Retired at 95, Printer Turns 100

The group was the forerunner of today’s Printing Industries of America (PIA). “I even remember when they illustrated the concept of budgeting at a meeting by setting up milk bottles and dividing change among them,” laughs Wetzel.

The networking and plant visits that grew from his interactions inspired Wetzel to grow his business.

At one evening session, Gaylord Donnelley of RR Donnelley told Wetzel, “Remember, when you stand at the end of a four-color press you are examining finished copy. You know at that time that the color is complete and in register.” Wetzel was impressed with his analysis. “I went home and ordered the Miehle Co. of Chicago to convert my two-color press into a four-color press, the first in Milwaukee,” Wetzel remembers. Always believing there was more to learn, Wetzel continued to attend PIA meetings, even serving as the association’s national president in 1952.

Wetzel Brothers would also be the first to purchase six- and eight-color presses in its market. “I had an affinity for sheetfed printing. There was a fork in the road where I had to decide whether to invest in sheetfed or web. I had faith that the market would continue to sustain the sheetfed press,” he reveals. “I also knew that the web market would take a considerable amount of capital. So we decided to differentiate ourselves in the sheetfed arena by offering high-quality lithography,” Wetzel says.

Wetzel eventually sold his company to Consolidated Graphics at the age of 95 because he determined that the additional investment in building and equipment that was becoming necessary would be ill-advised at his age. “Although I had planned ahead and had a long-term lease at a very favorable rate, it had run out because I had not planned to live this long,” he notes.

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