Phil Schubert began selling ads for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s program book for Miller Auditorium back in 1972. As ad sales in the program grew and extra space became available, Schubert added an article or two on local arts or dignitaries that proved very popular with patrons and gave Schubert the inclination to create something new. In September 1973, Encore, Magazine of the Arts, was born. The magazine, published nine times a year, was primarily distributed to Miller Auditorium patrons and to leaders in the community. It was very successful, growing in size every month, and it began featuring more and more stories outside the arts: stories about community leaders and business people, area history, travel and more. It was during Schubert’s time at the helm that one of the most-loved features of Encore was created — the “Guess Who?” feature, where readers tried to guess the identity of local dignitaries dressed in costume.
Schubert stayed at the helm of his creation until 1996, when he sold it to Penny and Richard Briscoe. Penny, a former high school yearbook advisor, became the publication’s editor, while Richard, who had a long career in health care administration, became the publisher. By focusing on making Encore “the People magazine of Kalamazoo,” as Penny used to call it, the Briscoes ushered in a new era in the publication’s popularity, offering in-depth profiles of local movers and shakers without letting go of coverage of the local arts and culture scene. Encore’s distribution in the community also grew during this time, through targeted mailing to members of local country clubs.
In 2011, Marie and Krieg Lee bought the nearly 40-year-old magazine, bringing the publication into the digital age. Marie, a former newspaper journalist and communications professional, functions as the publication’s editor and publisher. The Lees began publishing Encore 12 months a year beginning in 2014 and revamped the magazine’s content to include more and shorter features on the arts, business, lifestyle and culture of the greater Kalamazoo community, as well as stunning photography. A digital edition and new website allowed readers to access the magazine’s content online. The Lees also expanded the magazine’s distribution, adding many more public pickup locations, growing the number of paid subscribers and cultivating additional readers through the availability of the magazine’s content online.
As the world has changed, the magazine has endured. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Encore continued to print and provide community coverage while many other local publications ceased producing. Paid subscriptions increased, and the publication’s online readers quadrupled in number. Coming out of the pandemic, Encore was no longer publicly distributed at Miller Auditorium, but the owners more than made up for that loss by adding new public pickup locations. The magazine now enjoys a pickup rate of 95 percent, meaning nearly all the copies printed in a month are snatched up by readers.
There have been many changes for Encore during its 50-year history, but one thing has remained constant — each issue celebrates the people, places, organizations and businesses that make the greater Kalamazoo area the unique community it is. With hard work and the continued support of the community, Encore will continue to do so for the next half-century.