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Print Can Do It!

In our Fall 2012 issue, we invited readers to share their success stories with us. How have they prevailed when so many others have failed? We expected to hear about people, equipment and good management practices, and we did. But even better, we caught these printers’ enthusiasm as they talked about their businesses and the power of print. Although Jefferson Central School technically isn’t a printer, we loved the story of how David is triumphing over the Goliath of yearbook production. We hope you will come away from these stories inspired and uplifted.

THE PASSIONATE PRINTER

“By the age of four, I knew I wanted to be a printer,” says Tony Tedeschi, President of Piedmont Press & Graphics. “By the time I was 13, I was running a press. I always wanted to be in printing. It’s my first true love.”

Tedeschi’s passion for printing and willingness to try new things is a family trait. Growing up, he watched his father, a nightshift letterpress operator, master offset printing on his own time. “In the early 1960s, my father put an offset press in the garage of our apartment building,” Tedeschi recalls. “During the day, I would stand and watch and help him as I got older.”

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS

Piedmont Press, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, is a family business. Tony’s wife, Holly, is his business partner and lead prepress operator/graphic design expert. Their son, Mike, is the company’s business manager.

Despite its rural location, Piedmont is a $2-million business. How has it thrived even as dozens of competitors have failed? Tedeschi credits his company’s success to “a combination of being flexible in what we offer but also sticking to the fundamentals, with customer service being the key.”

Piedmont positions itself as a boutique shop. “Our variety of offerings lets us take care of the whole client,” says Tedeschi. “We have to have graphic design, mailing, wide format, offset and digital. Otherwise someone would come in and eat our lunch!”

IT’S A GIFT

Seven years ago, Piedmont Press launched its first publication, Warrenton Lifestyle. The selling point for the free, full-color publication is guaranteed distribution. “We tell the advertisers we will deliver to everybody within this radius. They pay good money for that. You can’t get an email into everyone’s home. But you get this magazine in your mailbox and it’s like getting a gift.” The 72-page monthly magazine is written, designed, printed, bound and mailed by the Piedmont team. The magazine has a print run of 13,000 and offers stories on business, health, entertainment, food and volunteer organizations specific to its Warrenton and Fauquier County readership.

Piedmont launched a second publication two years ago, and plans are in the works for a third. Tedeschi credits consultant Sid Chadwick with plant- “Sid knows I love this community and working with non-profits. Every month he would say, ‘Come up with something you love to do and marry it with print. See what you can do.’”

WHY NOT US?

One day it occurred to Tedeschi that no publication served his town. On a visit to California, he saw a black and white community publication.  “I thought we should do something like that for Warrington, only bigger and better,” Tedeschi recalls. “After about five months, my wife said, ‘You know exactly what you want to do. Why don’t you just go ahead and do it? I’ll lay it out for you.’”

Less than a month later, Piedmont produced its first publication. Within a year, it turned a profit—today, the two magazines are Piedmont’s biggest customers.

SHOW VALUE

Piedmont recently upgraded its signage capabilities and launched some products available for online ordering. Tedeschi is taking a wait-and-see approach to the new e-commerce effort. “I’m not convinced it’s the way to go, trying to compete with the Wal-Marts of the industry on these commodity items. We don’t compete on price. We’ve got to show value and attract people who want value.”

THE PROFITABLE YEARBOOK

About 10 years ago, school adminis­trators at Jefferson Central School in New York’s northern Catskill Mountains asked John Toroni to take over the yearbook. They didn’t just want the veteran teacher to help the students produce it—they wanted him to manufacture it.

ANNUAL BAILOUT

Previously, Jefferson had worked with an outside service provider, one that has provided generations of high school graduates their class rings and has long been one of the top produc­ers of high school and college year­books. “Every year, the yearbook was in the red,” says Toroni, the school’s graphic arts and technology teacher.

“This is a farming community—al­though there aren’t many left with few sources of advertising revenue. The yearbook was consistently $2,000 to $3,000 in the red, and the Board of Education would have to bail it out.” The school’s size also contributed to the fiscal challenge. Jefferson is a K–12 school with a student body of 300. The run length for its 140-page yearbook tops out at 125—asking the students to make up the revenue shortfall was impractical.

“[The school] asked me to give it a try, and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” recalls Toroni. “It’s a good thing a yearbook is a year-long project!” Toroni, now in his 30th year of teaching, minored in industrial arts at SUNY Oswego but concedes, “I really didn’t know a lot.”

