Being a small business owner has its good and bad days. In late December 2023, we got some tough news.
Independent Delivery Service (IDS), a staple in the Twin Cities for 50 years, was shutting down effective almost immediately.
Founded in October 1973 by Mike Depe, IDS offered an alternative delivery for third class mail and newspaper inserts. They moved to 440 W Minnehaha Ave. in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul in 1989, occupying a 18,000-square-foot building that provided garage space for 20 fleet vehicles, warehouse space for deliveries, and office space for sales and other staff. At one time, IDS was among the largest alternative distribution services operating in the country. They had more than 50 employees and subcontractors delivering over 50 million pieces per year. Account representatives Mike Tierney and Paul Overson worked at IDS for decades, as did operations manager Brian Amundsen.
Mike Depe died in October 2020 at age 71, and his daughters Bridget Teigland, Heather Favre, and Charlotte Snegosky took over the operation of IDS on top of their other responsibilities.
Last year, MyVillager newspaper in Highland Park decided to stop using IDS to deliver to front doors. They dropped down their print circulation and opted for paid subscribers who get the paper in the mail. Previously, they had been delivering 60,000 papers throughout St. Paul and nearby cities of Lilydale, Mendota and Mendota Heights, with a few thousand papers in the Longfellow neighborhood of south Minneapolis. They shifted their focus to their website, as have other newspapers who are adapting to survive.
The MyVillager shift came on the heels of a string of local newspaper closures over the years that included North St. Paul-based Lillie Suburban Newspapers (folded September 2019) and the Southwest Journal (shuttered in December 2020). Forum Communications closed papers in Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Hastings, and those have been jump-started online.
There have been other delivery companies that have come and gone over the years, including Lloyd’s Delivery, which delivered for the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger and Midway Como Frogtown Monitor for years, and because of that we had hired IDS to deliver roughly half of the Messenger and Monitor newspapers for the last two years. (And they had delivered our newspapers at other times over the last few decades.)
In late fall, IDS learned that the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press were discontinuing their free weekend products, the small editions with lifestyle content, coupons and sale flyers. It was a decrease in about 100,000 weekly deliveries for IDS. The owners decided they couldn’t sustain such a decrease in business, and announced they were done as of Dec. 31.
That left four of us neighborhood newspaper in the lurch, those of us still getting newspapers to people’s front doors the old-fashioned way: a newspaper placed door-to-door by a carrier walking from house to house in all kinds of weather.
Why do we still want to deliver this way?
We do it because we want everyone to get a paper, to have the same information and news no matter whether you own or rent, have a big house or a small one, make a lot of money or just get by.
When you blanket a neighborhood like we do, the paper goes to all ages, all races, and all ethnic groups. There is no discrimination. We require no payment. Local businesses support the writers, printing, and delivery through ad sales.
And we do it because we believe it is vitally important.
Newspapers, as my children hear often, are fundamental to democracy, and neighborhood newspapers are a great equalizer. These small little papers are creating community with each issue that comes out.
You might say, they are community.
So, when the Northeaster, St. Paul Publishing, Community Voices and TMC Publications CO (my group of three newspapers that reach over 150,000 readers each month) heard that IDS was shutting down, we came together.
The Neighborhood and Community Press Association folded years ago as the once-strong group of about 40 papers dwindled. But we’re reviving a coalition.
We know we’re stronger together.
We’re working to keep on some of the carriers who used to deliver for IDS and have walked these city streets for years with a bag of papers slung over their shoulders. For some of them, this has been their main job. For other carriers, it is a side gig meant to add something extra to their household income. We have retired folks working as carriers. Parents and children learning the ins and outs of newspaper delivery. People appreciate the flexibility of the gig. They like the fresh air and appreciate a job that moves their body.
If you want to join our group of carriers, send a note to email@example.com.
As we work out the kinks of this new system, please be patient with us. Let us know if you got your paper – and if you didn’t. Thank your carrier.
Share your thoughts on the neighborhood and newspapers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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