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Reprints R Us.

They're on tables in the dentist's waiting room, in the lobby of boat dealers and in countless folders mailed to customers and potential customers.

What are they? They're reprints. Commonly, four- or six- or eight-page pieces with an article reprinted from a magazine.

And where do they come from? Chances are good they came from Foster Printing Co. of Michigan City. President Nicholas Griswold, in fact, believes Foster is the only exclusively reprint printer in the entire nation. He says the conversion from a print shop doing general commercial work to reprints came about eight years ago.

"It occurred to me that you can't be all things to all people," Griswold says. "You have to pick a specialty and go after it. "For instance, we would get business-card catalogs like everybody does, and compared to what we have to charge for our overhead and equipment, we couldn't touch them. When you see enough of that kind of thing, you say, 'We've got to get into a specialty.'"

But while the conversion itself was easy, it didn't come without pain. "When we made the commitment to get into this 100 percent, it was kind of risky," Griswold says. "You could say to yourself, 'I hope this works,' because if it doesn't you're down the tubes. You're saying good-bye to solid customers you've had for 25 years and saying hello to somebody out there you don't know."

Foster Printing's roots go back to 1924 and a backyard shop owned by Woody Foster. Griswold's father bought the print shop in 1955. He, his wife, Toni, the company's secretary-treasurer, and brother, Matt, company vice president, took over the operation in 1976. Since then, Foster has grown from a 10,000-square-foot plant with 15 employees to a 40,000-square-foot plant that now has 66 workers.

Griswold says Foster Printing has been involved with reprints since the late 1950s. His father, John, was friends with Neil Ruzic, who ran Industrial Research Publications in Beverly Shores. Ruzic used Foster for reprints of upcoming articles. He used the reprints to help him sell advertising in his various magazines. Later, he introduced Griswold to other publishers.

When Griswold decided to specialize, he remembered Ruzic's reprints and the potential they offered. "We sneaked into this thing. We didn't have a lot of cash to kick around," he recalls.

And because Foster didn't have a lot of money early on, the company wrote its own ad copy for the few trade magazines in which it advertised. Today, the company goes to the major publishing shows, recently setting up displays at shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

"The biggest publishing companies like McGraw-Hill recognize reprints as a real profit center. It's a way to increase revenue for their magazines," Griswold says. "They have really big programs in place to handle that. And it's easy for them. They've already got the film and they've already printed the magazine."

Foster has made a special effort to do business with trade and technical magazines. Boating and sailing magazines, dental magazines and real-estate publications use Foster, as does Indiana Business Magazine. Among the other more recognizable names Foster has worked with is Popular Mechanics.

"Publishers will sell reprints to a company when they sell an ad, or when the company is excited about having an article done on them in a magazine," he says. "Companies use reprints to enhance their position with potential customers. It's a way of introducing themselves."

Foster Printing's customer base spreads from coast to coast. But instead of sales representatives going door-to-door, the company uses a bank of 14 WATS lines and fax machines that run 24 hours a day, taking customer orders.

In its computerized pre-press operation, the company must be able to work with whatever software customers use. For that reason, Foster's computer library is a virtual catalog of every publishing program on the market. "If our customer has it, we have it, in order to do what they want to do."

Foster Printing's presses run 24 hours a day. Griswold says the average job costs about $600, and some 7,000 pounds of printed materials are shipped each day. Each job can be tracked by the company from the time it arrives to the time it is delivered to the customer. Griswold says Foster uses the same kind of tracking system that shippers like UPS and Federal Express use.

Last year, Foster had $6.5 million in sales, up more than 25 percent over 1991. And, Griswold says, his goal for 1993 is $8 million. "We're on target to reach that."

"I'd like to continue growth for another 10 years," Griswold says. "I'd like to keep the company within the family. We've got a good thing here, a good business."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Foster Printing Co.
Author:Richards, Rick A.
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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