Stone Column

Remembering Michael Reis

March 3, 2014
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Oh man, where do I start? For any of you who haven’t heard, our editor for the last 19 years, and my co-worker for the last 21, Michael Reis, passed away on February 7th. He was vacationing with his close friends (“Team America” as they referred to themselves) in Jamaica.

Because of the impact Mike had on our magazine, our tight-knit staff and the industry at large, I am breaking a few rules with this issue. First, the Stone Column has never run more than one page, but I’m sorry, you just can’t pay homage to my friend here in one page. I also held to a rule that we aren’t the story,we cover the stories; therefore we shouldn’t be on the cover. On our cover this month, you can see Mike in one of his favorite locations, Italy, during the 2011 AIA Study Tour that we sponsor with the Marmomacc group each year. This photo was taken at the Marmi Faedo Quarry in Chiampo, outside of Verona. From the large-scale factories to quarries and fabrication shops, Mike was there, inquiring about that new saw or new quarrying method.

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Mike Reis (left) and Alex Bachrach (right).

So I will try to give you a little history of Mike and his career at Stone World, and his place in the stone industry. I started here at Stone World in July of 1988 when our magazine was published by founders Mike and Stephanie Lench, who hired Michael Reis in 1993. I still remember the day Mike was introduced to me in that house we had converted to an office in Oradell, NJ. I turned to my office mate and said, “He seems like a shy and quiet guy. I wish we could hire someone fun.” I was dead wrong. Quiet is not a word anyone would use to describe Mike.

Named editor in 1995, Mike absolutely loved the opportunity to run the magazine, and he thrived in his new role, learning more and more about every facet of the business. In 1997, Michael was named Associate Publisher to reflect the evolution of his role to more than just the editor — we worked together to come up with new ideas and better ways to cover our industry. Again, he embraced his new role, always joking in his Jersey bravado, “Hey man, I take my role seriously. You need me to push that guy to buy an ad or what?”

When we launched our Stone World Fabrication Workshops, it was Mike’s initial idea to start the series and his knowledge and leadership that kept them going. He attended as many as he could because he loved the interaction with the fabricators. There are many projects and products here at the Paramus office of BNP Media that Mike launched and managed, but recently, he began working on his favorite: the Building Stone Magazine. He and Jennifer Adams, our editorial team, have worked with Jane Bennett to produce what he affectionately called “the Ferrari.” The magazine is beautiful and it reflects his level of perfectionism and his commitment to putting out the best product possible at all times.

He immediately connected with the Stone Fabricators Alliance (SFA) because they were the grass roots guys in the trenches he was always drawn to, and he loved the trips he took with them to Italy and the workshops they held. He was passionate about the MIA and their safety efforts and felt proud to get involved in the radon discussion and, more recently, the current concerns with OSHA’s efforts.

But in this space, I need to share a little more with you, more than just Michael Reis, editor (and Associate Publisher) of Stone World. Mike had many passions, but in recent decades hiking had become one of Mike’s favorite activities, and he increasingly raised the bar in terms of where he went and what he did. The Catskills and Harriman State Park were his preferred spots for local day hikes and over -nighters in the snow, and he managed to get hikes in during his down time in Italy, Spain, Brazil and China (he led both Jennifer and I on hikes of Pania della Croce in Italy during our trips to Carrara). But he also had specific trips with his hiking buddies, the aforementioned Team America, including a trek across the volcanically active center of Iceland, another trip down the east coast of Sardinia, and finally a difficult portion of the Spanish Pyrenees. Mike has also hiked the entire Long Trail in Vermont (his adopted favorite state, after Jersey) along with parts of the Adirondacks, The Sierra Mountain Range in California and The Rockies in Colorado. In the office, we heard all the stories and saw the beautiful photos.

Mike was also one of the biggest sports fans I know, and we shared a devotion to the grand dynasties of New York — the Mets and the Jets. His season tickets to the Jets and the tailgates that preceded each game are what he lived for. He was also an avid music fan, expanding his tastes from Nirvana and the grunge scene when we first met, to Phish, Umphrey’s McGee and the variety of music seen at Jazzfest in New Orleans.

For me, though, my lasting memories are the laughs. Not just a few, but more than should be allowed. It actually hurt often. We came back from Brazil, Italy, Vegas, Chicago — even small towns like Collinsville, IL — with the most insane stories that just made us cry hysterically again when we recounted them to our co-workers. My favorite has to be the time we took a taxi to an absolute godforsaken area in Chicago (I was convinced there was a blues bar we needed to find) and ended up in a police station, where he promptly asked for a 7:30 am wake-up call and some orange juice in the morning. Even the cops loved him. His wit was always the sharpest in the room and he remembered every line from every movie or episode of Seinfeld and pulled them out at any moment. It made for much-needed comic relief in our little office of six in Paramus. And it made the stress of the deadlines and the pressure of business all seem worth it.

But it wasn’t just the two of us. We have had a close staff that feels more like a family and we have been together a long time, so we will all miss him. Jennifer Adams, his partner in the editorial department and collaborator on so many projects, Janelle Minghine, Steve Smith and Dee Wakefield, the sales staff he was always pushing to sell more ads,  Wendy Zaremba-Just, his art director for most of his time at Stone Worldand Pam Deneau, his production manager for several years. I know the industry will miss him dearly. Anyone who looked at the SFA forum that was started after his death saw the powerful emotions that people displayed upon hearing of Mike’s death, and understood the effect he had on everyone in our industry. I know his wife and family were amazed to see all of the comments, and it finally helped them understood what he did all those years in all of those places.

Where do we go from here? We move forward, as he would have expected and demanded. Mike didn’t help build this magazine just so it would fall apart upon his departure. He trained Jennifer for
17 ½ years, and she is more than ready for the task. But as we have all said, we have some big shoes to fill. He would want us to do exactly that and keep the magazine and our vision alive.

We will miss you, my friend. The office, the magazine, the industry — they just won’t be the same. How will I walk the halls of the trade shows without my brother by my side? Don’t worry, we will figure it out somehow. But you left your mark, brother. You definitely did that.

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