Charlie died unexpectedly. He helped make our rapid growth possible in recent years. His daughter vows to carry on.
“Is the paper going to be ready tomorrow? My guys need to work. If they aren’t working, they’re not happy.”
It was Charlie Agrinsoni on the other end of the call — persistent and always straight to the point. The company he founded, Gendis Marketing, has delivered every issue of The Indy over the past four years as the paper grew faster than anytime in its history. Sending over last-minute updates to our route sheets and confirming with Charlie that the paper was ready for pickup has been as much a part of our monthly publishing cycle as writer deadlines and the final night of production.
And then he was gone.
Charlie died unexpectedly of a heart attack on January 24. He was 57. A good man had fallen. He’s survived by 7 children and a grandson. His daughter Emily, 33, is now running the company after working with him for the past 10 years.
“My father’s favorite thing to say was, “Do good. Be good,” she recalled. “Now that I’m the one making the decisions, I think ‘Do good. Be good’.”
Larger corporate competitors had made seven-figure offers to Charlie for his company, but he turned them all down.
Born in the Bronx and raised in Bushwick, Charlie built a family-run distribution company over the past 36 years that began with him delivering circulars door-to-door on the Lower East Side for a single C-Town grocery store. He would add many more grocery store clients. After a decade, he would expand into delivering dozens of newspaper and magazine titles. At the time of his death, his business encompassed every borough except Staten Island as well as parts of Long Island, Westchester and Putnam Counties.
When The Indypendent was ready in 2016 to place outdoor news boxes for the first time and more than double its print circulation to 40,000 copies, Charlie approached us about taking over our distribution. We had experimented once before with an outside distributor, and it had gone badly. Otherwise, we had always done our own distribution knowing that members of our group would always do a good job and would notice fluctuations in how the paper was moving.
We were becoming too big to continue as we had before. But, could we find an outside company to do the job right? Happily the answer turned out to be yes. Charlie’s guys — many of whom had worked with him for more than a decade — moved The Indy in the blazing heat of summer and amid the cold and slush of winter without cutting corners. They took care of the small details that make a big difference in whether potential readers see the paper and take it.
“In this business, people want to know you are honest, that you have a loyalty to service,” Emily Agrinsoni says.
Larger corporate competitors had made seven-figure offers to Charlie for his company, but he turned them all down, Emily said.
After burying her father, she held an informal wake at Gendis’s Astoria warehouse. Stories were told. Tears and laughter were shared among the workers she describes as “my family.” Then, she had to sit down with the company’s 32 employees who feared losing their jobs in the middle of the pandemic and chart a course forward.
“I had the option of saying ‘he’s gone and we’re closing,’ Emily recalled. ‘But that’s not what he would have wanted.”
The work doesn’t stop. Emily said she hasn’t had time to process her grief. Sleep remains elusive. Before her father’s death, she was already responsible for day-to-day logistics, driving routes when needed and handling payroll while her father focused on managing clients and pursuing new ones. She hopes to grow the company further once she becomes comfortable in her new role. For now, the pressure of carrying the full weight of the company on her shoulders is unrelenting. Moreover, she notes, “it’s a male-dominated industry and I’m the new kid on the block. I have a lot of eyes on me.”
Still, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “When I can do the things he loved, it makes me feel a little closer to him.”
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