Written by Lisa Mayer | Photography by Nicole Rand with contributions from Tyla Davis & Colby Michaud
A husband and wife were driving through Louisiana. As they approached Natchitoches, they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town. They argued back and forth, then they stopped for lunch.
At the counter, the husband asked the lady working, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us? Would you please pronounce where we are very slowly?”
She leaned over the counter and said, “Burrr-gerrr Kiiing.”
This is the type of humor you see each and every month in Uncle Andy’s Digest. Now in its 25th year in print, the magazine has provided a mixture of jokes, one-liners, fun photos, and a guide to local business since its inception.
The Digest was founded by Andy Marsh in 1996 and originally owned by Marsh and Gary Dow. Jim Marston, affectionately known as Jimbo, joined the team in 2001, buying the Digest shortly thereafter.
Hot off the press
Marston is a life-long Mainer who grew up in Mechanic Falls. He lost his dad to suicide when he was only 13. His mom, Judy, taught him what a strong work ethic was.
“She worked her butt off,” he recalls, “and single-handedly raised three kids at the same time.”
Her example led Jimbo to get his first taste of entrepreneurship with a paper route at the age of 13.
“I took it pretty seriously. I was delivering 80 newspapers every day on both bike and on foot. I had to knock on the doors and collect all the money. I saved my money and bought myself a 10-speed bike with baskets… good memories.”
In high school, Marston fell in love with printing and graphics at Edward Little High School and dreamed of owning his own printing company.
“We had a fantastic Industrial Arts program,” he says, where he studied photography, graphics, and screen printing with his favorite teacher, Mike McFadden.
Marston was accepted to college at University of Southern Maine for printing technology, but his first daughter, Jamie, was born three months before he graduated high school.
“I decided it was more important to put food on the table,” he explained.
So Marston went to work for Joe Fillion, the owner of Penmor Lithographers, a high-end printing company in Lewiston. Fillion became one of his mentors and Marston stayed at Penmor for 19 years. During those years, Jimbo welcomed his second daughter, Kayla, and later married his wife, Sue. They had two children together: Courtney and Tanner.
But for some, the entrepreneurial spirit can’t be shaken, and Marston’s ambition of owning his own company had only grown. In 2001, while playing racquetball with friend and Digest co-
owner Gary Dow, he was served an opportunity to take the biggest swing of his life.
“Gary had just pulled another deadline all-nighter, and it seemed he had had enough. He looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you just buy us?’”
Not so serious business
Marston spent the next few years purchasing the company and crafting his own brand “Jimbo” brand. And after all these years at the helm of Uncle Andy’s Digest – it’s dang near impossible to tell him a joke he hasn’t heard.
For Jimbo, jokes mean business. And business is a laughing matter. He and his team collect them from everyone they meet. In the early years, they even had their own personal jokemeister – a fellow named Woodrow Evans Page (“Submitted by WEP” for the long-time die-hard fans). Every summer, Jimbo, along with Marsh and Dow, would drive out to Guilford, in eastern Maine, and take Page out for a long lunch.
“He was our joke service,” Jimbo said of Page, who died several years ago.
There’s a reason why jokes and one-liners are the “recipe for Uncle Andy’s Digest,” as Jimbo says. “We believe that smiling and making people laugh puts them in a buying mood. With all the negativity out there, people need a dose of laughter – and it’s WORKING.”
Close to 150 different businesses advertise in Uncle Andy’s Digest each month. They advertise everything from job openings to products and services, and food specials. While the ink may have dried up for other print publications, the presses continue to run for the Digest and the magazine can be easily found anywhere its readers are “Out ‘n About.”
Out ‘n About
The pages are glossy, bright, and full of pictures, and the ads start right on the cover. In fact, Dan Dumont, owner of Armand’s Auto Body, makes sure he’s always on the front.
“A lot of folks grab it just for the jokes, but it’s something that people actually pick up,” notes Dumont. “I have it lying on my desk, face up, of course, and customers ask, ‘Can I have one?’ and I say, ‘That’s what it’s there for!’”
“But I’ve also had more people tell me, ‘I saw your ad in Uncle Andy’s Digest,’ more than any other publication I’ve been in, including the newspaper.”
