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(Posted 6 a.m., Jan. 21)
Original owner recalls newspaper’s beginnings

By Mike Beasley
Orléans Online

Larry Soulliere, the founder and original owner of the Orléans Star, holds up a copy of the first edition of the paper published on April 14, 1986. Mike Beasley/Photo

An accomplished entrepreneur like Larry Soulliere was never one to overlook an interesting business opportunity when he saw one, and he always had a keen eye when it came to making a couple of bucks.

An accomplished entrepreneur like Larry Soulliere was never one to overlook an interesting business opportunity when he saw one, and he always had a keen eye when it came to making a couple of bucks.

As the owner of Orléans Furniture in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Soulliere was a prominent businessman in the area when it came to retail, investments and real estate. He was always on the go, taking care of his many business ventures.

Besides reaping the benefits of his furniture business and also through his property dealings, Soulliere discovered another opportunity, quite by chance, during a conversation with one of his former tenants back in 1985.

“One of my ex-tenants in the old Carrefour Orléans asked me why there was only one newspaper (the Orléans Express) covering the east end,” Soulliere remembers. “I couldn’t give him an answer and started thinking there may be a business opportunity for me to explore.”

In 1986, the Orléans housing market was rapidly expanding along with a solid base of commercial businesses looking to spend some of their annual budgets on advertising and marketing.

The anglophone population was also on the rise in the east end, which suited Soulliere just fine. It was under this perfect business environment of new and existing companies looking to reach out to a rapidly expanding population that he decided to launch a community newspaper in Orléans, and so, on April 14, 1986, The Star was born.

The first publisher was Gerry Greco and James MacLaren was the first editor. The sales team included Colleen Fitzpatrick, Barbara Demers, and Gerard Lacroix.

“My goal with the paper was to reach out to the local community by covering events within the community,” Soulliere said. “I wanted lots of local faces, news, events and tons of sports coverage. We wanted to be the ‘Voice’ of Orléans, Blackburn Hamlet, Navan and Cumberland and I truly believe we did a great job with it.”

With a distribution of close to 30,000 copies the original Orléans Star did extremely well, with support of the local business community.

Success always creates curiosity in the business world and that’s exactly what happened to the newspaper.

“After a couple of issues, corporate interest in the paper was sky high. We were hitting decent numbers when it came to generating advertising dollars,” Soulliere remembered.

It wasn’t long before the Quebec-based media giant, Cogeco came calling eight months after the paper was launched and made Soulliere an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“At the time, Cogeco was scooping up all these smaller papers in an attempt to corner the print market,” recalls Soulliere.

“Their offer made sense, the dollar value was on target and they offered to cover the rent for the final three years of the lease. It made perfect sense and I sold the publication.”

Cogeco ran the paper until 1996 when Transcontinental acquired the company, thereby adding 32 weekly newspapers published in Ontario and Quebec to its portfolio.

“I enjoyed my time with the paper and I had the opportunity to meet a countless amount of people in the Orléans community,” Soulliere said.

Even today, Soulliere is an avid reader, tapping into books about leadership and successful business practices.

All of which, he experienced at some time during his professional career.

“I look forward to reading the local papers as well because it helps me to keep in touch with what’s going on in my backyard,” Soulliere said. “I think it’s extremely important to have a local, printed voice delivering the news and I wish the new owners all the best.”

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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