Notes & Queries’ founder Big Al receives Honorary Achievement Award
The Honorary Achievement Award – the ultimate trophy at The Henries 2022 event – was presented to Alan Harnik, founder and president of US greeting card distributor Notes & Queries, for his significant contribution, passion and commitment to over 200 UK greeting card publishers over the last 42 years.
Alan had flown over from the States as the guest of The Art File for the big event on Thursday, 6 October, but had no prior knowledge that he was to receive the award.
And a couple of days after being stunned into uncharacteristic silence at the Henries, Alan shared his thoughts: “Let me again thank everyone for this prestigious award honouring my 42 years in the trade spent being committed to bringing in the best of UK design in greeting cards/wrap/bags and stationery to the States.
“The award ceremony itself was an eye opener with 500-plus in attendance on 50 tables, a sit-down three-course dinner, an MC, dancing, gaming tables – I could go on and on!
“It’s the first Henries I’ve been to and it’s so qualitatively different from the Louie awards I have attended here in the States. I am truly honoured and humbled by the entire experience.
“Probably halfway through the speech of who was to receive the award I realised it was me – I was shocked and, walking up to the stage, I was a bit numb. When asked to give a short acceptance speech I think I said the following ‘I am rarely at a loss for words, but this honour has left me so. I want to thank you all for this wonderful award’.
“I said that, some 42 years ago, I stayed at the Corus Hotel on Hyde Park with Lou Hartman from Hartman Cards, another US distribution company, in a small bedroom with two single beds with no space for suitcases which we stored under the beds. Here I am 42 years later at the Royal Lancaster Hotel receiving this award. I went on to thank the companies that we have been fortunate to represent in the US and the UK greeting card industry as a whole.
“I said that this award really be given to greeting card companies for producing the best of the best in design. I ended by saying that my quest over these many years has been to bring to the US the best of the best in design and we have done so.
“Postscript…the next day I took a walk in Hyde Park and suddenly tears flowed down my cheeks as I realised that this award was so, so very special and that it represented over half my life – I think I said in my talk that over half of my life has been spent counting cards. I will never forget the evening.”
Joanne Davis, managing director of award category sponsors UK Envelope Centre, presented the trophy to Alan who earned a standing ovation and rapturous applause from the 500-strong audience.
In her introductory speech prior to the presentation of the award Jakki Brown, joint managing director of Max Publishing which owns and organises the awards, paid tribute to Alan, not just his achievements, but way he conducts his business and himself, as a true gentleman of integrity.
Jakki said: “This prestigious award is given to exceptional individuals in recognition of their contribution to the UK greeting card industry – and tonight’s winner certainly lives up this.
“The recipient of this year’s Honorary Achievement Award is a true one-off and has been a huge ambassador for the British greeting card industry for over four decades.
“From humble beginnings, selling cards on a market stall, this individual has navigated the company they founded through four recessions and numerous international crises and has made a real difference to hundreds of UK greeting card companies.
“Tonight’s winner has not only championed British greeting card design and creativity but has been passionate in their support of young designers and emerging publishers, forever willing to share their wealth of knowledge and experience, while never losing their sense of wonderment and enthusiasm for new winning concepts, finishes and design styles.
“This individual gone where no others have gone before in promoting the interests of over 200 British greeting card publishers, achieving impressive sales, and attaining distribution levels than would have been out of reach otherwise.
“While an innate entrepreneur, always with a keen eye for commercial opportunity they are also a true gentleman of absolute integrity, as testified by so many of his publisher suppliers becoming life-long friends.
“In what is a first for The Henries in its 25-year history, this award goes to an ardent anglophile who, while not based on these shores, holds our industry’s interests very close to their heart. He has trailblazed British greeting cards all over the United States and Canada. And, while after 42 years he has decided to hand over the day-to-day reins of the business to his very capable daughter Vanessa, he assured me that one reason is that it will free up more time to explore further opportunities with UK publishers – love it!
“I felt very privileged to be invited to a dinner held on the eve of PG Live this year that they hosted and organised as a thank you for the 42 years of support they have received. Well, tonight we can return that favour. By now you may well have guessed the recipient – he is a larger-than-life character, delighting in his affectionate nickname of Big Al, and with an even larger heart!
“He has travelled all the way from Baltimore to be here tonight without knowing the reason why. It gives me enormous pleasure to announce that The Henries Honorary Achievement Award 2022 goes to Alan Harnik, the founder and president of Notes & Queries, the leading US distributor of UK greeting cards.”
Top: Alan Harnik with his Henries’ Honorary Achievement Award trophy