1943 - SM magazine is founded by Harry Apple, who also serves as acting secretary of the NSSA.


1956 - R.H. Meyer and Herman Jennrich explain the benefits of a “modern bookkeeping system” in SM’s June issue: “Coordination between accounts receivable and sales on the one hand, and purchases, expenses and payrolls on the other, is easily accomplished,” the article states.


1966 - SM continues its tradition of publishing the NSSA’s convention and trade show guide. “Now that we’ve reached maturity, we must plan for an even more dynamic future!” says NSSA president Gordon S. Bodek.


1973 - “The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 might better be termed the Overwhelming Shadow of Horror and Apprehension Act of 1970,” says an April editorial.

1977 - At the age of 95, Harry Apple is awarded the industry’s highest honor: The ISSA’s Distinguished Service Award.


1980 - Golden Star president Gary Gradinger predicts that 1980 will be the “greatest year in more than a decade” for the jan/san industry.

1986 - ISSA staff attorney, Bill Balek (now legislative director), explains right-to-know labeling for cleaning chemicals.


1997 - SM’s June cover story details increased consolidation throughout the industry.

1999 - SM interviews a graffiti “artist” on why he vandalizes property.


2003 - SM provides news from Washington on distributor legislation, military conflict and the slow economy.

In the publishing business, it’s rare for a magazine to remain vital for more than 60 years. Sanitary Maintenance magazine has not only covered the jan/san industry for that long, but it has grown along with the industry, providing timely information and insights for sanitary supply distributors.

Since its first issue, published in 1943, SM has been led by three owners: founder Harry Apple, his son Bob Apple, and its current owner, Bob Wisniewski. The sanitary supply industry has experienced dynamic and unexpected growth during that time; memorable editors — from A. Ward Drill to Don Mulligan to Austin Weber to Seiche Sanders — have steered the magazine’s course in covering these changes. Through it all, however, the foundation laid by Harry Apple has been strong enough to make SM the most well-read industry journal for the past six decades.

“No matter what industry you’re in, you want your magazine to become the most trusted, unbiased source of information available, so that your audience will always rely on your publication,” says Bob Wisniewski, president and CEO of SM’s parent company, Trade Press Publishing Corp. “From the beginning — under Harry Apple’s leadership — Sanitary Maintenance has demonstrated that ability.”

A former employee of the Milwaukee Sentinel daily newspaper, SM’s founder, Harry, was intimate with the principles needed to produce discerning journalism. In 1910, he became the editor of Brooms, Brushes & Mops, a publication through which Harry formally entered the sanitary supply media arena. In 1912, Harry purchased Brooms, Brushes & Mops, and it existed for a time as the only publication closely identified with the sanitary supply industry. But in 1943, Harry saw a need for the magazine to branch out beyond just the three product categories that were being covered, and Sanitary Maintenance magazine was born.

Years later as he looked back, Harry said the new publication was created so that coverage would “not be tied to the skirts of broom and brush manufacturers or identified with soap manufacturers. The sanitary supply industry had now come of age,” he added, “and was entitled to a strong publication dedicated exclusively to its own interests.”

A Strong Foundation
With each passing decade, SM has proven to be invaluable to distributor readers. “I think that too many people have made light of the relationship between Sanitary Maintenance and the sanitary supply industry,” says Jack Ramaley, former executive director (1975-1990) of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). “I would go so far as to say that it’s the unofficial bible of the industry.”

Ramaley recalls how Sanitary Maintenance produced the first show guides and exhibitor directories for ISSA (formerly National Sanitary Supply Association) trade shows, long before ISSA started producing its own directory. “The trade show became big enough that a directory was really necessary, so Harry Apple had the foresight to produce one himself,” says Ramaley.

Bob Apple joined his father in 1946, and became the publisher of SM in 1965. “I can remember the distinguished Bob Apple coming into our office and asking us to advertise,” says Gary Gradinger, owner of Golden Star, a 95-year-old Kansas City, Mo., manufacturing company of cleaning equipment and matting. “To this day, I can remember his passion. I really thought that he was the most articulate advocate for our industry.”

According to Gradinger, the younger Apple talked about much more than advertising. “When he came into the office, he was really selling his belief and his passion for the industry — that the industry could accomplish great things. I’m not alone in thinking that he mentored younger executives in the industry. I think that his values have been passed very nicely to the organization even today.”

Unbiased Reporting
While trade magazines, for years, were notorious for running “other people’s information,” SM editorial planners have maintained a policy of running only editorial staff-written feature articles or freelance articles assigned by SM editors. At the same time, SM editorial management takes pride in how effectively editors traditionally work with readers and industry experts in tapping their expertise to publish objective information, month in and month out.

“For a long time, trade magazines were synonymous with running information from outside sources,” says Dick Yake, editorial director for SM and other magazines published by Trade Press. “It would be hard to pick up a trade magazine in any field and not see feature articles written by manufacturers, for example. It was just a given. But I think that specialized business magazines have had to become more proactive and more journalistically independent. That usually means running articles written by journalists. That said, our reporters are encouraged to cultivate a wide circle of resources in obtaining information.”

Distributors have noticed SM’s unbiased journalistic approach and content. Manufacturers have noticed as well. “I’ve been in the industry for 12 years, and I think that SM has a wide range of coverage and credibility, because it doesn’t just focus on one manufacturer or on one segment of supplier,” says Dave Maurer, vice president of sales and marketing for Geepres, a Muskegon, Mich.-based manufacturer of mop buckets and wringers.

