Hub Mail

Hub Mail delivery truck that was in the shape of a mailbox.
Hub Mail delivery truck that was in the shape of a mailbox.

Hub Mail began business as a Secretarial Service in the early 1920s. Family legend has it that the founder, Abe Serber, had owned or worked in a liquor store, which was put out of business by the advent of Prohibition. Not wanting to do something illegal, he started Hub Mail. His son-in-law, Bill Bernheimer, joined the business on a part-time basis in the late 1930s, and when Abe was killed in an accident involving a street car, took it over in 1942/3. There were 5 employees at the time.

After World War II, the company was joined by Mel Rivkind, who had a background in commercial printing, and the company became one of the first combination mailer/printers in the country. Those were the days of alphanumeric phone exchanges, and Hub Mail was located in Boston’s Hubbard district. One day Mel wondered what would happen if he dialed HUBMAIL on the phone. He reached the person who had 4-8-2-6-2-4-5, and Bill and Mel had the foresight to pay the holder for ceding the number to them. Thus was born the slogan “Dial Our Name, HUB MAIL” – a natural advertising tag line. Eventually the company controlled all the numbers from 482-6245 to 482-6254 (HUBMALE). This did not please the phone company, which one year refused to print an ad for the company in the Yellow Pages, thereby stimulating a law suit that was eventually settled in favor of Hub.

The company was very innovative in promoting itself, including the use of a delivery truck that was in the shape of a mailbox. People all over the Boston area knew about the Mail Box Truck. Because of great PR, and because Hub provided what was a unique combination of services – printing, mailing list maintenance, mailing list services (manual and automated), and fulfillment – the company grew quickly to be a major factor in the local industry very fast.

Two of Bill’s sons, Wally and Len, joined the company in the early 1960s, at the dawn of the computer age, and Hub was an early adopter, for better or for worse. Growth was rapid, and, including some acquisitions, Hub became one of the larger companies in the industry by the early 1970s. Bill Bernheimer passed away suddenly in 1976, but his philosophy of aggressive growth and adoption of the latest technology was continued. Over the next 10 years, the company grew to about 500 employees and $35,000,000 in revenue, about 30% of which was printing, and 70% direct mail. Much of the latter was created by an in-house direct marketing agency. A major specialty was fund raising services for not-for-profits, including, among others, the US Olympic Committee, Easter Seals in about 20 states, and about 50 Public Television stations nationwide.

In 1986, Hub Mail split into two separate companies, HMA Group (controlled by Wally) and United Lithograph (controlled by Len). Three years later, HMA was sold to CMG Information Services, which was most interested in HMA’s fulfillment division, then about $5 million in revenue. CMGI is now Moduslink, a publicly held company in that field, with about $700 million in revenue. HMA’s agency division is also still in existence, as part of DMW Worldwide. In the mid 90s, United Lithograph was acquired by the public company which is now known as Cenveo.