Local Alaska Printers
Producing tangible marketing materials
The staff of Alaska Litho, located in Juneau. Front row left to right: Galen Wyatt, Jessica Thomson, Kristie Ely, Jenny Fremlin, Myrna Gonzales, and Joeley Gonzales. Back row left to right: Rachel Ramsey, Josh Hadden, Andy Romanoff, Rich Dudas, and Travis McCain, owner.
Photo courtesy of Alaska Litho
Every business in Alaska has some kind of printing needs. While simple printing can generally be handled in-house, when it comes to marketing and PR materials, going to a professional shop is mandatory for high quality, big quantity, or large format printing, whether it’s a trade show display, an annual report, a car wrap, or a public art installation. Alaska has many local printing options, all of which are eager to aid their clients in finding the right printed solution.
Alaska Litho (aklitho.com) has a unique history, having been founded in 1948 by Pastor H.E. Buyer as an offshoot to print his church bulletins, according to current Alaska Litho Owner Travis McCain. “In 2000 Rich Stone started an employee ownership plan and ever since the employees have owned a portion of the business,” McCain says. McCain and Rich Dudas purchased Rich Stone’s ownership interest in 2014. The company now has fourteen employees in two locations, Copy Works in the Jordan Creek mall and Alaska Litho at 8420 Airport Boulevard in Juneau.
Jenny Fremlin, PhD, Alaska Litho’s media psychology specialist, says, “We offer business cards, rack cards, newsletters, magazines, direct mail, and forms, plus large format printing which covers things like yard signs, banners, posters, and car decals. Everything we do is custom, so there’s really no limit to the products we provide other than imagination.” Alaska Litho is setting up to offer more “retail type print jobs,” Fremlin says, such as canvas photo prints.
In addition to printing and installation, they offer marketing through media services and their pre-press team offers design services. “Our marketing services are pretty unique to fit our customers’ needs. A lot of what we do is consulting and training to make sure small businesses are using their marketing budgets efficiently and carrying their message across print and digital consistently,” Fremlin says.
Alaska Litho currently primarily provides services to local and regional tourism companies, Alaska Native Corporations, small businesses, city and state government, and individuals. Fremlin says, “Print is a huge piece of effective communication. From mailers and business cards to giveaway items with your logo, you get to tell your own story with print materials and then carry that across into your digital outreach.”
Fremlin says it’s vital for businesses to have a consistent message across all of their print, online, or social media materials. She says that in a recent project for Taku Store, a local smokehouse, “we noticed discrepancies in the wording across the existing print and digital materials. We worked with them to edit and refine the content of the print catalog and their website so that when we started connecting it all together with the social outreach every space had the same information about their products.”
McCain says that Alaska Litho offers print consulting at no charge, “as a way of investing in the potential customer.” He continues, “We may not get one project, but next time we hope that customer will call on us again.”
Alaska Litho’s local customer service is what sets the company apart, Fremlin says. “We’re involved in our local community, we’ve been around a long time, and we’re dedicated to helping our customers sell more of their products and services with effective communication. … Our entire team is part of the quality control checks, from the person who takes the job in to the delivery driver. If anyone on our team spots something that doesn’t look quite right, we tell you.”
Alaska Digital Printing, Inc.
Alaska Digital Printing, Inc. (akdigiprint.com) was established in 1972 as McCauley’s Reprographics, which was sold in 1997 to a local accounting firm. It was purchased in July of 2001 by current majority shareholder and President Stephanie Clymer, who renamed it Alaska Digital Printing due to the approaching “digital age” and following the purchase of their first KIP 5000 Laser Digital Plotter in 2003 to indicate their way of changing with the industry, Clymer says.
Originally the company provided mainly blueprints and copy production of specification books for architects, engineers, surveyors, and contractors, plus standard black and white or color copies. Today Alaska Digital Printing, which is located at 3510 International Street in Fairbanks, offers the gamut of printing services, including brochures, business cards, NCR forms, vinyl signs and banners, full-color wide-format prints and/or enlargements, lamination, banner stands, and perforation projects. With their ability to upload large files through their FTP site on their website, they’re able to do jobs from anywhere in Alaska and the Lower 48, such as an order Alaska Digital Printing completed for a legal firm in Philadelphia in September.
Clymer says, “The majority of our work is for return clients that have been with us for many, many years—many of them for decades. Service and speed are my two main priorities, after quality, for all of my customers.” In fact, Alaska Digital Printing’s policy is for all jobs to go out the door same-day, “preferably within an hour or two, unless the volume makes it impossible,” she says, adding that the biggest complaint Alaska Digital Printing receives from clients, “mostly laughing as they complain,” is that the company is too fast. A client may call in to put a hold on a project because they need to make modifications, and Alaska Digital Printing, “already has the project started, if not completed.”
And sometimes Alaska Digital Printing gets it done even if it is nearly impossible. Clymer recounts a recent project that was large and labor intensive, and with a tight timeline, for a large architectural firm in Fairbanks. “These were plans for a new facility being built in one of the villages. Each set of drawings were 30 inches by 42 inches and had three volumes per set totaling 330 pages. They needed fifteen sets of drawings, or a total of forty-five rolls of drawings. Additionally there were three volumes of specifications in 2-inch three-ring binders for the project and they needed fifteen sets of each, or forty-five total binders in both black and white and color. Two of the three binders had to have between eight and eleven printed tabs. We started this project at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave the shop until after 6 p.m. that evening. It was almost an impossible task, but we got it to them by their client’s deadline at 8 a.m. the next business day.” To complicate the job further, the architectural firm was making changes to the originals throughout the day, with some of the originals not arriving until after 1:30 p.m.
