Milton Gralla, longtime publisher of National Jeweler and many other trade books, died July 11 at age 84.
The middle son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, Gralla began his journalism career as a sports stringer for The New York Times. In 1951, he and brother Larry pursued their dream of starting a trade magazine for the remodeling industry and founded Gralla Publications. The company eventually comprised a range of business-to-business magazines, including National Jeweler.
In a 1996 interview to promote his book, How Good Guys Grow Rich, Gralla remembered purchasing the magazine:
Long before we became a large publisher, we found out about a magazine we wanted to buy, National Jeweler. The publisher had died. I went to see the lawyer handling the estate and offered him a price; he said he didn’t have time to check it out and couldn’t tell if it was a fair offer. It would be months before he could get around to making a decision. I told him, “This magazine is like an ice cube in the desert. It won’t be there long. It’s running last in its field, and if you don’t act fast, it will die.” So the lawyer decided to do a smart thing: He checked out my background, discovered my reputation as a good guy, and sold me the magazine at the price I offered.
A few years later, that magazine was worth $5 million—we had taken it from last to first in its field. And the estate got an additional, substantial payment because we had agreed to pay a royalty on the increased value if we succeeded.
In 1983, Gralla Publications’ 19 magazines and exposition division were sold to United Newspapers.
“Milt made a huge impact on everyone he came in contact with,” says former National Jeweler editor-in-chief S. Lynn Diamond, who worked under Gralla. “I owe my jewelry industry career to the lessons I learned from Milt. He will be missed.”
Gralla was active in philanthropy, particularly for Jewish causes. In 1994, he was chairman of Salute to Israel parade in New York City. Later that decade, he founded the Gralla Fellows Program at Brandeis University for journalists in the early or middle stages of careers. He ran as Independent for Congress in New Jersey in 1974.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Gralla’s name can be made to any of the following institutions: Brandeis University; the Jewish Home in Rockleigh; and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.