Jen Hogan, president and CEO of Community Credit Union echoes Dumont when she says, “We’ve pulled out of a lot of media, but we’ve kept our ad in the Digest, because we find so much value in it.”
Hogan goes on to say, “We’re so used to reading all the bad news, and it’s so nice that the Digest brings light to the positive! It brings people together in a way I’ve never seen any other print media do. It hits people of all different ages. It’s impactful.”
Both Dumont and Hogan have been advertising in the Digest almost since its inception. Dumont quips, “It’s all local people. More times than none, you know the folks in the bubble.”
The “bubble” refers to one of the most beloved parts of the Digest: the “Out ’n About” sidebars. They feature photos comprised of community members, business owners, event goers, and often adorable kids. Many pictures also include quirky voice bubbles.
Cat Tardie from Roopers is outed by her cartoon bubble: “Shh… don’t tell the boss I’m taking a magazine break.”
Another picture features a toddler named Gracie, sitting on the potty. She holds the Digest open, which appropriately hides the fact that she’s wearing her birthday suit. “Do not disturb,” the cartoon bubble says, “I’m reading my favorite magazine.”
Jimbo reminisces, “Our fans always think of the Digest when someone says, ‘Out ‘n About’ – that’s what we do. Looking back, I should have trademarked that term!”
The message is clear: Don’t take life so seriously!
Shanna Cox approves that message. Cox is the president of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the second largest of its kind in the state of Maine. The Digest became a Chamber member in 2001 and is currently, along with LA Metro Magazine, one of the Chamber’s print media sponsors.
“Because both publications are now media partners with the Chamber,” says Cox, “we can offer member businesses discounted rates if they advertise in both magazines – and even offer a free ad consultation!”
Cox, vested in economic development in the community, appreciates the way the Digest brings more awareness to local business.
“The great thing about Uncle Andy’s Digest is that it documents the real feel of our community. Those ‘Out ’n About’ photos are of the people who have a personal relationship to a business – the actual people who make this community great.”
“I love the jokes,” laughs Cox. “And I love how Uncle Andy’s Digest always puts a positive spin on things.”
“They’re right there on the spot,” she notes, “at the Little League game, at the bakery, at the place where you can buy campers,” she says.
Cox is gregarious and spends a lot of her time building and maintaining strong relationships with member businesses.
“Jimbo is actually quieter than people think,” says Cox of Marston. “He leads with his heart. For him, these publications are not just a business – there’s a purpose. They are grounded in the values of the community.”
Written in the stars
That purpose is highlighted by his commitment to giving back to his community. Marston has served on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Maine since 2016. That commitment to continue their mission shines through at the annual Uncle Andy’s Digest Summer Block Party.
What started as a 20th anniversary celebration in 2015 for the Digest grew to so much more. Marston had wanted to align the party with a nonprofit organization. One of his advertisers suggested Make-A-Wish Maine. Marston thought it would be “one and done,” but it was not so.
“Several people came up to me after that party and asked if we could do it again next year,“ recalls Marston. “And now it’s six years later.”
And six years later, that “one and done” party has raised over $266,000 and granted 38 wishes to children battling critical illnesses within the state of Maine. The Summer Block Party relies heavily on business and community support to raise that money. Community Credit Union, along with many other companies, enthusiastically give their support in both financial and creative ways.
“Jimbo contacted me with a sponsorship opportunity,” Jen Hogan says. “We call it ‘Community Credit Union’ because we build our brand around the community. And we like to get involved – we like to get our hands dirty.”
“The first year we just had an information table and a popcorn machine.” Hogan laughs. “Now we co-sponsor the dunk tank.”
Hogan also has a personal connection to the cause.
“My best friend’s son, Jacob, had his greatest wish granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation – to go to LegoLand,” Hogan says. “That’s what got my heart into it.”
A helping hand
Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
This value shared and embodied by Marston led him to discover a new way to distribute the Digest.
Jimbo’s friend, Laurie Crane Turton, and her staff at John F. Murphy Homes (JFM) – a nonprofit organization providing residences and programs for people with developmental disabilities – formed a partnership that provided employment to JFM residents within the community.
“Uncle Andy’s Digest gives real jobs to people who have many ‘barriers to employment,’” says Kristin Freeman, employment services manager for JFM. Job coaches from the organization drive “distributors” around as they drop off bundles of the latest issue of the Digest at businesses throughout the LA Metro area.
“When you meet someone, your first question is ‘What do you do for work?’” says Freeman, who is so proud of her ‘UAD Employees.’ “This gives them a ‘title.’”
She shares the story of Ivan Sheloske, 20, who “really wanted to work,” and started distributing the Digest while he was a senior at Poland Regional High School. His mother is a “huge supporter,” Freeman says, “who would do his deliveries with him.”
“Jimbo is our most long-standing business partner,” says Freeman of Marston, who maintains six “employees” from JFM. “He includes the employees at staff meetings, and gives out certificates each year, to thank them and commemorate how many years they’ve worked. It’s really cool.”
“He gives them a better quality of life,” continues Freeman. “I’m very thankful for everything Jimbo does. He goes above and beyond.”
The legacy continues
For Jimbo, above and beyond means loving what you do, following your dreams, meeting lots of great people along the way – many becoming personal friends, giving back where you can, and laughing along the way.
When looking back on his 20 years with the Digest and what keeps him going, Jimbo muses, “They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s pretty much me. It was a tough decision to leave a solid job after 19 years to chase a lifelong dream of business ownership.”
Marston adds, “Looking back over my nearly 20 years here, I most enjoy the great relationships that have ensued because of that decision!”
Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Jimbo has built a brand proving exactly
Uncle Andy’s Digest
9 Grove Street, Auburn • www.uncleandys.com
In 2015 when the Digest had published its 20th annual August edition, they decided to throw a big party. Jimbo felt strongly about connecting with, and raising money for, a nonprofit organization. His short list included Make-A-Wish. After networking with a few of his advertisers, the next morning they ended up at a Make-A-Wish (MAW) breakfast that happens annually around the state. These breakfasts are designed to grow community awareness and to keep the brand top-of-mind around the state.
At this particular breakfast, MAW had a wish family in attendance. As fate would have it, that particular wish kid struck a chord with Jimbo.
Summer Emery, then age 16, stood up and told her story about beating cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and her wish which was to attend a movie premiere in Los Angeles in 2013. That movie? “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Including meeting many of the actors from the movie: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), plus many more.
Marston happens to be a 20-year survivor of that exact same cancer. Hearing Summer’s story ignited an immediate connection and a passion in Jimbo for the MAW mission that hasn’t diminished to this day.
Summer Block Party is born
After successfully raising enough money at the Digest’s 20th Anniversary Bash to grant two wishes, and after the suggestions from many folks, Jimbo came up with the party’s new name: The Summer Block Party (SBP).
“It’s been an amazing ride,” says Jimbo proudly. “The area businesses that have stepped forward to sponsor the Block Party each year continue to blow me away. Our community has literally wrapped their arms around this very special event.”
Now in its sixth year, the SBP and its planning committee just finished what is probably the toughest event yet, given all the restrictions on live events due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many changes had to be made, including rescheduling the event from August to October, making it a 100-person ticketed event, moving the auction online, and live-streaming a portion of the SBP to potentially reach thousands of people all around the state. The biggest change was to cut the goal from trying to grant 15 wishes to seven wishes. At the time of this writing, the Summer Block Party team was well on their way to hitting that smaller goal.
Helping children’s wishes come true, especially when they’re battling a critical illness, is important work. A wish coming true empowers those children to fight harder against their illness.
The benefits from Uncle Andy’s Digest’s choice of corporate social responsibility are even bigger than what Marston thought. “Make-A-Wish is our major way of giving back,” says Jimbo, “this has really elevated our brand. It has also increased customer engagement. Many other local businesses have noticed what we’re doing and are choosing to do business with us.”
Marston continues, “The biggest benefit of all is our employees have rallied around this. They love working for a company that has a good public image. I believe this has made us a better team and helps us attract and retain strong team members.”
Attitude is everything
Mandy Hale once wrote, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” The team at Uncle Andy’s Digest choose to believe that they can make a difference, one day at a time, one wish at a time.
Editor’s Note: LA Metro Magazine reached out to both Andy Marsh and Gary Dow for this story. We did not hear back from them in time for production. We would like to acknowledge Marsh & Dow for their creativity and innovation to launch the Digest and set the foundation for what is has become today.