The “Little Blue Book” celebrates its 75th anniversary

Courtesy picture
Left to right, Mary Ann Simmerer, Jessica Zachara, Rebecca Reyes, Stephanie Zeoli, Elaine Nesom, Kim Towar and Patti Austin. Not pictured are Sharon McMillan, LeighAnn Hildinger and Anna Swartz.

GROSSE POINTE WOODS – When Kim Towar returned to Grosse Pointe in 1989 to take over her father’s business, she said her first thought was, “A phone book, really?”
She quickly realized that it was much more than that.
“Grosse Pointe is a very eclectic community,” she said. “When I took over, I kept thinking about how we were going to make money. Then people started saying to me, ‘This is our Bible.’ It’s amazing how many people feel this.
About to publish its 75th edition, “the little blue book” has evolved from a 16-page black and white pamphlet to a brilliant color guide of more than 300 pages.
Watching the very first issue is like taking a time trip through the Pointes. Page 1 features an advertisement for Farms Market, now called Fresh Farms Market, which is still located at the same address on Fisher Road. Beneath the undertakers, a reader might find Chas. Verheyden Inc., which at the time was on Mack near Outer Drive. Belding Cleaners is also in there, listed at the same address on Kercheval where it can be found today, and of course the Grosse Pointe News is in there, listed at an address of 99 Kercheval in the farms.
According to Towar, the concept for the book was created in the late 1940s by restaurateur Diamond Phillips and Matthew Gobel, advertising manager for GP News.
“I didn’t find out about it until years later, but it was printed by Acme Press and their office was in Nottingham at Mack,” Towar said. “It’s the same building I bought when I first took over the business.”
At the time, the brochure was printed quarterly with the motto “Grosse Pointe, one of the finest residential communities in America.” Here, the shops and refined services attract patronage from afar” at the top of the first page.
Towar’s father, AJ “Bud” Towar, purchased the company in 1977.
“It had been sold to Parish Publishing in 1968, the company that publishes all church bulletins,” Towar said, “but they finally decided it wasn’t right for their business.”

Photo by Renée Landuyt
The cover of the first edition of what was to become “the little blue book”.

In an effort to learn more about the publication’s background, Towar began advertising that it would pay $10 for copies each year, which it has now obtained.
“From our perspective, anyone can buy an ad on Google, but not everyone can be in our book,” Towar laughed. “We do, however, list all businesses in all Pointes, whether they buy an ad or not. The reason for that is if someone picks it up to search for a specific business and it’s not listed, what does- it? They throw it in the trash.”
Through hard work and dedication, Towar’s 10-member, all-female team pushed the book forward. In addition to the guide, Towar Productions has branched out to include branding, print, content marketing and media services.
“We have a six-month sales cycle and I started thinking about what we could do the other six months of the year,” she said. “So we started a blue book for St. Clair Shores.”
Towar said she was unsure of its success, but had her answer shortly after the first issue was released.
“We included a scavenger hunt where people could win tickets to the Renaissance Festival,” Towar recalls. “Within a few weeks, we had hundreds of entries.”
Towar has similar plans for the Diamond Jubilee edition of the yearbook.
“We will be including 10 diamond tickets for $100 gift cards to various businesses and one for a $1,000 shopping spree to several of our advertisers,” she said. “We are so lucky to be in this community and want to show our appreciation for how people have embraced us all these years.”

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