Three Dog Ink Celebrates 25 Years Of Creativity

 In OBX Milestones

Three Dog Ink Media celebrates its 25th anniversary this year as a full service design agency and publishing company, but the Nags Head agency wasn’t always what it is today. In fact, it had humble beginnings that all started with an idea, a few rounds of catch with the dog, and a visit to Park City, Utah.

Publishers Mary Ann and Gene Williams came to the Outer Banks in 1998 from out west. While they were not planning to stay, it wasn’t long before Mary Ann found herself working as a sales manager at WVOD radio station and the Outer Banks was looking more like a place they wanted to settle.

“We didn’t plan on living here,” she recalls. “I was working for a radio station out West and things were slowing down out there. We were just planning on resting here and then deciding where to go.”

Soon after Mary Ann took the job at the radio station, she picked up a food delivery book one afternoon while visiting Park City. “I thought, ‘Wow, there isn’t anything like that on the Outer Banks.’”

A few days later, while tossing the ball to their dogs in the backyard, the Williams tossed around a few ideas and without a business plan written out, secured a loan and began selling ads for the Restaurant Guide to the Outer Banks.

“During the first few years, we published in newsprint and I remember the restaurant owners saying that they knew it was working because customers would come in with black smudges all over their hands,” Gene said.

“We contracted out the graphics and delivered the magazine ourselves,” Mary Ann adds.

It wasn’t long before Three Dog Ink came out with the Wedding Guide to the Outer Banks.

Working from her home office, Mary Ann said it wasn’t until 1996 that Three Dog Ink moved its operations into a small office on Juniper Trail in Southern Shores. After one more move, the company would finally settle into a permanent location on E. Baltic Street in Nags Head where it is today. In addition to the publishers, Three Dog Ink Media includes a total of six full-time employees, one part-time employee and a handful of much-appreciated freelance writers.

The agency, affectionately named after the Williams’s three rescue dogs at the time, continued to grow after launching The Restaurant Guide to the Outer Banks, which Mary Ann calls the “daddy” of all its publications.

Soon, Duck, Corolla and Outer Banks Guide came on line and she added My Outer Banks Home, which originally began as a home improvement publication but soon evolved into a coastal living magazine that appealed largely to local residents.

From there, Gene began to develop the web side of the business, building mobile sites and introducing clients to the online services the company offers. “Still, even today, Gene takes care of the internet, web side. I still do more of the print. I love all the graphics and color and seeing the final product…I still get excited when a magazine comes out. I really like this line of work – getting up, coming to work and coming up with ideas and collaborating,” Mary Ann said.

She points out that Three Dog Ink has had some longstanding and well-known local clients the Williams cherish, such as Owen’s Restaurant, Awful Arthurs, Millers, the former Kelly’s Restuarnt and Tavern, Fishbones, the Run Down Café and Sam and Omie’s.

Wedding photographer Lori Douglas said she’s enjoyed working with the staff at Three Dog Ink. “As an advertiser, I feel like they go out of their way to print my photos in their beautiful magazine and give me as much exposure as possible.”

GEM Adult Day Services, Inc. Rehabilitation Counselor Gail Sonnesso said a recent story published in My Outer Banks Home on the group’s Harmony Café provided “a mighty ground-swell of interest and participation.” 

And Wendy Murray, director of sales and marketing at Sanderling Resort said of Three Dog Ink, “I feel their social media presence includes some valuable information to locals, visitors, and businesses.”

As for the future, the Williams plan on continuing the work they set out to do more than two decades ago at the creative agency they proclaim is “Not a pet food store, or a tattoo parlor…just a really amazing creative agency sittin’ on a gorgeous piece of land called the Outer Banks.”♦

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