Some print reps cast large shadows as they build relationships with customers over many years. Steve Block was that kind of print salesman. I was so lucky to have known him for many years, and so it was doubly sad to hear of his sudden passing right before New Year's.
Steve was well known throughout greater Boston and made friends in this industry that lasted for a lifetime. When he passed away, his daughter Lori (also in the field) asked me to write something about Steve and share it with people in the industry. Today, I am sharing it with you. This is for Steve.
There are many ways to measure a person’s life. Some say it’s the wealth and material possessions you amass. Others measure a life by awards earned or career achievements. But for the family of one particular Brookline, MA, man, his life could be measured by the outpouring of love from hundreds of friends far and wide when he died suddenly on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, at the age of 70.
Steve Block devoted his life to his family, and his career to printing. With a career spanning more than 40 years in greater Boston’s print and design industry, he was a much-beloved gentleman—and quite a character— who will be greatly missed.
After earning his design degree from the New England School of Art in the ’60s, Steve followed a path that led to print sales and graphic design, and never looked back. He was successful at selling print because he took it personally; that is, he was by nature warm, friendly and funny. He had to make friends with people upon whom he called. It was Steve’s routine to call up prospects and customers and just chat. Making a sale wasn’t the key motivator; making friends was.
Among the many places that Steve worked were the following companies: Vose Swain, Daniels Printing, Dynagraf, Will Land Printing, Summit Press, Mark Burton, Quinn Printing, Harvard Publishing, and WE Andrews. Wherever he went, he made friends for life. Perhaps that’s why everyone in the Boston-area printing and print-buying industry knew and loved Steve Block.
At his funeral service on Jan. 2nd, over 350 people filled the seats. If you looked around, print industry members—past and present—were lined up in all four directions.
Steve’s sales techniques are legendary. Always creative, he was known for sending chocolate chip cookies (his “Chip Off the Old Block” campaign) and bagels (his “Bagels & Blocks” campaign) regularly. Being an artist, Steve created logos for these and many other campaigns, which featured his unique style and bold graphics.
Another Steve Block trademark was his famous “BLA BLA BLA” letter. Recognizing that most print salespeople used run-of-the-mill sales letters touting great quality, great service and low prices, Steve came up with his own version. In place of all the usual clichés, he inserted the words “BLA BLA BLA” throughout, throwing in an occasional industry term to drive home his point. Prospects would get this letter, laugh their heads off—and call him straightaway.
Although graphic arts was the only business Steve was in, he was by no means only about business. On the contrary, he was a man who loved his family deeply. He was known for his kindness, generosity and love of laughter.
In the mid ’60s, he married Barbara Sumberg. They had a daughter, Lori, who also spent decades in the same career as her father. Though her parents divorced when Lori was a toddler, Steve and Barbara both walked Lori down the aisle at her wedding.
By that time, Steve had met his life partner Shirley Geber, with whom he shared 32 loving years. Barbara had remarried. All four adults joined hands as they walked Lori down the aisle that day in 1996.
Lori’s husband Rick Michaud is also in the graphic arts industry, having started his own firm, the Graphic Group, 15 years ago. They have three children: Olivia, Owen and Julia. Steve is also survived by his brother Richard and his sister-in-law Gloria, as well as their children Nicole and Garret.
Other personal traits that Steve was known for include his love of a bargain and his fondness for nice clothing. He may well have been the top customer of Marshall’s, Filene’s Basement and TJ Maxx.
Steve cared about his health greatly, taking care to eat right and shop at places like Whole Foods. He and Shirley loved to dine out and also to travel. They were a happy couple indeed.
To know Steve Block was to know he loved cats, especially one in particular. LA (“Little Angel”) was by Steve’s side for 15 years. It is because of this love for cats that Steve’s family has asked that donations in his name be made to the MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center, 350 South Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130 or at www.mspca.org
under honor and memorial giving.
One more characteristic that defined Steve was his love of laughter. That might help ease the sadness and grief of his family and friends over his loss. To think about Steve Block and how he enriched their lives is a good reason to smile, today and every day.