SHAPCO PRINTING — BROTHERS BOUND BY INK
A FAMILY owned printing company is not unusual. But one that was started by three 20-something brothers, which has endured 30 years of growth and that’s debt-free, is surely note-worthy.
Today, Shapco Printing is one of the largest sheetfed commercial printers in Minnesota. Located in downtown Minneapolis, this full-service company offers computer-to-plate, offset and digital printing, binding, kitting, and mailing and fulfillment services. Shapco has up to eight-color, 40˝ printing capabilities on paper (up to 40-pt. board) and plastic substrates.
Joel Shapiro, 51, along with his co-owner brothers Robert, 50, and Alan, 56, have built a competitive edge based on their high-end printing capabilities combined with quick turnarounds.
“We do whatever is necessary,” says Joel Shapiro. “We will work longer hours, increase capacity—whatever it takes. Our value is in providing fast service. By the time other printers have shown the proof, we already have the job done.”
The brothers Shapiro have printing in their blood. Their father owned a 10-employee shop, American Color Press in Minneapolis, for about 20 years. Due to a terminal illness, though, he was forced to sell the company in 1972. Four years later, his son Robert began pondering career options after graduating from the University of Minnesota. Robert had always enjoyed the printing business growing up, so he decided to start his own company.
“We started with one part-time employee,” recalls Joel Shapiro. “Sales in year one were $124,000 and Bob worked 100 hours per week.”
Joel and his older brother, Alan, also put in as many hours as they could, even though they were still full-time students. Over the next year, Joel graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in accounting and Alan completed law school. After one tax season and one year as a prosecutor, respectively, both brothers decided to join Robert full-time.
Shapco spent its first three years in what was known as the Edison Building in downtown Minneapolis. They had one major account, printing carbonless forms and brochures, which Joel says held their business together.
“Initially, we were only able to print relatively simple, two-color jobs,” he recalls. “Our largest press was 23x29˝.”
The operation eventually moved six blocks to its current location. Shapco Printing is now home to 113 full-time and 12 part-time employees. The main building is 53,000 square feet; they also rent a 30,000-square-foot facility two blocks away, which is used for pick-and-pack and fulfillment. The company outsources all of its deliveries.
Shapco owns the main building outright, along with all of its equipment. “We like to be on the cutting edge, but not the bleeding edge,” notes Joel Shapiro. “We are a fiscally conservative company.” Last year was a banner year, with sales reaching $26.4 million for the 24/7 operation.
“We are very serious about meeting customers’ objectives,” he adds. “My brothers and I don’t leave the plant until the commitment is made.”
Shapco now produces annual reports, direct mail, lithographic prints, art books and catalogs. Its pressroom features two eight-color, and two six-color, 40˝ Komori Lithrone presses; two five-color Ryobi presses; a five-color Heidelberg GTO; and a two-color Hamada, all with aqueous or UV coating capabilities. The company uses Heidelberg’s Prinect Printready 2.0 workflow.
One of Shapco’s most recent additions is a seven-color HP Indigo 5000 digital press, installed at the end of 2005. “It gives us the capability to provide variable data printing, and puts us in the short-run color market,” Joel Shapiro says. “Now we are trying to find work for it.”
Shapiro says that he looks at trade publications, goes to industry shows and relies on vendors to stay on the cutting edge of technology. He adds that the company strives to stay middle-of-the-road on pricing, yet offers top-quality products and service to create value.
This way of thinking has paid off big for Shapco, as it was the first in the state to install a direct-to-plate system nearly 10 years ago. Shapco was also one of the first in the area to offer stochastic screening, helping it to capture more high-end work for the art world.
“These clients are especially particular about detail and color reproduction,” Joel Shapiro points out. “A lot of our art books end up in museums. We have developed a reputation for quality in that genre.”
Positioned for Packaging
Its latest equipment addition is a Kluge folder/gluer for packaging materials—another domain where Shapiro would like to see the company excel. “We do some pocket folder, CD holder work now, but I want to get more into product boxes.”
He is also looking at a yet-to-be- released hybrid screening technology from Heidelberg and to convert one of their eight-color presses with the Chameleon, a new roller from Bottcher designed for full UV or conventional printing.
The company has also established relationships with about 10 printers that outsource to them. According to Joel Shapiro, they are willing to take on the difficult projects, something valued by their partners. “Printers see that we have an expertise in quality,” he adds.
Shapco Printing’s dedication to quality reproduction has been recognized over the years with multiple Printing Industries of America Benny awards and, most recently, by winning more Printing Industry of Minnesota Printing Quality awards than any other printer in the state.
As for the future, Shapiro says they will be expanding into more variable data printing and direct mail. Another area of expertise for Shapco is in employee relations. The Shapiro brothers’ philosophy is to expect a lot, yet pay well, which is why the company has almost no turnover.
“We have a certain culture here and it works for us,” Joel explains. “We have several key employees who share our passion for customer satisfaction. They are very dedicated and will go beyond what the customer asks. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be as successful.”