When the Western New York Gay Community Yellow Pages premiered in February, it included 272 advertisers who were eager to tap into a lucrative new market.
While many of the businesses and professionals in the new directory considered themselves "gay-friendly," others treated the yellow pages as nothing more than a way to reach a group of potential consumers.
"I've done work in the past for gay and lesbian homeowners and found that they tend to put a lot of money into their homes," said a Cheektowaga waterproofer who took out a full-page advertisement. "I figured I should advertise directly to them to make sure we're the company that gets that money."
The gay and lesbian community, estimated to comprise up to 10 percent of the general population, is a group that has a lot of money to spend.
Over 78 percent of gay and lesbian Americans have college degrees, with gay males averaging an annual income of $54,325 and gay females averaging $45,927.
Moreover, gay households -- which tend not to include dependent children -- have among the highest disposable incomes in the country.
That's why companies such as Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks, American Express, Miller Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch, and scotch producer Johnny Walker & Sons have targeted gay and lesbian buyers in some of their print ads and billboards.
"Targeted marketing is a trendy concept now," said Ernie Reid, president of Edder Publishing Co. Inc., the company that produces the directory. "But really, the business world has always been about finding the market that has money to spend."
Advertisers in the WNY Gay Community Yellow Pages come from the Buffalo and Rochester area and advertise everything from automobile repair shops to window treatment designers.
Their ads reach an estimated audience of between 32,000 and 60,000 people through direct mail campaigns, the directory's distribution at gay pride events, and its free availability at a number of local retilers, restaurants and community organizations.
"I'd say more than half of my customers found the ad in the (gay) yellow pages," said Kathy Harrington, co-owner of Official NYS Inspection Plus, an auto repair shop on Niagara Street. She explained that many of her gay customers come to her because of a comfort issue.
"They see my name in the yellow pages and expect that I'll be honest and treat them well," she said. "People have been burned and want somebody to trust."
Reid said that when an advertiser chooses to put an ad in the directory, they are making a statement that they want to serve the gay community.
"That means our readers can expect to find someone who is comfortable with who they are in our book," he said, explaining that lawyers, doctors and in-home repairmen generally need to know, or find out, some personal information about their clients.
Steven Miller, who owns Serenity Bed and Breakfast with his wife, said that every week he has about two new clients who learned about him from the gay yellow pages.
"We figured that gay couples might be leery of staying in a small inn," he said. "My wife and I don't care about what people do, and figured this would be a good outlet for new business."
Miller's full-page spread advertising his upscale inn cost close to $4,000. Ad sizes range from four lines to two full pages, and begin at $308. The most expensive ad space, the back cover, costs an advertiser $10,587.50.
Edder Publishing's telemarketing department made between 10,000 and 15,000 cold calls to companies to secure advertising for the phone book. Business contacts were also made through the Gay Business Association and the Western New York Gay Coalition.
"Companies, whether gay-owned or not, usually hear us out," Reid said. "The overall reaction we've received has been pretty positive because, regardless of what they personally believe in, business people will listen to something that can help them."