2009 Printing Industry Hall of Fame : Quest to Be the BestSeptember 2009 By Erik Cagle
THE TERM "wake-up call" generally refers to a heightening of one's awareness to a situation that needs to be rectified. Herb Zebrack is living proof that the term can carry dual meanings, including a literal application.
This story traces back some 50 years, when Zebrack was a teenager attending L.A. Trade Tech during the day and working at a print shop during evenings. Zebrack also managed to squeeze in some courting time in-between, making for a rigorous schedule.
"What I learned by day, I could use by night. And what I learned at night, I used by day," Zebrack recalls.
With the shop's presses running at a not-quite-brisk 1,300 sheets an hour on a 50,000-run job, Zebrack would pull off the occasional sheet to inspect. Other than that, it wasn't a real hands-on situation. But, in burning the candle at both ends, Zebrack soon found himself dozing off.
Enter one guardian angel.
"One day I was dozing off and I got a tap on the shoulder," Zebrack recalls. "The guy says to me, 'Hey Herb, the great thing about printing is no matter how good you think the quality is, you can always make it better.' And that's stuck with me until this day."
Zebrack, 75, the president of Hawthorne, CA-based Lithographix, spent the next 50 years striving to make the quality of his printing better and better. He's left an impression on the printing world in general, and Southern California in particular, en route to his inclusion in the 2009 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame induction class.
Zebrack has done a remarkable job overseeing the incredible growth experienced by Lithographix in its 30 years under his guidance. When he took the ownership helm in 1980, the company was posting $1.6 million in sales, while doing business out of a 6,400-square-foot facility. Today, the business racks up sales of roughly $125 million in a 250,000-square-foot operation.
With humility being one of Zebrack's biggest assets, he defers credit for growth to the team, not the individual in the corner office. "Our growth is not a tribute to me, but a tribute to we," he says. "We grew it together, all the Lithographix employees."
Destined for Print
Zebrack grew up in East Los Angeles, "the other side of the tracks," he recalls, and enjoyed a happy, loving family life and childhood. Printing wasn't really on his radar screen; one day Zebrack could picture himself being a lawyer, given his persuasive demeanor, but he never felt driven toward any one vocation.