by Joseph H. RADDER
If we reported all the interesting stories and anecdotes Al Klenk told us during a
recent visit to his Amherst office, it would fill this entire magazine.
At age 69 he's still going strong as chairman of the Partnership, a highly respected Buffalo advertising and marketing agency. But don't let that title, chairman, fool you. Although, as he says, "I kicked myself upstairs," Klenk is still very much involved in the creative output of his agency.
Sitting behind his desk in a sharp lavender shirt with complementary tie, he gives the impression of a man in full command. The huge flat computer screen on his desk attests to the contemporary way he approaches problems and arrives at solutions. He was one of the first in the business to use computers. "I walked into NYNEX one day to buy a telephone and walked out with $25,000 worth of computer equipment." The computer has been basic to Klenk's modus operandi ever since.
His almost fifty years in advertising have included work with famous celebrities like Barbara Walters, Orson Welles, Jack Kemp and Ed McMahon. He brought eleven live lions into a banquet room of a restaurant, all at one time. And on another occasion, he was able to close down the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls for a Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey elephant parade. In other words, he's one of those rare people who really thinks outside the box.
Currently, Klenk and his organization are doing advertising and promotion work for numerous Pizza Hut franchises, a variety of health care organizations like the Weinberg Campus, Jamestown Savings Bank, Colton RV and Coca Cola. Klenk puts his personal touch on the Buffalo Auto Show, the Home and Garden Show, Rosa's and a number of political campaigns. Klenk's partner, Bob Davis, is chairman of the Erie County Republican party.
When Joel Giambra first ran for County Executive, Al was asked by his election committee to help with TV production. "One of the TV spots that I think was a keystone to his (Giambra's) success was one I had a dream about," he remembered. "I got up in the middle of the night and wrote it out, and not a word was changed. In my dream, I was thinking about Dennis Gorski's twelve years and what could happen in that length of time. So I said to myself, I'll show a little girl growing up, graduating from school and then going away." That's exactly what Giambra's main thrust turned out to bethe kids leaving western New York.
"I always had an excitement about the business," he said, "and I still do, to my deficit, sometimes, because I do become a workaholic." Work, work, work is probably what cost him his first two marriages, "But," he says "I'm very careful these days. I've got a beautiful lady now."
Al Klenk developed these work habits in college. At Syracuse University he was duly enrolled in the school of fine arts, the school of business and the school of journalism. "I was loaded up with credits every year and was very much involved with campus activities. It finally got to me in my junior year. I had won a scholarship to Syracuse, and was about to lose it. So I went to Dean Haefer. I told him my average had dropped below C and I was about to lose my scholarship. I promised him that in my remaining semesters I would maintain an A average. He thought about it for a week and then told me 'you've got your scholarship'."
This story is typical of Klenk's resourcefulness. After graduating, and earning a commission in the Navy reserve, he went down to New York looking for a job. He had two offers from major agencies and one from the Dumont Television network. "I went home to Orchard Park," he said, "and put on a small art exhibit." At the exhibit he got to talking to a man who was very interested in his work and offered him a job for twice the amount of the best New York offer.
"The guy was Nick Schwab, advertising manager of the Iroquois Brewery, who had his own studio in Orchard Park. So I went to work designing beer labels and point of sale material." Eventually, Klenk and Schwab formed a company together to work for other breweries.
However, Al really wanted to do television. So after a time with Schwab, he met Clay Stahlka. The rest is history., First it was Stahlka, Faller and Klenk and later Faller, Klenk and Quinlan. Over the years they had many major accounts like Tree Pickles, Malecki Meats, Gold Bond building products, the Buffalo News, Pratt & Lambert paints and Dunlop Tires.
Al Klenk was born in Buffalo in 1935. "We moved around a lot when I was a kid," he said, but mostly we lived in the Lovejoy district." Finally his dad and mom, Alvin Klenk Sr. and Dorothy Henderson Klenk, were able to purchase a home in Orchard Park. After going to several schools in Buffalo and Cheektowaga, Al went to high school in Orchard Park, where he earned his scholarship to Syracuse.
He has one sister, six adult children and eight grandchildren. Al Klenk and Louise Buscaglia were married in Buffalo in 1992. They currently live in a penthouse overlooking the Erie Basin Marina, the lake and the river.
Klenk has many awards and honors. He is most proud of his awards for creativity from the Buffalo News and credits the first two of these to really getting the ball rolling as far as new business was concerned. There are also two Effys, the AAF Silver Medal and six National Grocers' association Ad-Mark awards for work for Super Duper markets and Jubilee Foods.
There's much more to Al Klenk's story, but we'll have to save it for another time. Suffice it to say that this man is unique, an ad-man's ad-man, truly a colorful and creative communicator.
Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.istbooks.com
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