Robert McCann remembers the day Color-Graphic Printing Inc. owner Steve Johnson called him when a machine broke down and he needed assistance to finish a print job. McCann had just purchased McCann Printing in 1997 from his father Donald, and he told Johnson he would help.
“That developed a good friendship and ally in the business over the years,” Robert McCann says. “They’d back us up from time to time, too.”
Two decades later, those business allies have joined forces through an acquisition. Color-Graphic Printing closed on its purchase of McCann Printing on Sept. 1. Terms were undisclosed.
The commercial printers started within a few years of each other in the late 1960s. McCann Printing is the elder.
Now, McCann works in sales for Johnson’s son, Grant. He’s president and CEO of the combined company, which should exceed $7 million in annual sales this year.
The acquisition process began six months ago, though McCann floated the idea to Johnson last year.
“We were going to be forced to invest a lot more money into our company to be able to compete,” McCann says, pointing to his need of a 40-inch press. “Grant already had it. They have more capabilities – a larger press. And Grant is investing into the digital and that’s the trend.”
On the floor
On the Color-Graphic press floor on West Division Street, a 40-inch Heidelberg press spits out five-color sales folders for KY3, while across the aisle 4,000 Springfield Little Theatre program pages are loaded on pallets. They’re waiting to get stitched and trimmed for the 18,000-program order just before the 84th season begins Sept. 14.
Over the hum of the printing machines, Johnson says he bought the 40-inch press on discount for slightly over $1 million in 2010.
In another area, finished jobs are ready to ship – some marketing pieces for Midwest Enterprises in Miller and others for Guaranty Bank, which will first go to the bank’s advertising agency, Schilling/Sellmeyer & Associates Inc.
“Right now, they have two or three in the hopper they are working on,” says Schilling/Sellmeyer President Matt Sellmeyer.
Schilling/Sellmeyer has a 25-year relationship with McCann Printing. The shop is among a handful of local printers Sellmeyer sends orders to meet promotional needs of his 30 clients.
“We still do a fair amount of printing work,” he says, noting his firm typically sent two or three projects a week to McCann Printing and expects to do the same with Color-Graphic. “Somebody’s got something from me every day of the week.”
McCann Printing’s largest accounts are advertising agencies, including Gatesman Inc. and Marlin Network.
“That was our niche for a long time, and it still is,” McCann says.
Those clients are among roughly 250 accounts McCann brought over to Color-Graphic. Combined, the company now serves upwards of 700 customers, Johnson says.
The right time
McCann Printing adds about $1.8 million in annual revenue to Color-Graphic’s $5.5 million last year.
McCann says his print shop sales peaked in the 1980s-90s, along with most commercial printers at the time.
Just before merging with Color-Graphic, McCann Printing had a dozen employees. Only five reapplied and were hired at Color-Graphic, bringing the combined staff to 50. McCann says his remaining staff members either retired or made a job change.
McCann’s been moving his equipment, mainly digital and wide-format machines, into Color-Graphic.
Perhaps serendipitously, Color-Graphic just finished a 10,000-square-foot expansion. Johnson is beginning to move equipment in.
“I was going to do it anyway,” he says of the $700,000 investment project. “It turns out nice. We wouldn’t have enough room over here to take on Robert’s equipment.”
Under the third generation of the Johnson family ownership, Color-Graphic Printing is expanding its digital and wide format printing department. Johnson, whose grandfather Bill Johnson started Color-Graphic Printing in 1969, says the department now comprises 20-25 percent of business. The bulk remains in offset printing jobs, but both Johnson and McCann acknowledge the future is in digital.
“That’s the side that’s going to grow,” Johnson says.
The appeal for clients is a quick turnaround and versatility of digital printing.
“You can now print small quantities of product – whether it’s small brochures or large posters – and you can change them out quickly,” Johnson says. “Whereas on the offset presses, you have to do several thousand to make it worth the setup time and the materials that go into it.”
For example, McCann says he received a file at 10 a.m. on a recent Monday and delivered the prints that afternoon.
“That’s digital at work,” he says.
Gone are the days of clients sitting on 10,000 printed brochures and risking the accuracy as the information changes over time.
“People may spend more per piece but they’re able to have the flexibility of changing that throughout the year,” Johnson says.
McCann, who’s 61, says his age played a factor in the sale, as well, though he doesn’t have his retirement plans exactly mapped out.
“Whenever I get tired of it,” he says. “Not in the near future, I know that much.”
Pappy’s Place came under new ownership; Napleton Autowerks/Missouri Inc. moved; and St. Louis barbecue chain Sugarfire Smokehouse made its Springfield debut.
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