Dave Pelkey: The Definition of Success
Merriam-Webster is a household name when it comes to dictionaries. In fact, its dictionary is said to be the second best-selling hardcover book in American history next to the Bible. So it might be surprising to find out that behind this book is a manufacturing department of just one: David Pelkey.
Pelkey, Merriam-Webster’s director of manufacturing, oversees the manufacturing of all printed materials for the company, which has been a forerunner in the age of multimedia publishing. “I do all of the paper purchasing, warehousing and inventory management, and I also have a hand in distribution,” he says.
Pelkey’s name may not be as well-known as the dictionary he helps produce, but this year, after 21 years in the graphic arts industry, he is getting a taste of fame himself, with his induction into the Publishing Executive Hall of Fame.
Despite a lengthy and successful career, Pelkey wasn’t always in the business of making books. He started his career as a production planner for the machine tool industry. After eight years in that business, Pelkey fell victim to downsizing and found himself standing on the unemployment line for an impossibly long five months. It was that simple twist of fate that led Pelkey to the world of publishing.
“I learned about a job for children’s book publisher Field Publications,” Pelkey recalls. “Many people know the company for its Weekly Reader magazine. They were looking for an inventory planner, which was somewhat similar to what I’d been doing before, and I took a shot at it.”
Being an inventory planner for a year or so whet Pelkey’s appetite for publishing, and the executives at Field took notice of his drive. He was offered a promotion to junior print buyer. “I really didn’t know much about the graphic arts, but the company offered to give me extensive training, so I decided to give it a try.”
Related story: dave_pelkey.mp3