Get a peek into the lives of our members with The Faces of ADP™. Meet Brent Cooper, Owner and Publisher of CPC Yellow Pages.
Meet Brent Cooper, Owner and Publisher of CPC Yellow Pages
We’re taking a different approach with The Faces of ADP this month. Those of you that know Brent Cooper well already know he has many amazing stories to share about the directory publishing industry. Today we’d like to share with you a glimpse into Brent’s life through an article written by Jeff Kidd. Keep reading for this Lowcountry Profile Jeff composed on Brent.
Brent Cooper had been groomed for this moment from the time he was 6 years old, tagging along with his father after all-night press runs to deliver The Beaufort Gazette to the Golden Eagle Tavern and other Bay Street restaurants.
As he got older, he performed just about every other job there is at a small-town newspaper, too, from running the Linotype machine to selling ads to covering county council meetings. As an adult, he began working on his journalism degree while the Vietnam War raged. That’s when his father, Howard, called him to Green Cove Springs, Fla., to help run the newspaper he had purchased there.
And now Howard was handing over the keys to the Clay County Crescent to his son. Cancer was soon to take Cooper’s mother, Elsie, and Howard was walking away from his life’s passion to spend more time with her.
“Run it if you can,” Howard told his son, “lock the doors if you can’t.”
Cooper didn’t shutter the newspaper, but he had already made up his mind about one thing: Soon, he would walk away, too.
“I decided all I wanted was to buy a sports car and finish college,” he recalled. “I had watched my parents run newspapers for many years and seen the toll it can take. I told Dad I don’t want to work this hard to make a living.”
Well, that’s what he said at the time, anyway. It’s true Brent Cooper has devoted his life to something other than journalism. Today, he owns CPC Inc. and publishes The Lowcountry Phone Directory. However, he’s still applying lessons his father taught him decades ago in the newsroom — not the least which is the value of work ethic.
“To be successful, you need two things,” Cooper said. “You need to work hard, and you need to be passionate about what you do. People who don’t have both of those things don’t tend to make it very far.”
Looking back, Cooper realizes he had mastered only half the formula where journalism was concerned. Though never actually afraid of hard work, the relentless lather-rinse-repeat of small-town newspaper ownership did not appeal to him. Neither did the angry hornets that good journalism sometimes stirs. And that was one thing Howard Cooper was always a stickler for — good journalism.
So Cooper stayed on with the Crescent long enough to hand it off to a new owner, then finished his journalism degree at the University of South Carolina. He worked for two years as an ad salesman at the Cayce-West Columbia Journal, then went to work selling phone book advertising for the Leland Mast Directory Company in Overland Park, Kan. He spent 17 years with the company, blanketing a territory that stretched from South Carolina to Virginia.
Cooper loved meeting new customers and became one of the company’s top salesmen.
“I learned a whole lot from my dad that I still apply to my work every day, but I have a lot of my mom in me, too,” he said. “She could dial a wrong number and make a friend for life.”
The travel was a grind, however. So was the separation from his wife, Dianne, and his children, Scott, Ashley and Brandon.
“I wanted to be able to watch my children grow up,” Cooper said.
And he wanted them to do it where he had.
Howard Cooper moved his family to Floyd Heights in Beaufort from Greenwood in February 1947 after purchasing the Gazette. He bought it from Lower Carolina Publishers, the company he had been working for as vice president and treasurer. There wasn’t much to the publication at that time, and all Cooper really got for his money was the newspaper’s name, masthead and mailing list.
However, he quickly built it into a formidable publication. In 1960, the Gazette was declared the state’s best weekly newspaper by the S.C. Press Association. It was a family affair. Elsie kept the books and wrote a society column. Howard’s brothers Jake and Rudolph ran the back shop.
Brent Cooper played his role, too.
He picked scrap lead from the concrete floor of the back shop, so that it could be melted and used again in the hot-metal machines. Sometimes, he helped run the press and delivered papers on Thursdays.
But when he tired of 50-cents-an-hour jobs around the newspaper, he got his hands on a small motorboat and ran crab pots on Battery Creek. It was easily accessible from the waterfront house on Broome Lane, which his parents built when Cooper was 10.
Hunting and sports were other pastimes Cooper preferred to newspaper work … and schoolwork. In fact, Howard and Elsie grew so frustrated with Cooper’s academic indifference that they sent him to a military boarding school in Jacksonville, Fla., for his sophomore and junior years. At The Bolles School, Cooper flourished. His grades improved. He was an all-city shortstop and a member of the football, basketball and track teams. (Interesting side note: Cooper concedes he is only the second-best baseball player ever to come out of Bolles; he gives a slight edge to Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who graduated from the school in 1990.)
Looking to get off the road and into a more settled lifestyle, Cooper used a loan from his father to purchase an interest in the struggling Communication Publishing Company in 1994.
Within a few years, Cooper was able to buy out his partners, and much as his father turned around the Gazette, Cooper breathed life into CPC and The Lowcountry Phone Directory it publishes. In 2019, Cooper was named Publisher of the Year by the Association of Directory Publishers, a global trade association that represents print and online directory publishers. In three of the past four years, CPC also has won Directory of the Year honors for phone books with a distribution of 50,001 or more.
Cooper attributes the company’s success to the connections he made in Beaufort as a young man and in the industry while selling ads for Leland Mast.
And that success is no surprise to Christian Sherbert, a local real estate agent and one of the first new friends Cooper made upon his return to Beaufort.
“What Brent is, is a super-maven,” Sherbert said. “A maven is someone who knows a lot about certain things and who knows a lot of people. … Brent takes it to the next level. He doesn’t just know people, he connects them. Whatever it is you need, Brent knows someone who can get it done for you.
“That’s why he always throws such interesting parties. He brings together a cross-section of all sorts of people who might not otherwise interact.”
Cooper said that is what he enjoys most about his work — helping build a community while turning friends into customers, and vice versa. This is the “passion” piece of the equation that was lacking when his father handed him the keys to the Crescent nearly 50 years ago.
“What makes me feel good is how I can help these small businessmen,” Cooper said. “A lot of them are just like me — working hard to make a living — and they don’t always have a whole lot to spend. When they invest with me and I can get them calls that help them grow their business, there’s nothing in the world more fun to me.”
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Brent’s story as much as I did. If you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming Faces of ADP, please send us an email at email@example.com.