Uni-Mail Rises, Falls With World Trade Center

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Uni-Mail List Corp. was founded in downtown Manhattan about the same time construction began on the World Trade Center. It closed the week after the Twin Towers' destruction.


Brothers David and Stewart Avrick began the firm in 1970 as a package insert brokerage company, Uni-Mail president Michael Bryant said. It was then located at Varick and Beach streets in lower Manhattan.


"Uni-Mail actually stood for Unique Mail," Bryant said.


Before opening Uni-Mail, the Avricks were in the envelope-printing business.


Bryant recalled, "One day they got an order for something like 5 million envelopes from Ladies Home Journal, and David said, 'What are you doing with these?' and they said, 'We're doing a co-op mailing,' and he said, 'This could be a business.' "


About a year after the company was founded, Bob Castle joined the firm, and Bryant came aboard as his assistant. In the 1970s, Uni-Mail specialized in sweepstakes.


"We had clients that used to mail millions and millions and millions with us, and, obviously, those glory days are gone forever for the entire business," Bryant said.


Bryant became a partner almost 20 years ago and saw the company diversify through the '80s and '90s.


"[Bryant has] been involved from almost the very beginning and seen the company grow from a concept to not only one of the major list broker/list managers but one for whom everyone has high regard and respect," David Avrick said.


Avrick has been uninvolved with Uni-Mail for at least five years and is now president of Avrick Direct Inc. in Santa Barbara, CA.


Uni-Mail moved into its offices at 42 Broadway -- just blocks from the World Trade Center -- in 1999 after having occupied several locations around Manhattan over the years.


On Sept. 21, 10 days after the terrorist attacks made his offices uninhabitable, Bryant made the decision to close Uni-Mail for good. He said he expects to liquidate the company and tie up loose ends within three months but did not say what his next career move would be.


While the events of Sept. 11 made Uni-Mail's fate final, Bryant apparently had been previously trying to sell the company. At least one list firm had talked with Bryant about the possibility of buying it.


"We had been talking to them briefly before Sept. 11, and when that happened, it ground things to a halt. It looked like it wouldn't be a viable option to keep the company going," said David Florence, chairman of Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT.


Though DMI did not buy Uni-Mail, it has taken on several of its former employees and list management clients and may take on more in the coming weeks.


"We've got the three brokers and their teams, which consist right now of eight people, and two of their people from list management are joining us," Florence said.


The brokers are Carolyn Woodruff, Jennifer Cutler and Mary Ann Buoncristiano as well as their eight assistants. The managers are Cori Kenny and Melinda Garcia. The clients include Yves Rocher, Dream Products, Jerry Baker and Harlequin.


DMI will open a Manhattan office to accommodate some of its new staff members who live in the New York area.


"If we can get the phones in within a week or two, we should have it open," Florence said.


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