He started out with the basics: one digital camera, a computer work station and printer. Recent upgrades include an OKI color machine and an Exactbind perfect binder.

NO ADS, NO PROBLEM

For an ad-free yearbook, Toroni’s pro- gram has been remarkably successful. Rather than sell ads, yearbook staffers provide print services to the community, such as photographing products for two local maple sugar producers to use on their websites and printing a tourism booklet promoting organic farms. The businesses then make a donation to the yearbook.

“We’ve used the yearbook profits to buy two iMacs, two Nikon cameras, a booklet maker, folding machine, coil binder and an Epson 3800 color printer,” Toroni says. “We pour the profits back into the program.” Bringing the yearbook in house provides excellent learning opportunities. Toroni’s graphic arts and technology students produce all of the school’s posters, programs, certificates, booklets and even some soft coverbooks. Before they can join the yearbook staff, students take digital photography and basic graphic design classes as freshmen and sophomores.

‘CAN’T COMPETE WITH US’ In addition to its enviable balance sheet, the Jefferson Central School yearbook’s quick turn capabilities also set it apart. Although the yearbooks are distributed in June, students will find full coverage of the annual sports awards banquet held the previous week. “Athletics are big in small schools,” Toroni says. “The banquet is generally the first Tuesday early in June, and the books are handed out the following Monday. You can’t do that with a big yearbook company— they want all the materials by Febru­ary. They can’t compete with us.”

THE PUBLICATION PRINTER

What would you do if you walked into a coldset publication plant that seemed to have hardly changed since it was founded in 1880? When Dave Pilcher bought Freeport Press in 1998, it was an entirely manual operation, with 28 people in prepress and typewriters for writing up orders.

Today, this Appalachian printer is a place of pilgrimage for people who want to see a short-run heatset plant operating at peak efficiency. “We have been visited by many printers around the world,” says Pilcher, President and Owner. “At drupa 2012 we were Komori’s featured North American web and we’re also a primary demo-site for EFI. We do have an amazing success story.”

HANDYMAN’S DREAM

Pilcher originally had no intention of buying Freeport—he was going to help broker it to a third party. Even his wife thought he was crazy to buy it. But somehow, Pilcher could see the opportunities lurking among the 30-year-old equipment. He liked the client base and the employees, many of whom had been there even longer than the equipment. Plus, he had the advantage of having worked with Frank Beddor, Jr. Beddor, who died in 2007, was a legendary figure who created a vast conglomerate of companies. In 1988, Beddor sold five of his firms to Banta, including the one Pilcher was with. After two years with Banta, Pilcher was with Bell Canada and then North American Directory Corp. “We always built the best,” says Pilcher of his experiences with Beddor and North American. “In building new plants, I saw the impact of the latest and greatest technologies.”

GO, WORKFLO W, GO

Pilcher’s first priority was to bring the prepress department into the modern age with EFI’s MIS. Freeport has the full Monarch suite—including management, production planning, PrintFlow dynamic scheduling and Auto-Count.

Upgrading the press room took a little longer. “We reinvented our company three or four times,” Pilcher says. “In the early days, we had quality restrictions due to the old equipment and would qualify jobs as they came in. We evolved—we set a deadline for picking up film and we implemented a PDF-only workflow.” Freeport installed its five-color Komori System 38S web in 2008. The press is equipped with a CF38 folder, sheeter and HF module for four- and eight-page signatures. “The first web was purchased with the intent of installing a second,” says Pilcher

ONE FOLDER OR TWO?

In January 2011, Freeport installed its second 38S web press. This four- color machine is equipped with a

CF38 folder, HF module and a duplex structure so it can run the web from press one to the folder on press two. According to Pilcher, “The change- over from separate to duplex is no more than 10 minutes.” This feature allows the company to produce 32- page signatures.

Pilcher says the company has real­ized impressive gains. “Because of the quality and efficiency of the automated setup, we pick up tremendous benefits in paper waste and can compete with some of the largest plants in the industry.”

‘THAT’S UNHEARD OF’

If the company hadn’t upgraded, it probably wouldn’t have survived 2008’s recession, says Pilcher. “We took on the most debt ever in our history with the new press and it was scarier than scary, but we sold our way out of it because of our equip­ment’s quality and the productivity and pricing we could achieve. We plowed out of it and bought the second press—that’s unheard of in this industry.”

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