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The Paper Trail

No one invested...they went years without making a profit. Was this publishing duo's path pigheaded or visionary?

This story appears in the July 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Few inhabitants of mainstream USA expressed interest in anything "indie" before 1996, when Oscar-winning films like Fargo and Shine engaged audiences with small budgets and little-known actors. Younger consumers discovered indie in the early '90s, when the once-underground "grunge" aesthetic infiltrated mass-market music, film and fashion. But years before anyone was watching obscure movies, and before kids deemed flannel-wearing fashionable, "grandma and granddaddy of indie" Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits were pointing people in the direction of hip as publishers and editors of Paper magazine. Never heard of Paper (launched 16 years ago) or Papermag.com (live in 1994) or Paper Publishing Co.'s 1999 book From AbFab to Zen: Paper's Guide to Pop Culture? That's probably because Hastreiter and Hershkovits have always run their New York City company on a shoestring and accepted little investment. But no one's ever told them what to do, either. And they like it that way.

The last time Hastreiter, 48, and Hershkovits, 52, answered to anyone was in 1981, right before former employer The Soho Weekly News, a Village Voice-esqe publication unique in its style coverage, folded after its owners failed to focus on the downtown scene about to erupt. "They were English and didn't really understand New York City," says Hastreiter. "They just couldn't deal with punk-rocker types with green hair working for them."

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