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GEOGRAPHICS INC. — A STRANGE BEGINNING

November 2006 BY ERIK CAGLE
Senior Editor
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GOVERNMENT CARS came to a screeching halt in front of Geographics’ facility and FBI agents quickly swarmed the building. Two officers were at the front, two covered the back. They pounded on the doors.

Was Geographics owner Norvin Hagan busted during his first week on the job? Though it seemed to be the case, Hagan was innocent.

It was steamy Atlanta, 1976. Apparently the previous owner of the company had been jimmying the postage meter for a number of years, only paying for every fifth or sixth mail piece. But the G Men had gotten wise to his antics. And screwing around with USPS gear guaranteed a lengthy stretch in the federal pen.

“I told my dad that we were out of business,” Hagan recalls. “He responded, ‘That’s got to be a record. I never heard of anyone going out of business in one day.’ ”

There was just a slight mis-understanding. It seems U.S. government intelligence was a little behind (go figure); the FBI was after the former owner of the company before it became Geographics. Hagan had recently purchased the foundering company’s assets from bankruptcy court for a cool $32,000, of which he had plunked down $8,000 in cash.

Justice Prevails

The true criminal was allegedly collared the following day with a suitcase full of cash, waiting for a plane that was bound for South America. He never made that flight, instead facing seven years in the big house.

But Hagan had his own problems. He was now minus his mailing equipment and list, which had been confiscated by federal authorities. Bankruptcy court had no jurisdiction in the matter, but the judge did recommend that Hagan sue the government to get his stuff back.

“Sue the government?” Hagan exclaims. “The $8,000 I put down on the company was all I had.”

The government still has Hagan’s gear. Not that it would’ve done him any good, anyway. Geographics had no credit, and the only thing worse than its customer list was its accounts receivables (Hagan described both as “crummy.”) But this was Atlanta, where the phoenix rose from the ashes after Sherman torched the city. Hagan may have been dealt off-suit under cards, but he was far from folding.

“We’ve got a 52-foot collage of the things that mean Atlanta, to us, on our front wall,” notes Ron Lanio, executive vice president for Geographics. “In the center of it is the phoenix rising from the ashes. We also have a five-foot-tall bronze statue of Mr. Bojangles; we chose him because he was downtrodden, just like our inauspicious start.”
 

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