Southern Hills newspapers sold

Jason Ferguson
Hill City Prevailer, Custer County Chronicle stay locally-owned after being purchased by Jerry Lenander
After nearly 22 years of ownership, Charley and Norma Najacht have sold the Custer County Chronicle and Hill City Prevailer News weekly newspapers to Jerry Lenander of Custer.
The sale was effective last Friday, Oct. 8, and included the 1890 historic downtown Garlock building in Custer which is home to the Chronicle.
“The Prevailer has always been a locally-owned newspaper, and we are pleased this will continue with Jerry,” the Najachts said.
“We owe whatever success we have had to the loyal subscribers and advertisers whose support we have had over the years.
“We couldn’t have done any of this without some great employees we have had over the years in Custer and Hill City who caught our vision of turning our newspapers into some of the best weekly print products in the state.
“Evidence of this lines the walls of our newspaper offices in the form of the numerous first place plaques we have been fortunate to win in various categories over the years,” the Najachts said.
They purchased their two-story brick building at 522 Mt. Rushmore Road in Custer in June 2001. It has three upstairs apartments and a downstairs Custer Fitness Center, which is still operational. One of the apartments was remodeled and repurposed to a VRBO in 2017.
Charley and Norma purchased the two newspapers in late December 1999 under the corporate banner of Southern Hills Publishing, Inc. They purchased the newspapers from Jim and Alice Anderson, who owned them for 10 years. The publishing company expanded to print several magazines which include Down Country Roads and the Black Hills Adventure Guide.
Over three and a half years ago in July of 2018 the late Sheila Green called Charley and asked if the Chronicle was for sale. His positive response at that time was culminated with the sale to Lenander last Friday. It was a long process with many details to be worked out on financing the business and building.
Both Najacht and Lenander cited Green Real Estate and Jared Carson, Sheila’s son, as well as attorney Marty Freidel at NXTLAW and Phil Abernathy at Dacotah Bank in Custer for their hard work to make the transaction possible.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” the two said.
The Oct. 8 sale does not include the Winner Advocate weekly newspaper which the Najachts acquired in January 2008 and still own.
It was the Najachts’ vision to  publish the first Southern Black Hills Vacation Guide in 2008 which they printed for 10 years. They also put together the Custer Community Directory magazine annually.
Lenander was born in Brookings, lived in nearby Toronto and then moved to Los Angeles after first grade, but came back to Custer and the Black Hills for family visits.
He is no stranger to newspapers, starting with when he was a youth and sold subscriptions to the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif. He was motivated by a 30-day promotion in which the top 10 salespeople got to take a trip to Hawaii. He went door-to-door making the sales, and did over a thousand.
Immediately after college he went to work for The Acorn in Westlake Village, Calif., where he was the first hire after the publisher. The newspaper was in a market with three weekly and five daily papers. Eventually, with the help of staff he hired, he was able to exponentially grow the newspaper.
Lenander recalls his family still receiving the now-defunct Toronto Herald, for which his aunt wrote a colunn about what was going on in the community.
“When we visited every year it would say who we met for lunch and what we had for lunch,” he said. “So that was my introduction to community newspapers.”
The Najachts plan to stay in Custer and live at their home just outside of town they purchased in November 2000.
“We couldn’t find a better place to live,” they said.
Lenander said he looks forward to building on the strong foundation that Southern Hills Publishing and others built for more than a century serving the needs of an engaged community.
“I believe the integrated communication vehicles, both print and digital, allow us to communicate the news and information that supports a strong community.”

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