I don’t think it’s any big secret that I (Elyse Menger Robinson, Director of Marketing) am Gary Menger’s youngest child. After many years in non-profit fundraising, I took an offer to come work for the family business at the end of 2019 and haven’t looked back. As AGS celebrates 25 years in business, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the last 25 years, and hopefully, a number of my colleagues will do the same throughout the year.
My dad founded AGS when I was in grade school after many years of working for other companies. We had moved from Toronto to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Virginia, and then back to LA all in a three-year time frame. As a kid, my mom would take us to eat lunch with my dad at his office when he worked for UDS, a chance to go into the city for the afternoon. Suddenly, he worked from home, which meant that my brothers and I were forced to be quiet when we were home from school so that he could make some sales calls. His desk in the corner of our family room served as AGS headquarters, much like it does today. Some things don’t change, except that now he shushes dogs barking in the background instead of 3 kids under the age of 10.
I vividly remember data releases like they were yesterday. Stacks of CD-ROM discs filled the downstairs of our house, with labels carefully put on to each one letting you know what order to download them onto your computer in. At night, my parents would pack up the discs to be mailed off the next day. Read error on one of the CDs? Too bad, you had to wait a week for a new CD to be mailed to you. I don’t think it is lost on any of us that we now release data that is downloaded in a matter of minutes, and new reports generated in mere seconds. Technology has come a long way, but so has AGS.
Some of the names are the same as they were back then. My dad talked fondly of friends in the business, people like Ken Needham and Vlad Almendinger (shout out to those of you that have been around long enough to remember the small child sleeping under Beth and Vlad’s dining room table at a Christmas party in the early 1990’s, that was me); Todd Smith at Sites USA; Dan Olasin at GbBIS; Don Segal (now retired from Spatial Insights); and my dad’s longtime friend from UDS, John Hobson, who came to work at AGS last year. I can only imagine the embarrassing stories that you all heard about me over the years; I am thankful that we can have a normal working relationship now.
On the corner of my desk sits a framed polaroid of my dad and me, ironically from about the same time frame AGS was founded. While I wish I could still tan like that, I knew then that AGS would still be around 25 years later, but never in my wildest dream did I think that I would work for AGS. Heck, in 1996, I couldn’t explain to my classmates what my dad, the “demographer” did for a living. Don’t worry, come high school I explained the basics of site selection as something like “if you want to open a sandwich shop, and want to know where to put it, my dad’s data can tell you where the best location is.” Overly simple, but it got the job done. Most kids couldn’t understand that much information and stopped asking questions.
Looking back there was a certain excitement in my dad’s eyes when I told him how much I was enjoying my required geography course in college, enough to make it my minor. Some 8 or 10 geography courses later, I too, was hooked. Maybe in 25 years, my child will have a similar picture on the corner of their home office, too.