A Clifton Park public relations firm with a more than 40-year history representing many of the Capital Region’s best-known companies and nonprofit organizations is looking within for new ownership.
Ed Lewi & Associates said Thursday that founder Ed Lewi along with wife and executive vice president Maureen Lewi are selling the business to Mark Bardack, a 12-year employee who is currently vice president of media relations for the firm.
“Ed and Maureen gave their blood, sweat and tears together to build this place,” Bardack said.
The deal is set to close next week. Terms were not disclosed, but the Lewis will remain consultants to the firm, according to Bardack.
The Lewis are credited with boosting the profiles of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Price Chopper Supermarkets and the Saratoga Race Course, along with several local businesses and well-known events in the Capital Region.
The PR firm’s relationship with the Saratoga Race Course goes back more than 30 years.
“The Saratoga Race meeting over six weeks by any measure is the most successful race meeting in the country, whether you talk about wagering activity or daily attendance, and you have to believe that Ed and Maureen and their company have been a huge part in creating that,” said Charlie Hayward, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association. “They have skills in a lot of areas. They have a tremendous media department, a lot of expertise in promotional events and a very good advertising department.”
A small businessman who has worked with Ed Lewi & Associates for the past seven years said the personable touch they give to large companies and major events is there for smaller operations, too.
“They seemed to have the connections to get things done. If you do it on your own, you never get the same results,” said Ray Bleser, president of Northeastern Fine Jewelry. “It’s because they just have a great reputation. They just don’t call the press to anything. They make sure it’s interesting to all parties involved. When the press does come there, it’s set up correctly. It’s organized. [Bardack] does his homework.”
The Lewis said the decision to sell has been an ongoing process that led to inquiries from large firms in New York City and local entrepreneurs who wanted to buy the business over the past five years.
But they wanted someone who already had an existing relationship with many of their clients and Bardack was the best fit.
“It’s been more than a job; it’s been a passion. You never know when you sell to an outsider what they’re going to do as far the future is concerned,” said Maureen Lewi.
“We wanted to have the same type of quality, same type of rapport with our clients and Mark has picked all of that up. We weren’t just looking for a big cash deal. We were looking for the right person. Let’s face it — they’re using our name. We want our name to continue on in the name of public relations,” Ed Lewi said.
As the field changes with the incorporation of more technologies and social media, the Lewis felt part of their succession plan was to pass the business to someone up to speed on the latest trends in the industry.
Bardack, 43, said there is no need to make a drastic change in overhaul of what the Lewis have established, but he plans to do more than just continue their legacy.
“We want to grow with the region as the region grows, grow with the times and grow with the new media that’s out there,” Bardack said.
Ed Lewi & Associates was founded in the 1960s as a part-time venture Ed Lewi started when he was promotions director at the Albany Times Union, where he worked for 18 years. Before that, Lewi had been a wire editor and later sports writer for The Schenectady Gazette. He also worked for the Associated Press and United Press International and in television and radio broadcasting.
The firm was incorporated in 1975 with three major clients, Price Chopper, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Charles R. Wood Enterprises. Maureen Lewi oversaw staffing and operations while playing a part in nearly every facet of the business, whether it was special events, consumer shows, promotions or writing and editing.
The Lewis say they’re most proud of the major events they were involved in, including the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid, and helping the U.S. Figure Skating Association build partnerships and sponsors that helped yield higher television ratings.
They say the everyday excitement of the business is what they’ll miss the most.
“Some of our closest and dearest friends are reporters and editors,” Maureen Lewi said.
Some of the current clients of Ed Lewi & Associates include Alpin Haus, Citizens Bank, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hannaford Supermarkets, 38 High Rock Condominium, the Great Northeast Home Show, Living Resources, Mazzone Management Group, The New York Racing Association, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Siena Athletics, the Sports Foundation of the Capital Region and Stuyvesant Plaza.
“A lot of people think public relations is about sending out press releases,” Ed Lewi said. “The answer is to create something that is fresh that everybody wants to write about. And if it’s negative, then so be it. You make the best you can out of it. In the end you garner more press out of what happens.”