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This article was written in 2007 celebrating Fort Worth Key Magazine’s 40th Anniversary

Key celebrates 40th year with 71 years of memory

by Rix Quinn

 

BILL QUINN – pictured with the cover of a 1957 Fort Worther Magazine – says the visitors’ guide concept for this area began in 1936.

Key Magazine celebrates its 40th birthday this month. But 95-year-old publisher and author Bill Quinn says the first issue of a Fort Worth visitors’ guide went to press long before that.

“In 1936 Dallas hosted the Texas Centennial,” Quinn recalls. “Billy Rose, the famous Broadway producer, was hired by Fort Worth to create a stage revue and Frontier Centennial for the city. He named its main stage Casa Mañana, or ‘house of tomorrow.’

“He also convinced Fort Worth’s Chamber of Commerce that they needed a local guide to attract part of the enormous tourist traffic headed to Dallas for the Centennial. As I remember, the Chamber began a monthly Fort Worther Magazine, which they published from 1936 through 1939.”

 

The early decades

Quinn recalls that the magazine was later managed by several area printers during the 1940s. After the war years, it was published by a regional newspaper chain.

“In 1957, the group approached me. I owned a local printing company, and I’d always known the value of a monthly guide for visitors.

“After I bought the Fort Worther, I asked several local restaurants and hotels if they’d be willing to support it. Many were very enthusiastic. Several began to advertise immediately.”

Information for visitors AND locals

FRANK CARVEY displays a photo of the original Cross Keys Restaurant. He and his partner Neal Hospers were one of Key Magazine’s early advertisers.

One of those was Frank Carvey who – along with Neal Hospers — co-owned Cross Keys. The restaurant, housed in a 19th century mansion on 8th Avenue, was famous for outstanding steaks, and a great venue for private parties.

“Neal and I started Cross Keys in 1955,” Carvey remembers. “We needed continuous, inexpensive ads to introduce ourselves to visitors, and to remind Fort Worth residents that we wanted their dining business. The Fort Worther’s distribution was right for us.”

Cross Keys advertised every month. Later, when they added Fairway Steak House to the Fort Worth community, they took a second monthly ad for that restaurant.

Key’s ‘digest’ size?

Quinn says the magazine’s small size – about 6” x 9” – became one of its strongest selling points. “We could save on printing costs from this format, and pass those savings on to advertisers. And, the book could be easily carried in a purse or jacket pocket.”

Key’s publisher Keith Powell says that size is still a valuable asset. “Who wants to walk around toting a newspaper or a full-size magazine? If you’re a visitor, you want a guide that’s portable.”

Unique size, national affiliation

Quinn says he sold the magazine to Inez Campbell in the mid-1960s. “Inez renamed the magazine Key in order to affiliate with a nationwide group of Key Magazines, which contributed to its growth.” (www.keymagazine.com)

Powell agrees. “We’re an independent publisher, but we’re affiliated with Key’s national organization with headquarters in Milwaukee. This gives us access to important data about tourism, plus a national advertising sales representative.”

Powell holds the office of Executive Vice President of the national Key Magazine organization. Meetings are held annually in one of the cities across the U.S.A. where a Key Magazine is published.

Not surprisingly, a number of Key affiliates favor digest-sized issues. And virtually all of them have a unique distribution system.

Fort Worth Key Magazine’s staff

Publisher Keith Powell, who has a degree in Fine Arts from Austin College in Sherman, worked in Dallas for Saunders, Lubinski & White Advertising Agency as a graphic designer and the Horchow Collection as production manager. In Fort Worth, he was a graphic designer at the Barr Company.

In 1986, he started a freelance graphic design business called Powell Graphics Unlimited and officed with the Blue Moon Graphics group in Dallas. One of his clients was Evelyn Berger, who owned both the Dallas and Fort Worth Key Magazines.

Ms. Berger encouraged Powell to buy the Fort Worth Key, which he did in 1995. He published his first issue in April of that year.

Realizing Fort Worth Key Magazine needed an Internet presence; he put the magazine on line in July 1996. With that feature, advertisers have both print and electronic exposure for the entire month or longer, depending on the length of the advertiser’s agreement. (www.keymagfw.com)

Powell has the support of his family in this venture. Powell’s wife Staci serves as financial officer. His father, Alton Dee Powell, who was retiring after 47 years in the wholesale drug business, became vice-president and marketing manager of Fort Worth Key Magazine when purchase of the magazine came about. Powell’s mother, Foncell F.

Powell, a freelance writer with a background in journalism, became the editor of Fort Worth Key then too. Contributing writers have been the late Don Patterson, Kay Jones, Lauri Arnold and presently Michael H. Price.

‘At the front desk’

Over 10,000 copies of Fort Worth Key Magazine are distributed to 200-plus separate locations each month. That includes hotels, motels, tourist sites, museums, and convention and visitors’ bureaus.

“When a visitor goes to a hotel check-in, or to the concierge desk, he’ll most likely find a Key Magazine there,” says Powell.

9 reasons visitors need a monthly Key to this city

Each issue contains a comprehensive events calendar, telling guests what’s happening in Fort Worth, Grapevine, Grand Prairie, Denton, and Glen Rose.

Seven pages of easy-to-read maps “have been customized for easy navigation, highlighting major areas like our Museum District and Historic North Side,” Powell says.

Key is also the “visitor market guide” for families who relocate to this area.

It’s smaller and easier to use than local newspapers, because most visitors don’t know “which section will tell them where they can eat, buy boots, see a play, hear a symphony, or see museum exhibits,” Powell explains.

Key also makes more sense for a visitor than a hotel’s TV schedule, which tells then mainly what shows to watch in their rooms,” Powell says. “We encourage visitors to get out and about!”

“Most guide books are good,” Powell adds, “but many aren’t current. Ours is updated every month.”

“We’re circulated in the places where visitors stay,” Powell says, noting that the magazines are distributed to an astounding 129 area hotels and motels.

With Fort Worth Key’s Internet presence, advertisers have both print and electronic exposure for the entire month or longer, depending on the length of the advertiser’s agreement.

Key is celebrating its 40th year as Fort Worth’s best visitor’s guide,” Powell concludes. “We stay around to help people get around better!”