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Donna Borrelli, Former Associate Publisher of JCK, Dies of COVID-19

She also managed the INSTORE Design Awards for the last three years.



Donna Borrelli, associate publisher of JCK Magazine from 1999 through 2016, died Monday from a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

Borrelli, a veteran in the jewelry industry of more than two decades, also managed the INSTORE Design Awards for SmartWork Media since December 2018 and had recently begun working with SHOP! Association, which is also managed by SmartWork Media.

Donna Borrelli, Former Associate Publisher of JCK, Dies of COVID-19

Donna Borrelli

“Our hearts are broken from the loss of Donna,” said INSTORE publisher Matthijs Braakman. “Her warmth and spirit have been an integral part of the SWM team for the past years. She will be missed greatly. We send our thoughts and prayers to her husband and loved ones and share in their grief.”

Borrelli was named director of operations of JCK in December 1999 and was soon named associate publisher just one year later. “In the 12 years I worked side-by-side with Donna (me as Publisher, Donna as Associate Publisher), she was literally the archetypal glue that held the business together,” said Mark Smelzer, former JCK publisher and now chief content executive for The Zing Report. “While I ran around the world meeting and greeting, Donna ran the ship back home. At the beginning, we were overseeing a huge operation, with a total of 30 employees and revenues in the $12 million range! Our issues were often over 300 pages, and Donna oversaw the management of it all. Donna was so essential to the business that I knew making sure she was focused, happy and only mildly overwhelmed was my greatest management responsibility.”

Read JCK’s tribute to Borrelli here.


Before joining JCK, Borrelli served as director of custom publishing for the supply chain and automotive group of Cahners Business Information, JCK‘s parent company. Prior to that, she was director of marketing for the company’s truck and retail magazine groups.

Borrelli began her career with Chilton in 1987, serving as director of finance and marketing for the automotive, truck and metals group; business manager for Automotive Industries; and advertising production manager for Automotive Industries and other publications. Chilton was acquired by Cahners in 1997.

Borrelli was nominated for a Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) Award for Excellence in 2015 in the Special Services category.

“Donna was an incredible person, very giving, gracious, and maternal,” said JCK news director Rob Bates, who worked with Borrelli for many years. “She was also the classic ‘inside person.’ The people in the industry may not have known her, but everyone at JCK did, and we all respected her. Her work ethic, her meticulousness, were second to none. So horrible to lose another person to this terrible disease. Everyone who worked with her is shocked and very, very sad right now.”

Smelzer echoed his sentiments. “One of my greatest joys of that era was finding the occasional moment to crack a joke (usually around the absurdity of our workload) and make Donna laugh.

Whenever we gathered as a group (JCK, Tucson) we always made a point of giving Donna a rousing round of applause. As the magazine industry changed, and B2B advertising spending trends changed the landscape, we eventually had to part ways. Making that call to let Donna know was one of the most difficult of my career. So much of my success is a result of Donna’s hard work, and I know everyone on the JCK team feels the same. We thank her and will miss her.”


In recent years, Borrelli had taken over project management for INSTORE Magazine’s Design Awards, an undertaking that spans seven months each year and drew a record 211 entries in 2021, primarily due to Borrelli’s tireless work on the project.

“Donna was exactly what we needed for the Design Awards as it moved from infancy into maturity. She was conscientious, thorough, eminently capable, and she always kept a dry sense of humor about the craziness of the project,” said INSTORE editor-in-chief Trace Shelton. “She was a pro in every sense of the word, but she was also patient, kind and easy to work with. We are all stunned here at INSTORE. She is already incredibly missed.”



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