Martin Edwards Enriching a Tradition
Although he joined the company in 1954 upon receiving his master's degree from the University of Michigan, Marty wanted to add a little diversity to his portfolio. He signed on with the U.S. Army and spent two years with the armed forces branch. He traveled extensively in Germany and worked as an auditor for the Army.
"I learned quite a bit about life in Germany. There were many bombed-out buildings, evidence of World War II," Marty recalls. "Poverty could be seen everywhere, and people tried to sneak across the border from Hungary."
Upon returning, Marty and his brother, Joe, set out to put their signature on the company. Primarily a mail-order house with a small degree of face-to-face interaction, the roles gradually reversed. Sales offices sprung up in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Atlanta. "We did this step by step, but that decision to put us in front of our prospects and customers was pivotal," he notes.
Another key factor that sparked growth for Edwards Brothers was the addition of a new manufacturing facility for both hardbound and softbound books. Originally a small, 40-employee business in Raleigh, NC, the plant was moved to nearby Lillington. It was this venture that provided some of the most agonizing growing pains.
"It was a tough struggle for about four or five years," Edwards recalls. "We didn't know how to manage an out-of-town business. We tried to work with the management of the company that we had acquired, and they really didn't know our business. Once we put our own people in there, it improved our focus and got us playing the game smarter."
Praise from a Customer
The company and Marty Edwards' reputation continued to grow. He became acquainted with Bob Hagelstein, who would later become president of Westport, CT-based Greenwood Publishing Group. Hagelstein was first impressed with Edwards' professionalism.