Diablo: Past, Present, Future
There’s breaking news in Diabloland: The Magazine of the East Bay is now an employee-owned company.
Beginning this year, Diablo Publications joined the ranks of other dynamic East Bay companies, including Zachary’s Chicago Pizza and Clif Bar, and became an employee-owned company. This change in ownership means Diablo Publications’ employees will drive the success and then reap the rewards of the company directly. What won’t change is our longtime desire to be a strong community partner here in the East Bay and a publisher of nationally acclaimed editorial content. As we celebrate this milestone, we want to take a moment to share our story with you.
Letter From the President: The Next Chapter
by Barney Fonzi
I have been with Diablo Publications for 30 years, and every year has been more exciting than the previous one. That’s because our founder, Steven J. Rivera, always has a new idea and a vision for something bigger and better.
Steve’s story is much like the ones we tell in these glossy pages every month, in that it’s a story of hard work and success—and of dreaming big.
In early 1979, Steve, a recent transplant from the Chicago area and veteran of the Chicago Tribune, decided to start a magazine in central Contra Costa County. At the time, Contra Costa was on the cusp of a major growth spurt and was transforming from a bedroom community into several dynamic cities. What the region didn’t have was a magazine to call its own.
Steve believed the area needed a publication that would serve as a town square for the growing East Bay. He wanted his magazine to be a place where people could come together to share ideas and stories.
With a great idea and a passion for what was happening in the East Bay—but no employees and a small budget—Steve launched Diablo Country magazine. It was made of inky newsprint and published infrequently, and the editorial and design were contracted out. To say Diablo had humble beginnings would be an understatement. In fact, the first issue was done in such a bootstrap, rushed state that Steve forgot to put the name of the magazine on the cover.
What it did have was Steve’s commitment to being involved in the community.
The first few years were a struggle, as Steve juggled a new business and family. He moved the magazine’s headquarters from an extra bedroom in his Martinez home to a small office in Concord, above what was then T.R.’s Bar and Grill, owned and operated by now Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, although this was long before he entered the political arena.
In order to grow, Diablo needed to look, feel, and read like a magazine. Newsprint was better for newspapers. The editorial direction needed to come from dedicated editors who were gifted in storytelling and had their fingers on the pulse of the community. And the magazine needed to come out on a more regular basis to become part of the local lifestyle. It needed employees to pull all this off.
With an infusion of investment capital, Diablo started to shape up and take off. One thing we did was change the name of the magazine from Diablo Country to Diablo. The area wasn’t country any longer, and we wanted the name to reflect that change.
Steve also insisted that the editorial content be developed by editors who looked for great stories for our readers rather than a result of advertisers willing to pay for a story about their business. That ensured that Diablo’s content would be quality journalism, and over time, the magazine has won more than 30 awards for content and design.
In September 1987, we moved to our current, much more visible location at the Highway 24/I-680 interchange, with a sign on the building identifying our new home. We went from “Where is your office?” to “I see your building every day when I drive by.”
We also expanded coverage into the Tri-Valley and through the tunnel to Oakland and Berkeley, and became the magazine of the East Bay.
The East Bay was on the verge of a big change in its role as a dining and entertainment destination. One thing Steve always pushed for was that Diablo should be an authority on the restaurant scene, so we expanded our dining listings to cover nearly every restaurant in our readership area.
Shortly thereafter, the Lesher Center for the Arts was built, transforming Walnut Creek into a regional entertainment draw. We partnered with the Lesher Center for the Arts to publish Diablo Arts, the playbill for its performances, and are delighted to see the center celebrate 25 years of outstanding performances this year. (And we love getting an early look at each upcoming season as we edit and publish this quarterly magazine.)
With Diablo Arts, we learned we had the skills to produce magazines for other companies, so we expanded our business—and Diablo Custom Publishing, or DCP, was born. Now, we produce dozens of publications for sports, health, education, and arts organizations, in the Bay Area and throughout the country, including the magazines for both the Giants and the A’s. That’s right: When you go to a ball game, that magazine showcasing the players and loaded with the inside scoop is produced here at our offices.
In 1996, Steve took everyone by surprise when the company bought KQED’s San Francisco Focus magazine. We changed the name to San Francisco and ran it for almost a decade, until we sold to Modern Luxury in 2005.
And we didn’t stop there. Steve bought property in Napa and started a winery, earning outstanding scores from wine authority Robert Parker while helping to support nonprofit organizations. With that, the idea was born to launch hotel book Concierge Wine Country and Napa Sonoma magazine. A few years ago, we started a City Book series that showcases East Bay cities. And this year, we launched Diablo Weddings, an annual publication for NorCal brides.
Even as we grew, we never lost our focus on being the East Bay’s town square. We started producing signature events as our way of bringing to life the idea of Diablo magazine as a gathering place. We now host Diablo Women each May to celebrate businesswomen, and Gourmet East Bay each November to showcase excellent local food and wine. The event closest to Steve’s heart is Threads of Hope, which honors outstanding volunteers whose incredible acts of generosity make our home a better place. Steve’s dream is that Threads of Hope will inspire others to give back.
We also dove deep into digital. Steve, a techie who always has the latest gadget, was enthralled by new ways to tell stories and connect with readers, with blogs, apps, and video.
