Mitchell Graphics celebrates 50th anniversary

PETOSKEY — What began as a printing shop with facilities in the owner’s basement and garage is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Mitchell Graphics, 2363 Mitchell Park Dr. began as Little Traverse Printing in 1972 and was owned by brothers Bill and Andy Fedus. They were eventually able to expand into their own building.

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In 1982 Andy left the business to run a printing business while Bill changed the company name to Mitchell Color Cards and began selling postcards nationwide.

As the internet became more relevant, Bill’s son Gary took over the company in 2006 and expanded the business to offer marketing services in addition to printing. Gary joined the company in 1987 after leaving the hospitality industry.

“My dad worked on me from a young age trying to get me into the business and that was something I was never interested in. I was in the hospitality industry and wanted to own my own restaurant,” said Gary.

“If you work in this business long enough, you realize that if you want to do this, it’s a way of life. It’s not a job. It’s at least 50 hours a week, up to 100 hours a week. So it’s your life. And I decided that I didn’t want to let this be my life. So my dad kept trying to get me to come back and try it. In 1987 I finally came back here and tried it. Something I thought I would hate, something I loved. I fell in love with her. I fell in love with the Petoskey area and the business all over again.”

Current President of Mitchell Graphics, Gary Fedus (left), joined Little Traverse Printing in 1987 as print operations manager.  He is pictured with his father, Bill Fedus (right), founder of Mitchell Graphics.

Gary found himself in the combination of art, sales, marketing, manufacturing and science that offered a new challenge every day and enabled constant innovation and new ideas.

In the last year alone, Mitchell Graphics has made significant investments in new equipment and software upgrades that allow them to create a greater variety of designs and products, as well as automate small tasks to increase efficiency.

“That kind of longevity is just great to know you’re an established company that has such roots in the community,” said Regional Account Manager Julie Joles.

“We are making changes internally that will keep us viable for another 50 years from where we started as a printer and have truly transformed into a marketing company. So that gives you the kind of longevity to carry it to the next 50 years. So it’s nice to be a part of something that has such a rich, rich history, but also to look ahead and know that they are making investments to be profitable for the next 50.”

After gaining a foothold in the internet age, Mitchell Graphics faced another challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

Suddenly they were printing a lot more door signs and floor graphics. While the sales team and graphic designers were able to work from home, the employees running the printing equipment could not. Fortunately, due to the company’s partnership with the US Postal Service and other key companies, Mitchell Graphics was also deemed essential and was able to continue operating under strict guidelines.

In 1993, Mitchell Graphics employees broke ground on a new construction site to accommodate the growing business.

As the pandemic subsides, Gary said some sense of normality has returned, but it’s likely business and the industry will never be the same again. Paper has become increasingly difficult to obtain and costs have increased, forcing Mitchell Graphics to adapt and problem solve.

“We’re able to solve problems for customers, and every project we’ve had, (there was) practically nothing we couldn’t produce,” said Gary. “But it took a lot more effort. It’s way more expensive and it’s just something you used to take for granted. Now you can’t take it for granted.”

While the company has evolved well beyond what it was when it was founded 50 years ago, the basic principles are the same; caring for employees, customers and the community.

“My father always found it very important to understand why you do what you do. Not just what you do, but why you do it. And he felt that it was about caring about the employees, caring about your customers, and also caring about the communities you serve. I’m proud to continue that mission, purpose and values ​​and to provide a workplace that people find fun and meaningful,” said Gary.

The company will celebrate its anniversary on August 10 with customers, friends, family and community members and will include refreshments, a tour of the facility and demonstrations of new technologies.

Contact reporter Tess Ware at [email protected]. follow her on twitter, @Tess_Petoskey

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