2013 Hall of Fame : Frank Defino Sr. – Printing’s Heavy Hitter

Frank Defino Sr. has the honor of throwing out the first pitch during a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Lilly, now deceased, and husband Frank Defino greet Santa Claus during a holiday event.

Defino cradles a grandchild—and perhaps future Tukaiz employee.

“At the time, I had a wife, two kids, worked the third shift at Rand McNally and did two other jobs during the day, trying to pay for a home,” Defino says. “I saw the for sale ad for the plate shop, which was in a sub-basement in Chicago. I ended up purchasing it with a down payment of $575 and asked a friend, Mike Vitallo, to be my partner.”

A True Entrepreneur

Working tirelessly at three jobs, Frank Defino had longed to be his own boss. He learned the previous owner had passed away after not being in business very long, and had started the company in order to provide work for his son. In fact, the company’s name of Tu-kaiz Studio played off “two Ks,” in this case, Kirchner and Kirchner.

Defino would co-opt the elder Kirchner’s goal and build Tukaiz into a Midwestern prepress and printing powerhouse. “I wanted to keep the name and the dream alive,” he says. “Today, I have my sons—Frank Jr., John and Dan—son-in-law Christopher and daughter Maryann as my partners.”

Print and graphics have long been an influence in Frank Defino’s Sr.’s life. He started out by doing typesetting in high school and graduated, both figuratively and literally, to letterpress shop Monarch Printing in Chicago. His first day there was the evening of high school graduation. After Monarch, Defino landed at Alco & Gravure, then at Segerdahl Halford, which was his first lithography job. He has vivid memories of working for Joe Halford and Gil Segerdahl, and recalls the somber day when he arrived at work to learn that Halford had passed away.

At Rand McNally, he worked the step-and-repeat machine and would have to pick up many 30×40 chases each day, weighing upwards of 100 pounds because they were glass negatives. “One day, I said to myself, ‘I won’t be doing this when I’m older,’ ” he recalls.

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  • Paul S

    Wow! What an awesome story! Impressive how Frank never let anything or anyone get in his way of accomplishing his dreams. Remarkable man. I worked for Frank back in the early 2000’s. I am upset I never really got a chance to talk to him personally. I also played semi pro ball after high school. Just wish I could have talked to him more.