Coming back from a round of Labor Day golf today, I checked my email and saw that Steve Unger had sent me a message, letting me know that it was 25 years ago yesterday that Kenrick Advertising closed its doors for good.
25 years has created some cobwebs in my brain as the exact details are no longer quite clear in my head so hopefully, some other Kenrickian will clear up exactly what happened that day.
I don’t remember if we were shut down to begin the day or whether it happened after we were coming back from lunch. That seems to be the way I recall it – there were either armed security guards or police officers there to greet us as we got off the elevator at Aragon Place and told us to go grab our immediate belongings and get out.
Denny Long had filed Chapter 11.
Seriously? How could he? Why did he? You have got to be kidding me.
But it wasn’t a joke.
The third largest advertising agency in St. Louis and the only agency job I had worked at coming fresh out of college was no more.
Many of us gathered at Powers, a local Clayton watering hole that was the site of many a Kenrick gathering – both lunchtime and after work. I still remember Denny being interviewed on TV as the news of the shutdown made all of the local channels and how lucky Powers was that a beer bottle didn’t shatter the set. We were furious. We were dumbfounded. We were out on the streets without jobs.
In 11 short months, Denny had come in, purchased all of the Aragon Companies consisting of Kenrick Advertising, Aragon PR, MultaVista, Patrick Promotions, Kingsbury Graphics, Technisonic Studios and I think one or two others – Aragon Consulting Group and maybe some research-based company and before we could even celebrate a year with him at the helm he pulled the plug and abandoned ship.
Most of us didn’t see it coming.
But that’s life. That’s business.
I remember several of us meeting a few days after with hopes to save the company. Maybe buy it back, hold on to the key accounts we had, right the ship and all would be good again.
Turns out a few of us from that meeting had other plans. That was the birth of Brighton.
The rest of us had to fend for ourselves. And gradually, most of us somehow managed to land on our feet. Technisonic was purchased and continued on for many years. Quite a few Kenrickians went to Adamson. Geile-Rexford was born and turned into Geile-Leon and they’re doing great work now with a culture that is reminiscent of the Kenrick days.
I spent 16 years at Hughes and for the most part, it was a great place to work.
But it was never like Kenrick Advertising.
Maybe it was because it was my first real agency job. Maybe it was because I was in my 20s and didn’t know any better.
But I’ve never felt that.
Kenrick Advertising was a place that encouraged creativity. I used to think of it as a grown-up kindergarten, a place where I went to play and was encouraged to come up with big ideas that were totally targeted, totally focused but also out-of-the-ordinary. It’s where I learned the simple expression, “In order to do the extraordinary, you must resist the ordinary.”
There are so many great people that I got the opportunity to know through Kenrick.
Some are no longer with us. Others are scattered about the country. But most of us are still here in the midwest, many still here in St. Louis, many still doing the same kind of work that we were back then. Only different.
So to anyone that once worked in the Aragon Companies and particulary those who strolled the halls of KAI, wherever you are, join me as I raise a toast and pay homage to the many memories of Kenrick Advertising.