2012 Hall of Fame: Mike Graff – Answering Print’s 911 Call
Sandy Alexander’s Michael Graff.
One of Mike Graff’s many passions was being a volunteer fireman. The former New City, NY, fire chief retired after 27 years.
Mike Graff’s affinity for heavy machinery includes this tractor on his farm in upstate New York.
Fear of heights has never been an option for Mike Graff as evidenced by his participation in a fire drill exercise.
In a roundabout way, the Bronx-born Graff found his way into the printing industry when he wasn’t able to lay his hands on a gun. As a youngster, his father had called while on a business trip, promising he had “picked up another thing for you to shoot with.” The gift turned out to be a used camera but, after getting past the initial disappointment, the younger Graff was hooked. It led to his first business venture as a teenager, and a first brush with printing.
“I started photographing real estate listings,” Graff recalls. “I would shoot pictures of houses that sold and print postcards on Kodak postcard paper. Then, I’d sell them to the listing agents, who would give the postcards to the new homeowners as gifts. I had a nice little business going.”
Graff took that love of pictures to Rochester Institute of Technology, where he initially majored in accounting and minored in photography. He began to fall asleep in accounting classes, and didn’t measure up to his classmates on the photography end. His parents insisted that Graff stay and find another academic interest. Fortunately, his college roommate was enrolled in the printing program and convinced him to give it a shot.
“It was love at first sight,” Graff admits. “I was doing tone reproduction photography, camera back separations.”
Upon graduating, Graff passed up more lucrative job opportunities from major concerns in search of a small, local company that would enable him to get more hands-on experience. He joined Press of A. Colish in Mount Vernon, NY, in 1980. There he met Bob Mark, a plant manager who showed him the ropes and was instrumental to his success.
Graff was elevated to director of sales in 1988. Two years later, when A. Colish merged with two other printers to become Americom Graphics, Graff was appointed senior vice president of sales. All the while, he struck a balance between sales management and his love of technology, particularly prepress and color management. In 1992, he was named senior vice president when Americom joined Sandy Alexander and was later promoted to executive vice president. Graff played a key role in building sales to the $100 million plateau.