There’s a 10-year-old in our house now, and he took on a few paper routes this summer. That means, of course, that mom did, too.
I was excited he was interested in the family business and looked forward to the family bonding time. He wanted to pick up a little spending money (and admits it is fun to do this job together). It turns out, we’re not the only parent-child team doing delivery for TMC Publications CO. We’re part of a trend in our corner of the world.
The first thing we learned is that it’s best for us to split the 400-paper route into two 1-hour or so long sessions. It is more manageable that way right now. We listen to music and audio books as we go, both taking one side of a street.
We definitely got faster as we did the same route more, and worked out our routine for where we parked, picked up more papers, and got water. We also learned why the mail carriers walk across lawns – else a lot of time is eaten up walking up and down front sidewalks. I discovered a new gratitude for those who create pathways in their front gardens to help carriers move between houses. (Little things add up, don’t they?)
POLYBAGS OR RUBBER BANDS?
Our routes this summer became testing grounds for whether we should A) use polybags to keep papers dry, B) fold and set down, or C) use rubber bands.
I started out three years ago using polybags for every delivery. They keep the paper dry unless there is a big rainstorm or really wet snow. We switched to color bags so that folks can see them easier in the snow. However, readers and carriers are asking us to use less plastic, a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly. Plus, I’ve noticed that the majority of papers are picked up the same day, so we don’t have to plan ahead for whether there will be rain a day or two later in the forecast. And many houses have overhangs that protect something on the front step.
My son and I tried folding papers in half and leaving them on doorsteps for our first route this summer. It was a bit tedious and the papers didn’t stay in place well, sometimes falling off the front steps as we walked to the next house. I was amazed at how even the slightest breeze caused the papers to shift.
Next, we tested out two different kinds of rubber bands, one with more rubber in it (the brown ones) versus more filler (the blue ones). This is currently our favorite method. We can roll the papers between houses and then throw it easily right onto the front steps. It doesn’t catch in the wind, and is easy to throw. I love an efficient solution. Plus, my aim is getting pretty good! Except for those occasional gusts that take the paper at the last minute and deposit it into the bushes. My apologies if that happened at your house (and your Ring door cam caught my grimace).
I love the pace of a walk through the neighborhood, and how I actually stop to smell the roses as I’m delivering papers. It’s good exercise, too. I see some folks working on their computers from their covered porches. Others doing yardwork or reading. And we pass a lot of folks walking their dogs. I feel a lovely sense of community as I go from door to door, dropping off papers.
Our carriers are vital members of the TMC Publications team. There aren’t a lot of papers still being delivered door-todoor like ours is. In the Twin Cities, more and more are switching to mail (which has its own set of issues), bulk drops (like Southside Pride) or online-only. We believe pretty strongly in the democratic way that door-to-door delivery ensures that everyone get a copy of the paper – old, young, rich and poor. During the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became super clear that our “old-fashioned” way of getting the news out to folks had some real advantages. Even during the stay-at-home order, we could still keep people connected with each other.
Of course, we also use the Internet for news and updates between the issues, and you can find our entire e-Editions or each individual story on our website. But, there’s just something about the feel and smell of a printed paper... We even hear from millennials that they appreciate the screen-free moments they get as they peruse the paper.
We’ve had a lot of new carriers come aboard this year as we switched from hiring the delivery out to a subcontractor and moving it in-house. Bjorn Willms joined us last fall when we launched the Southwest Connector in southwest Minneapolis, and has pulled together a great roster of folks. It can take some time to learn the ropes, and we’ve had the occasional kerfuffle. One day, a first timer drove down the streets of Nokomis throwing papers out a vehicle window, and Bjorn and I dashed out early the next morning when we were notified to clean up and redeliver each copy. At other times, a house on a side street gets missed until the resident gives us a call and alerts us.
See a carrier out there? Let them know you’re grateful they bring the paper to your front door.
MEET OUR CARRIERS
We’ve had a few kiddo-parent teams join our carrier roster this summer. Two homeschool families are doing routes for the Messenger.
Over in southwest, Michael Scrivner and his 13-year-old daughter, Lily, signed up for a Kingfield route. It was a first for both of them. Lily likes getting out and the exercise.
It’s the same for Jason Walker and his daughter, Nettie, in Linden Hills. Nettie talked up the route so much that her friend, Brittney Keating’s child, decided to do a route, too. Mother-son team Christine and Theo Page also took on a route in Linden Hills in August.
The Kenison family has been delivering papers in Linden Hills for years, and the girls have graduated but still like doing the routes when they can.
Amy Swanson used to deliver the Southwest Journal, and is joined by fouryear-old Eva when she delivers papers in the Kenny neighborhood.
Joining them in the Kenny area is 14-year-old Finn Mason. This is his first job. “It seemed like a good fit,” he remarked. He bikes down from his home in Kingfield with papers in a bike carrier, and then walks his 750-paper route.
Mary McKinley calls herself the “mom helper,” for her two boys, ages 14 and 16. They deliver 300 papers in Tangletown.
Erin Soderberg Downing’s family has delivered in Tangletown for awhile. She’s an author who is wrapping up the third book in her Great Peach Experiment series. It’s due out in April 2023. (www.erinsoderberg.com)
Mike Palecek has been involved in the newspaper business in various ways for most of his life. He’s written for papers and owned one near Rochester with his wife from 1990-93. He’s also an author, and has written over 30 books since 1994. His most recent is “Lake Harriet Horror or Love and Bigfoot in the Time of the Covid Plague,” and he’s hard at work on his next release. (More at mikepalacek.newdream. us)
Retiree John Manders has three routes and delivers about 1,650 papers in Whittier, East Lowry Hill and Armatage. He used to deliver copies of City Pages and other publications. He likes the work because he is outside and is moving his body.
Larry Witt has been delivering the Star Tribune every day for 40 years. He wakes up at midnight, picks up papers at 1 a.m., and is finished by 12:30 p.m. “I remember when you had to deliver cereal with the paper. That was a pain,” he said. It used to be that nearly every house on a block got a Star Tribune, but now he drives the routes and delivers 1-4 papers per block. He covers walking routes for the Connector in East Bde Maka Ska and Lynnhurst, delivering 1,800 papers.
Jeff Mattson and Lyle James are two other heavy hitters, who manage multiple routes for the Connector, Messenger and Monitor. Want to put a face to the name? Check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for images of our carriers. Interested in picking up your own route and making $11-15 an hour? Email Bjorn at email@example.com.
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