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Metzgers' Journey to the Head of the Class --Michelson

March 2009
IF YOU were writing a historical novel based on the real-life saga of a graphic arts business that had to reinvent itself—again and again—over the course of several decades, Metzgers Printing + Mailing would serve as the perfect case history. Founded as a typesetter in 1976, the Toledo, OH-based company rode the desktop publishing (DTP) wave in the mid-’80s to become a DTP service bureau, before transitioning itself into a color copy center and then a color separations business.

During the ’90s, the now-prepress house morphed into a printer, providing digital and sheetfed offset color work, wide-format and direct mail services. The new millennium passed, and Metzgers embraced a computer-to-plate workflow, variable data digital color output and one-to-one marketing services, coupled with in-house finishing, fulfillment and warehousing. Today, as a direct marketing solutions provider, Metzgers supports cross-media campaigns with Web-to-print storefronts, PURLs, microsites, e-grams and more.

According to Joe Metzger, who owns and manages the company with his brother Tom, a strong sense of curiosity and an ongoing commitment to learning and education are the qualities that have fueled the ability of Metzgers to evolve from one industry role to another over the past three decades. That commitment to training prompted them to create the Metzgers Education Center (MEC) within a new 30,000-square-foot building, which was completed last year to house the company’s digital printing equipment, fulfillment, mailing and warehouse operations. The MEC is fully dedicated to customer seminars and ongoing employee training. “It holds 65 people and was custom-built for learning, training and education. It does not do double-duty as a lunchroom, nor is it a conference room. It’s truly an education center,” stresses Metzger.

Despite the current economic malaise, Metzger is also a firm believer in openly sharing knowledge and best practices with fellow printers—for the betterment of his own shop’s learning experience and for the industry as a whole. As printing execs cut back on industry travel and are more wary of participating on panels and giving talks, fearing they might inadvertently reveal competitive secrets, his honest approach and attitude certainly make for a breath of fresh air. (Unfortunately, attend enough industry conferences and seminars, and it’s often the same printer-speakers making the rounds.)

Joe Metzger certainly racks up a lot of frequent flyer miles giving talks. As one of the first Xerox iGen4 color digital press installations in the United States, his configuration also features an in-line Duplo stitcher/bookletmaker. The unique production capabilities are helping the Metzger brothers plot a new chapter for their company’s success. Targeting the market for saddlestitched photo books and photo brochures, a dedicated Website ( will launch this summer. Then, it will be back to school, as the entrepreneurs search out their next cross-media business opportunity—nurtured by their intellectual curiosity, a willingness to invest wisely in shaky times, and a passion for education and peer networking. Key attributes to remaining at the head of the class.


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