Vicki Dar was just trying to be a good mother when she stumbled upon her career.
After her children were born, Dar began cutting parenting information out of magazines, newspapers and brochures. She kept the clippings in a box and decided one day to organize them.
“I was always clipping things, gathering things that were absolutely necessary to make me a good parent,” Dar said. “I alphabetized them and there we were.”
The Family Resource Guide was born and Eagle Publishing was formed to produce it. That was 10 years ago, in Yakima.
Eagle Publishing has since moved to Spokane and splits its time between producing the Inland Northwest Family Magazine and running wholesale book fair fund-raisers. The book fairs raise money for charities.
Eagle also recently published its first edition of the Spokane Area Family Resource Guide. A teen resource guide is planned for the spring.
The resource guide offers helpful tips such as where to find classes for children or how to make your own Halloween costumes. It’s full of names, phone numbers and addresses of businesses and organizations for quick reference.
“It really took off,” Dar said of the guide she published in Yakima. “The community loved it, schools were asking for it. We design it to be average person user-friendly. If you want diapers, you look under diapers.”
The publishing operation is a family affair. Dar’s husband, Dale Reeser, is operations manager. The couple’s two children, Carly, 10, and Rawley, 14, also are on the payroll. Rawley sometimes takes in up to $300 a month by helping out at book fairs.
In its fourth year, the family magazine circulates 30,000 copies monthly to schools, bookstores and libraries. It’s free, but about 200 subscribers pay $12 yearly to make sure it shows up in their mailboxes. Circulation has doubled since the first year. Revenues doubled from the first year to the second and have increased about 25 percent per year since then.
Family Magazine is geared toward adults, said Dar, 37. It includes articles on everything from arranging a party for teenagers to dealing with depression.
Dar envisioned the magazine as an “information source to support families and to enrich families. That sounds corny,” she said, “but it’s true. I guess I want to make a difference. I think it’s amazing to be able to reach so many people.”
The business is housed in the finished basement of the family’s South Hill home. Dar has four full-time and five part-time employees. A kitten named Tigger sleeps sprawled across the fax machine.
“I’ll be talking to someone on the phone and he’ll tippy-toe across the phone and put them on hold,” Dar says, laughing.
The atmosphere is casual and comforting. Incense wafts through the office and encouraging expressions such as “As long as you’re going to think anyway, think big,” are pasted on the walls.
Despite the atmosphere, the operation can be intense, especially near the monthly deadline, or when there are two book fairs in one day.
Books ranging from a $60 hardcover book on baseball to the Far Side 1997 desk calendar are sold for 40 to 60 percent off. About 9,000 boxed books are stacked 10 feet high in the garage. Eagle Publishing takes home between 5 and 12 percent of the earnings.
The publishing business is now the family’s sole source of income. Two years ago, Reeser left the job at Central Pre-Mix that brought the family to Spokane from Yakima.
The couple met at Central Washington University and married after college. Dar took her degree in fine arts and landed a job in Olympia as creative director for the Washington State Research Council, a state government watchdog agency.
“I had no commercial design background, but I learned very quickly,” Dar said.
After two years, they moved to Royal City, near Moses Lake, and leased several hundred acres of farmland. For two years, they grew corn, wheat, beans and other row crops. Dar brought her Olympia job with her and did it long-distance.
The first year of farming was tough, financially. “The second year, we did well, and thought, ‘Let’s run for it,”’ Dar said.
They moved to Yakima where Reeser went to work for Central Pre-Mix and Dar, for the Chamber of Commerce. They bought a fixer-upper - a shack on a hill with no running water, no electricity and floors through which the ground peeked.
“Everyone thought, ‘How could you take a child into that home?”’ Dar recalled.
When they sold the house as a summer home two years later, they reaped a large profit, beginning a lucrative side venture. They’ve since bought, fixed up and sold five other houses, three in Yakima and two in Spokane.
Dar said it was tough to break into the Spokane publishing market at first, but now, when her phone rings, it’s usually someone trying to track down a copy of the family magazine.
“They look all over town and can’t find it,” she said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo