Continuing a legacy: Butler’s Kimberly Dugger keeps The Loafer alive

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2018

JOHNSON CITY—It isn’t gone.

The Loafer, a weekly magazine that has been a staple in the Tri-Cities for 30 plus years, is still in publication.

Butler’s Kimberly Dugger and her company Market Innovations took over the magazine in August after it was originally slated to cease publication. Since September, Dugger and her team have put out nine publications of The Loafer and have enjoyed keeping a local icon alive.

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When asked why she wanted to take on the continuation of The Loafer, Dugger’s answer was simple.

“The History,” she said at her offices in Johnson City Wednesday morning.

“It is an icon here in the Tri-Cities,” Dugger continued. “A lot of people were upset that it was gone, and we are really thankful that we could bring it back.

“It has been here for 30 years,” added Dugger. “With the downtown Johnson City scene and the live music, there is so much good entertainment here in the Tri-Cities. There are a lot of good artists that nobody knows anything about. The Loafer is centered around the nightlife here in town.”

Market Innovations’ version of The Loafer is keeping many of the columns that people in the area have grown to love, such as, Mark Marquette’s Stargazer, which has given readers a guide to the starry skies for roughly 20 years now. Another interesting read is the Appalachian Wanderers, which is authored by Jason and Daniel Worley. The two travelers take readers through Appalachia with their most recent piece taking a look at the amusement park Silver Dollar City, the sister park to Dollywood.

While keeping old flavors that people have grown to know, Dugger said she wants to mix in some new things as well.

“We have kept all of our contributed writers,” said Dugger. “We have brought on some of the staff from there as well. But we have added some things. We have got more of the community involved. We are doing a Veteran of the Week.

“Occasionally we will put in a community hero when we find someone who wants the spotlight,” added Dugger. “We have cleaned it up a whole lot. It is all 4×4 color now. It is not black and white anymore. We do a lot with ETSU, Northeast State, and downtown Jonesborough. There are so many things to do in this community. There are so many things here instead of having to go three hours away.”

The Loafer was started in 1995 by the late Bill Williams, who passed away in 2017. Dugger said she stays in contact with Williams’ family and is honored to continue what he started years ago.

“They are amazing people,” said Dugger. “They are very caring. They wanted somebody to keep their dad’s legacy going on. The Loafer has been here for generations and generations, and it is important to keep it alive.”

Dugger is also getting the magazine more involved on social media with the launching of The Loafer Live on Facebook which will give viewers a close-up and live view of local events.

Along with its circulation in the Tri-Cities, The Loafer can be found in Damascus, Abingdon, and Bristol, Va. Market Innovations has also grown the publication’s reach, distributing magazines in Western North Carolina in Burnsville, Dugger’s hometown. The weekly can also be found in Mountain City and Butler.

Before being a publisher, Dugger worked as a human resources manager in Elizabethton for many years. After being diagnosed with breast cancer and going through the treatments, Dugger, who described herself as someone who has to stay busy, took on a part-time job with a marketing company in Boone, N.C. The company published a small marketing magazine.

“I love it, and fell in love with the idea of what they were doing,” said Dugger. “I learned everything I could learn from that magazine.”

With what she learned during her time in Boone, Dugger went on to develop Market Innovations, which along with The Loafer, publishes Tri-Cities BEST Homes and Tri-Cities EATS.

“When they (Boone magazine) closed, I talked to my husband and said, ‘I could do this,”’ said Dugger. “I knew there wasn’t a home resource guide in the Tri-Cities so I started out with a home magazine, a media kit, and a graphic designer, and that is all that I had.

“We made it work,” said Dugger. “We worked really really hard the first two years which was really hard.”

Along with its publications, Market Innovations also does all kinds of marketing for its clients, including websites, social media managing, and budget management.

Dugger is quick to point out that juggling everything she does is a lot, and that she couldn’t accomplish what she does without her staff at Market Innovations. In the Meet the Staff section of The Loafer, Dugger has a quote listed under her name that says, “Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”

“My staff is amazing,” said Dugger. “Jaclyn (Law, office manager) has been with me for two years now. She is my right hand and I could not do this without her. She came in just doing basic office stuff, and now, she lays out the Eats, Best Homes, and The Loafer. She has a lot on her, and I trust her.

“Jessica (Carlisle) has been with me six months now,” added Dugger. “She does the booking of appointments and getting leads. Maria (Lovelady) is inside sales and outside sales. We also have Lori Howell. She is outside sales and she came from The Loafer. We just brought Patty Bar in from The Loafer. And we also have Amie Little, and she does everything to do with our websites. We also have graphic designer Abigail (Beth) who has been with me for three years now.”

“We are a family oriented business, and we are all women,” said Dugger.

Plans for the future include branching out to Asheville, where Dugger is in the process of establishing the Blue Ridge Media Group and a Blue Ridge Home Magazine.