The ‘Drive To 35’ post mortem

Home Column The 'Drive To 35' post mortem

By Steven Feldman— By now you have probably read or at least perused our 35th anniversary issue that was published last month. It covered a lot of ground, and I hope you found it to be: a) valuable; b) interesting; c) entertaining; or d) all of the above.

Every time we embark on an anniversary issue the challenge is making it different than what may have been done in the past. Let’s face it: History doesn’t change (the opinion of cancel culturists notwithstanding). All you get to work with is another five years of history. So what we try to do is attack the project with a different perspective or focus.

For this particular issue, we huddled in the war room and emerged with two main agendas. The first was to get inside perspective from some of the biggest names who were around in 1986 and have maintained leadership roles throughout much of these last 35 years: Bob Shaw, Jeff Lorberbaum, Vance Bell, Howard Brodsky, Julian Saul, Ralph Boe, Dan Frierson and Don Finkell. I could have done many more: I had Keith Campbell, Alan Braunstein, Michael Goldberg and others on my radar but ran into logistical issues and time constraints. Either way, these eight luminaries shared thoughts never before published.

The second idea, which would become the focal point, was making it “The List Issue,” or more specifically, “The Top 35 Issue.” How cool would it be to incorporate a bunch of lists into this issue. Everyone loves lists—except, of course, those who feel they were left off the lists.

Any list that is not based on factual numbers and rankings is purely subjective and probably one of the most fool- ish things we can publish. Why? Because there are three things in life that are guaranteed: death, taxes and that you’re going to omit someone or something from your list that probably belongs…. There’s a fine line between being a gambler and just plain foolish; I tend to constantly straddle that line. Case in point: I could have published a few lists and called it a day, but no; I had to press my luck and run 11 Top 35s. Hey, you have to give me a little credit: I scrapped the “Top 35 People from the Last 35 Years” and “Top 35 People Today.” That was simply a recipe for disaster once you got past the 25 obvious ones.

So, when the dust cleared, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the finished project. But subsequent conversations have revealed that maybe a woman or two, or someone under 40 was left off their respective lists. Maybe it was an oversight; maybe we just weren’t aware. It wasn’t personal. After all, I always say I know a little about everything and a lot about nothing.

Since there is no moratorium on making things right, here’s what I decided: Why not make this 35th anniversary celebration last until the end of the year? Here’s how: If anyone believes we omitted a person, product company or event from a list on which it may have belonged, send me an email ( and we will highlight them in one of the remaining issues of 2021. Even though lists are subjective, the last thing we want to do is anger, upset or alienate anyone. Nor do we want to compromise the integrity of any list by overlooking anyone or anything. Plus, it extends the relevancy of this special issue.

I’m also considering doing a new list in each of the next four months. Maybe resurrect a top 35 people of the last 35 years, but open it up to our readers to submit names. That could be fun. I’m also open to suggestions for a new top 35 list that we did not include, like top 35 product collections of the last 35 years as submitted by retailers.

I also want to highlight the 35 most significant people over the last three and a half decades. If this issue has one hole, it’s the fact we did not call enough attention to some real game changers. For example, Piet Dossche, for bringing us the hottest category in the industry today; Darko Pervan, for inventing mechanical locking systems; and Lars Van Kantzow, for bringing Pergo and laminate flooring to the U.S.

I’d love to hear from as many of you as possible as the drive to 35 continues.

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