Clearly, it’s been a busy 36 years.
When Steve started to think it was time to hang up his publishing hat to focus on winemaking and grandkids, he wanted to make sure “his baby” would be in good hands. He knew that with so many committed and loyal employees, the best thing to do was turn the company over to those employees, who would continue to build on what we’ve done so far.
Serving as a judge for the Diablo Threads of Hope awards is a high honor. Threads is unique because it recognizes and animates the outstanding nonprofit work done in our area. Diablo makes community service come alive on its pages in a way few other mediums have achieved and inspires a wider sense of philanthropy. I can think of several occasions when the stories have inspired me to do something different than I was doing yesterday.
At the beginning of 2015, Steve became the chairman of the board, and I was promoted from publisher to president. I’ve had the honor of calling Diablo Publications my home for most of my career, and along with our incredible tenured team, we will continue to deliver all that you expect from us—and more.
Diablo will always be a town square for you, our readers, where we can share stories and ideas. And we will continue to deliver the high-quality magazines, digital products, events, and community connection you expect and deserve.
Thank you for being a part of Diablo Publications. Without you, we couldn’t have become the company we are today.
Through the Years 1979–Present
1979: Steven J. Rivera founds Diablo Country magazine in a bedroom of his Martinez home.
1981: Diablo Publications moves into its first office in Concord.
1987: The company moves to an office in Walnut Creek.
1989: Diablo magazine wins its first two Maggie awards.
1990: The company teams with the Lesher Center for the Arts to launch Diablo Arts.
1991: The company creates its custom publishing division, DCP.
1992: California Shakespeare Festival Program is released.
—DCP begins producing publications for John Muir Hospital.
1994: DCP starts working with the San Francisco Giants on Giants magazine.
1995: Diablo honors local volunteers with the first Threads of Hope issue and event.
—DCP begins working with the Oakland A’s on Athletics magazine.
1996: Diablo Publications acquires San Francisco Focus magazine.
1999: Concierge East Bay is released.
2000: Destination Oakland Visitors Guide launches.
—The company introduces Diablo Women.
—Diablo wins its first National City and Regional Magazine Association awards.
2001: Concierge Wine Country launches.
2003: Broadway Plaza and Diablo partner to create Gourmet East Bay, the area’s premier dining event.
—The company acquires Vine magazine, which later becomes Napa Sonoma.
2004: Diablo wins a gold award from the City and Regional Magazine Association for its special issue, “Sex and the Suburbs.”
2005: San Francisco is sold to Modern Luxury.
—DCP wins a silver Pearl Award for its web presence.
2006: Diablo wins the Maggie Award for Best Overall Publication and Best Regional and State Magazine.
2008: The company partners on Visit Tri-Valley Guide.
—DCP launches its first law school publication for UC Hastings College of the Law.
2010: DCP partners with the Oakland Museum of California and Alexian Brothers Health System in Chicago.
2012: Diablo releases The Walnut Creek Book followed by The Lamorinda Book, The Berkeley-Oakland Book, The Livermore-Pleasanton Book, and The Danville-Dublin–San Ramon Book.
2013: DCP wins gold Pearl awards for UC Hastings and Giants magazines.
—DCP partners with SHN, Best of Broadway.
2014: DCP partners with Lindsay Wildlife Museum.
2015: Diablo produces Diablo Weddings.
—Diablo Publications becomes an employee-owned company.
Quotes From our Friends
"The original Diablo office was above my restaurant, T. R.’s, in downtown Concord. [Owner Steve Rivera] and I were in our twenties, and we were both there all hours of the day and night, trying to make ends meet. Steve would do the layout on the floor of the sales office. It was a labor of love and a small operation that grew through Steve’s determination.
It always struck me that Diablo was much more than a ‘lifestyle’ magazine: It was this coming of age for the area. What once was this sleepy commuter community now has more than 700,000 residents and is one of the most dynamic places to live. Diablo was a big part of that."—Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. congressman
"Diablo’s cover story [about the Taylor Family Foundation] made people open their eyes and hearts, and it allowed us to reach out to new children and new donors. With each story in Diablo, we were taken to a bigger benchmark. We never would have grown without those stories."—Elaine Taylor, cofounder, the Taylor Family Foundation
"We were fortunate from day one to have Diablo Arts, this professional magazine that promoted everything in one place. It forced us to not just think about what show we were working on in the moment, but where we want to go in the future." —Scott Denison, general manager, Lesher Center for the Arts
"Diablo’s coverage of the Livermore Valley wine and food scene put a spotlight on the reemerging historic region and its significance to the California wine industry. Diablo helped heighten the awareness of the greater Bay Area to the gem located in their backyard."—Carolyn Wente, CEO, Wente Family Estates
"Diablo has been a fantastic partner in helping my Always Dream Foundation raise awareness about our work in early childhood literacy, and I know its support extends across many other philanthropic efforts in the community. I was honored to be on the cover of the 2010 Women’s Issue."—Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic Gold medalist and founder of the Always Dream Foundation
"The amount of good Diablo has done over the years through Threads of Hope is staggering, and the judging gets harder every year. Yet somehow, it also feels more rewarding"—Steve Lesher, vice president of the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation, and Threads of Hope judge