Stratton Magazine’s current and past owners and publishers, Dr. Joshua Sherman and Lee Romano, talk about music, memories, and the magazine’s early years.

As the owner/founder of Old Mill Road Recording and C.E.O. of Old Mill Road Media (Publisher of Stratton Magazine), I feel deeply connected to Southern Vermont’s music scene.

In honor of Stratton Magazine’s 60th Anniversary, I reached out to Lee Romano, Stratton Magazine’s previous longtime owner and publisher, to discuss his favorite Stratton memories.

Little did I know that he, too, is a “music man”—and that it was MUSIC that brought him to Stratton in the first place! Enjoy the Q&A below.

Sherman: Lee, you played a central role in building Stratton Magazine into the publication it is today. How did you first get involved?

Romano: My college band played at Stratton back in the early ‘70s. I made a lot of friends at Stratton playing those shows, so I decided to move here. I started bartending at the Liftline Lodge, and it was my first full-time job out of college after I graduated from UConn. One of my friends, Jeff Dickson, was the Marketing Director at Stratton. He had a background in journalism, so he was very comfortable with publishing and writing. He gave me the opportunity to come over to the resort and help him put on a winter festival in the winter of ‘76-‘77. Stratton had a publication that started in ’64 as the Stratton Spectator, which then became The Stratton Skier, and eventually, Stratton Mountain News. The summer after the winter festival, my friend called me and said he had an opportunity for me to get involved with Stratton Mountain News. He asked me if I wanted to sell advertising, and I said, “When do I start?” I was at the point in my life where I was trying to figure out what was next, but I knew I wanted to be at Stratton—that was crystal clear. I wanted to be around the mountain, and I enjoyed the lifestyle.

Sherman: How did your musical journey evolve once you moved to Stratton and started working at the magazine?

Romano: I was a Hammond B3 organ player when I moved here, but I met up with Andy Avery while I was at the Liftline Lodge. He was a solo guitar player, and I started singing with him, which led to us being a duo. I decided to pick up the bass, because I didn’t want to haul a Hammond around. The band is called, “Don’t Leave”, and we’ve been together since 1986. We’re playing Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning’s Gala event in June at the Taconic Hotel in Manchester, and we have six or seven other shows on the books so far this year.

Sherman: Very cool. I’m excited to see you play live. How did the magazine progress while you were building your career and your musical connections?

Romano: I started at the publication in the fall of ‘77, and I was just learning the trade at that point. In the winter of ’79-’80, they had to cut back on the magazine’s budget, so I made a decision that was somewhat of a bold one: I decided to go quarterly and change it to a color magazine with coated stock paper. I figured that we could expand our reach, and we could introduce readers to a more significant publication. My gut feeling was that the market would support it, which it did. It was ahead of its time as a regional “glossy” back in the ‘80s.

Sherman: How did people respond to the new look?

Romano: Because it was an improvement in terms of the reading experience and broader content, most people were receptive and excited for it. We started distributing more broadly, and people started seeing it for the first time in areas like Manchester. I committed to distribution, it made a difference, and people were very pleased.

Sherman: How did you start to expand when you increased distribution?

Romano: Second homeowners had already been getting Stratton Mountain News through the mail. I continued that and I focused a little more intently on making sure that information was coming to us in a timely fashion, getting the distribution lists to the printer, and following up on that. I was never really worried about selling subscriptions. We felt confident enough about the distribution plan, because of the quality of the publication and the interest level in reading it. We thought it was more important to produce a good publication. Between the second homeowners that we were reaching, the people we were reaching locally, and the welcome centers, it was a successful marketing approach.

Sherman: When you reflect on your years as owner and publisher of Stratton Magazine, what are some of your favorite memories?

Vintage issues of Stratton Spectator, Stratton Mountain News, and the first official issue of Stratton Magazine!

Romano: When I got my first job at the magazine, we had the corner office on the Bear’s Den floor in the Stratton Base Lodge. The wings didn’t exist back then, so the office was in the corner right just as you come up the stairs. Every day at 4pm, the Stratton Mountain Boys would start playing après ski right outside of our door. They’d go into the polkas, and the Austrian ski instructors would put on their lederhosen, dance and sing for hours while we were trying to lay out the publication. Looking back, it was funny, but it was tough to put the magazine together with all of that going on.

(Sherman and Romano both laugh)

Romano: You know, I have so many memories at Stratton with my band, so playing with them today still brings it all back for me. We played parents’ weddings, and then we played those parents’ kids’ weddings, which shows the connectedness of the families to Stratton. I bumped into someone on a lift recently. They asked me, “So what do you do up here?” I told them, “I don’t do anything anymore, but I’ve been in Vermont for a long time.” They wanted to know a little bit more about my background, so I shared about the magazine and the fun I had with it. They said, “Oh my God—I’ve been reading that since I was a little kid!” The magazine has always been well positioned to celebrate the life we have up here, and you’re doing a great job at continuing that. You’re celebrating the Stratton lifestyle, talking about the arts, the region’s history, and the outdoors. That’s timeless. The internet is great, but people want to have something on their coffee table. To be able to sit back, relax, and get into a magazine really makes a difference.