“A magazine has to be an unbiased source of information, and it has to maintain credibility,” says Rob Geissler, SM’s publisher. “The only way to do that is to write your articles with unbiased writers.”

Timely and Timeless
Each passing decade has brought its own unique challenges to the SM editorial staff. From the very beginning, in the 1940s, the magazine was able to hit the ground running by covering a multitude of industry changes, despite the uncertainty of the early 1940s.

“It’s interesting that SM — which was originally a bimonthly publication — was founded in 1943, because that was really when the industry was starting out,” says Wisniewski. “It was toward the end of World War II: servicemen were coming back, buildings were being built, there were new products and technologies for cleaning, and there was a need for a higher level of cleanliness and sanitation. So there were all kinds of things going on in the marketplace that gave rise to the jan/san industry, and SM was right in the thick of it.”

The 1950s witnessed a massive influx of new products and manufacturing processes. Most cleaning equipment was formerly made with durable metal, but in the 1950s manufacturers saw the advantages of incorporating plastics into the production of cleaning equipment and supplies. During that time, distributors and manufacturers alike looked to SM to stay on top of the newest trends.

“As our company has done research, our designers have read SM to find out what distributors and end users are looking for,” says Gradinger. “I’ve personally read it for many years, and I know that it has been one of our best sources for technology information, news about margin squeezes and even international trends.”

The 1960s were dominated by mergers and acquisitions, with conglomerates such as Beatrice Foods acquiring long-established firms. As distributors have tried to stay afloat during difficult economic storms, SM has attempted to give readers articles that are relevant to their businesses, occasionally offering criticism or erring on the side of caution.

“There’s always the conflict between wanting to paint a rosy picture of the industry, and also needing to tell it like it is,” says Geissler. “I can remember a cover story that talked about consolidation and the merger frenzy that was going on. I was proud that that article attempted to legitimately talk about what was going on and it didn’t run from a touchy subject. We’ve asked distributors, Will you survive? in cover stories. We’ve tried to really look at what is going on in the industry and we’ve been prepared to talk about it.”

The 1970s featured the first significant wave of governmental legislation and regulatory compliance, as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials began flexing their muscles. Keeping abreast of new industry legislation has helped SM to attract loyal readers.

“I think that a business magazine really has to keep its finger on the pulse of the market and try to get inside the reader’s head, to the extent that you try to identify what keeps people awake at night,” says Wisniewski. “The issues for the sanitary supply industry go well beyond products and new technologies: there are issues of manufacturer-distributor relationships, succession planning and there are regulatory issues. We have such a tremendous reader loyalty because we stay on top of the concerns that our readers have.”

Green products and the need for cleaning solutions to be environmentally conscious defined the 1980s. For some distributors, it was the first time that they asked themselves tough questions about how cleaning chemicals and methods could have long-term environmental impact. SM provided many of the answers, separating fact from fiction for readers, and keeping them abreast of strict new legislation related to EPA restrictions. The 1980s was also the decade when many distributors began using computers. SM answered its readers’ need for more technology information with a new department in the magazine, “TechCentral.”

“There was the slow evolution from the beginning until probably the 1970s, where [SM] evolved into a publication that was dealing more with trends and issues on a variety of topics as opposed to merely covering the association and new products,” says Yake. “But I think the strategy to make it a business magazine for business leaders probably really came into fruition in the mid- to late-1980s — probably around the time that Bob Wisniewski took over the organization.”

Quality management and opportunities for global marketing were two of the big issues for distributors in the 1990s. During the late 1990s the dot-com boom made some distributors worry that e-commerce would force them out of the supply chain. Again, SM provided in-depth coverage and saw readers through the short-lived “business revolution” that saw hundreds of Internet companies disappear.

Despite the failure of many dot-com endeavors, the editorial staff at SM has consistently encouraged distributors to investigate new trends and changing technologies, instead of defaulting to the status quo.

“We’ve tried to push our readers to try new things, and even elevate their standards,” says Geissler. “We’ve even written articles on how some industrial distributors seem to be further ahead of some jan/san distributors. We’ve analyzed other industries and said, ‘Hey, this is what they’re doing. Should we be doing that too?’ When computers started to become mainstream for business, we pushed our readers to find out how they could benefit from the new technologies. Now everyone has them.”

Today’s Issues
The current version of Sanitary Maintenance magazine still provides pragmatic editorial, helping distributors navigate through the changing business of a new millennium and a stagnant economy. Domestic problems of false accounting on Wall Street and international conflict with the Middle East are affecting every distributor in the country, in one way or another. SM continues to bring informative, useful coverage to the desks of distributors who need it.

“I’m very proud of the magazine, because it has always been the most sophisticated, the most well thought-out, most professionally produced publication that the industry has been able to offer as long as the industry has existed,” says Yake. “The changes to the publication recently have probably been more subtle because magazines, in general, have become more sophisticated, but we’ve always been a bit ahead of the times when it came to reporting, designing and packaging the publication.”

The legacy of Harry Apple lives on in every issue of Sanitary Maintenance with 60 years of pertinent editorial and advertising. “I knew Harry Apple, and I worked for his son, Bob Apple, for 15 years,” says Wisniewski. “I’ve always felt that it was my responsibility, as CEO of this company, to carry on the tradition of delivering the finest quality magazine in this industry. I think that quality still does win the day, and, as a result, Sanitary Maintenance magazine is still around after 60 years.&#