Ask anyone living in Port Washington and environs if they have ever known someone who worked at Publishers Clearing House and you will get a resounding "Sure!"
"My mother worked there," "I worked there every summer through college," "My neighbor was a manager there," or "Who hasn't worked there?!"
Over its 50 years in town, Publishers Clearing House has hired thousands of residents on a regular or part-time basis, and the company has become a famous and respected part of this centuries-old community jutting into Long Island Sound.
"Port," as the locals call it, has a Community Center on Main Street named for and donated by the company's founder Harold E. Mertz. There is also LuEsther T. Mertz Place named after Harold's wife who was a generous supporter of the library and countless local and national charitable interests including Port-based Choice Listening Service that makes recordings for the blind.
Mr. and Mrs. Mertz started the company in the basement of their Port Washington home in 1953. Based on immediate success, other locations in town were quickly sought. Now most of the company's employees are housed in a modern two-building complex on Channel Drive overlooking a picturesque pond on Winners Circle.
Other locals keenly aware of the company's existence in the town are past and present employees of Port Washington's U. S. Post Office located at the town's most prominent intersection, Port Washington Blvd. and the aforementioned LuEsther Mertz Square Place. The local zip code, 11050, is one of the most ubiquitous in the United States. Even company statisticians have a difficult time estimating the quantity of mail that has been sent since 1953 from PCH to far corners of the nation, then returned with entries for the company's famous sweepstakes and orders for magazines and merchandise -- not to mention the business mail and follow-up correspondence servicing customers.
"The number of pieces of mail is over 10 billion, so I guess that puts us up there with the number of McDonald's hamburgers sold," said PCH Executive Vice President Deborah Holland as she prepared for a March 1 ceremony to commemorate the company's 50th anniversary and express its appreciation to the local post office.
"Neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet nor snow can stop the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes mailings from arriving in your mailbox, thanks to United States Postal Service and the awesome partnership we have," added Holland. "We are grateful for the 50 years of reliable, efficient service the post office has provided and look forward to sharing new opportunities as the next half-century unfolds."
The March 1 ceremony, at Port's post office at 11 a.m., will be attended by postal officials, local dignitaries and past and present Publishers Clearing House employees. The public is invited, and refreshments will be served.
The company is also proud of its service to millions of customers. Well-known as a direct mail marketer of magazine subscriptions (at "unbeatable prices"), in recent years the company has branched out into merchandise of all kinds: household items, collectables, home entertainment, even food and horticulture.
The name "Publishers Clearing House" often has a surname: "Sweepstakes." The lure of giant cash prizes has encouraged recipients to open company mailings since 1967 -- when the first grand prize was $5,000. As of Valentine's Day when a new millionaire was named, the company has awarded over $187 million in prizes. Most major winners receive a surprise visit from the Prize Patrol, a team of employees that delivers the prizes, balloons and roses in
person, then captures the shock on videotape for "reality-based" TV commercials. Many major winners visit the company's headquarters and see how thrilled the employees are to be instrumental in bringing them joy and lifelong security.
The company, now owned by heirs of the deceased founders and charitable trusts established by the Mertz family, continues to thrive -- serving customers, spreading the thrill of winning, and benefiting a wide range of charities. (See sidebar article.)
The board of directors is headed by Chairman Robin Smith, who joined the company as President in 1981. Andrew Goldberg is the company's present president and chief executive officer.
During their lives, Publishers Clearing House founders Harold and LuEsther Mertz were very generous to both national and local charitable causes, and a large part of their holdings went to various foundations and charities after their death. Today, over 40 percent of PCH's earnings go directly to charities.
Charities benefiting from these contributions include:
National Audubon Society
Natural Resources Defense Council Inc.
New York Botanical Garden
Central Park Conservancy
St. Francis Hospital (Roslyn)
Joyce Theatre Foundation
New York Shakespeare Festival
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
Educational Broadcasting Corporation (WNET/Thirteen)
Original Ballets Foundation, Inc.
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
Phoenix House Foundation, Inc.
Community Funds, Inc. (New York)
Alzheimer's Disease & Related Disorders Association, Inc.
The Macula Foundation, Inc.