PIP Printing and Marketing Services
PIP Marketing, Signs, Print (pipalaska.com), established in Alaska in 1979, is a locally owned and operated franchise by Jan and John Tatham and Shelley Bramsteadt. Sales Manager Debbie Hahn, who has been with the company for twenty-seven years, says, “The business model was to provide high quality printing services quickly and at a reasonable cost.” She continues that advances in technology have really enhanced PIP’s capabilities. “It’s amazing what we can do now compared to twenty years ago. Projects that used to take days can now be turned around in hours. Our customers expect fast service, and we’ve positioned ourselves to provide it.”
General Manager and Sales Representative Mike Vania, with PIP for thirty-two years, says that for PIP, deadlines really are set by the client. “The customer has the final say on what they need. We have a great production crew and a great sales crew, and we’re all one team. The attitude of our entire staff is to meet our clients’ needs when at all possible.”
PIP provides the full range of printing services, from business cards and annual reports to car wraps and direct mailing services. Hahn says one of their growth areas has been working with nonprofit organizations. One service they provide to nonprofits is donor profiling, where PIP will review a nonprofit’s donor list, get a good idea of what kind of donors that organization already has, and then find potential donors that match that profile. “We’re coming up on the season now towards the end of the year where everybody’s looking for donations. With the drop in oil prices, everyone is tightening up on their donations, and our nonprofits are looking for new resources. So we help them with that,” Hahn says.
In recent years PIP has expanded its large format printing services, including banners, car wraps, indoor and outdoor signage, wall vinyl, and even three-dimensional signs. Vania says the sign shop “takes up a lot of floor space.” Two years ago PIP built a new 6,000-square-foot building adjacent and connected to their current building located at 833 E. Fourth Avenue in Anchorage. They filled the space with their large-format printing operations: “We’ve added a flat-bed printer, flat-bed cutter, a new printer for vinyl, and a large garage bay for wrapping everything from cars and delivery vans to buses and even boats,” Vania says.
PIP’s four full time sales staff are on hand to assist small and mid-sized companies promote and market their business. Hahn says, “PIP is not an advertising agency and doesn’t try to be, but we want to help those customers for whom an advertising agency may not be a viable solution.” PIP’s graphic department staff also provides prepress services and creative solutions for companies that don’t have that capability in house. “We act not as an agency, but as a full service printer that can complete customer projects from beginning to end,” she says.
Hahn and Vania say that PIP relies on its forty-two quality employees to get everything done well and on deadline. “You can imagine the sheer volume that comes through here, and they’re all unique jobs, so each one has to be right,” Vania says. “Our production staff is like a well oiled machine, always willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. As a sales person, it’s so important to know I can count on my crew to have my back. They care that the customer is happy, and that’s huge.”
GraphicWorks Inc. (graphicworks.net), owned by Bonnie Moore and Victor Alexander, opened its doors in December of 1994.
Located at 5611 Silverado Way in Anchorage, GraphicWorks prints and installs large-format products, including tradeshow displays, vehicle graphics, posters and banners, exhibits, and architectural graphics. Instead of offering every kind of printing service, it has always been important to Moore to focus only on large format.
Moore and Alexander met while working for a company in Anchorage that had a large format printer. At the time it was the only printer of its kind on the West Coast. When the owner decided to move the focus of the business away from large-format printing, Moore and Alexander decided to start their own company as the technology was cutting-edge and the “possibilities were endless,” Moore says.
On a “wing and a prayer” they were able to get financing from both Xerox and 3M which allowed them to purchase the equipment needed to start up GraphicWorks.
Moore says that over the last five or six years, vehicle wraps have really taken off for GraphicWorks. Where once wraps were produced and installed primarily for corporate fleets, Moore says they’ve now become mainstream as “everyone wants graphics installed on their carpet cleaning van or food truck, for example, or someone just wants to put a decal on the back of their truck that looks cool.”
While GraphicWorks may print all of their signage locally in Anchorage, they install graphics across the state and occasionally in the Lower 48. Alexander has installed graphics as far north a Prudhoe Bay for corporate fleets and oil tanks and has traveled to rural locations to install murals and exhibits that often portray the history of the people in the villages he’s visiting.
GraphicWorks is capable of both quick-turn jobs and long-term projects that can span several weeks or even months. One positive aspect of long-term projects is that it allows the company to work with clients in the early stages of the project to help determine the right solution for that particular situation. One such collaboration was when NANA Development consolidated their operations into their current downtown location. “Working with local designers, we printed and installed artwork on seven floors; it was incredible to be involved from the beginning of the project and see it all the way through to completion,” Moore says.
GraphicWorks is the only 3M Certified Graphics Installation Company in Southcentral Alaska. This certification allows them to offers warranties on all of their installation products and has led to opportunities that bring work to Alaska. Out-of-state-clients doing in-state work utilize GraphicWorks for local installations year-round.
GraphicWorks has six employees, and Moore says the entire staff works as a team on every project. Employees are cross-trained to ensure every aspect of every project is completed with a high standard of excellence. Moore is thrilled with her team, her company, and the industry she’s in. “After twenty-two years, I still really like going to work.”
Tasha Anderson is an Associate Editor for Alaska Business Monthly.
This article first appeared in the October 2016 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.