. At billing time, its noisy dot-matrix printer generated the invoices, each of which had to be torn by hand from continuous feed of paper. Payroll and expense checks were written by hand, which I did at my desk in a back office. The few sales reps on staff kept track of their client base on file cards stored in boxes. The Production Department literally used cut-and-paste methods to assemble each tabloid page which would be hand-carried to the printer where an enormous camera created a negative that was used to burn a plate for each pair of pages.
At the office, data files were moved from one Mac to another via floppy disks. Imagine the excitement when Jeff installed Xpress’ first computer network. In the early days, our Ad Department had only one computer to share among its staff. It would be about 10 years before each rep got his or her own computer.
Back then, we occupied a only few rooms in the Miles Building. I took over receptionist duties after Jack left, which meant I moved back and forth between two workstations for awhile. We shared the second floor with lots of other businesses, including the landlord, an audio-recording studio and an acupuncturist who tried to maintain a quiet, meditative clinic next door to our sometimes rowdy sales reps.
We now occupy most of the second floor with our nearly 30 employees, have a state-of-the-art network of Mac computers, a kitchen, a conference room. We offer health insurance and an IRA investment program. There have been fun and challenging times along the way. It’s been a wild ride!
Patty Levesque is office manager at Xpress.