How it All Began Part 1

Editor:  This is a printer’s story of how he started out his carreer and business in Printers Row.  With tenacity and faith in God, he survived the ups and downs of the printing business, and the change in technology to celebrate his 50th Anniversary in 2022.  In his own words

How it All Began

First, I thank GOD for His many blessings He has bestowed upon my family and me. I also thank Him for giving me a family that has been supportive of me and my printing business from the inception to this day. He has provided me many good times and brought me through the troubled times. Not  to mention supplying D&R PRESS with great employees and many loyal customers over the past 50 years.

The Beginning: My being in printing started while I attended Austin High School back in 1970. I was a junior at the time. My cousin Dennis, a sophomore, told me how much he liked the Graphic Arts (printing) class. He explained that he intended to take another advanced class and asked me to sign up with him in hopes that we may be in the same class together. So I signed up for Graphic Arts in my senior year. Dennis and I ended up being in different classes.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed the class, so much so that my skills quickly surpassed my fellow classmates. I soon became one of the best hand-set typographers in the class. Because I was so far ahead, my teacher, Mr. Gerkhe, put me on the press while waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. He then asked me to do a special project, which I quickly agreed to. The project was for me to design and print   anything of my choice and I chose to create recipe cards   for my mother. I came up with the layout, set the type, completed a proof, made the plate, printed the recipe cards and

presented them to my mother.

At that point, there was about five weeks left until graduation. I asked Mr. Gerkhe how I should go about furthering my education in graphic arts. He said I should attend Washburn Trade School for printing. He also mentioned a couple of colleges. He further explained that companies often call the school looking for students that are interested in an apprenticeship. About three weeks before graduation in June 1971, he pulled me aside and told me of a printing company that called looking for such a student and asked if I was interested. I immediately said, “yes”.

He then gave me the

phone number and I called to set up an interview with Mr. Sam Ranis of   Ranis Menu Printing.

Sam was a Greek immigrant that had settled in the US about twenty years prior to my meeting him.  His company printed 85% of the daily menus in the city of Chicago and the suburbs. He was running the same type of press that I learned to run in high school. After meeting with Mr. Ranis, he offered me the job and I gratefully accepted. This became my first job in printing. The position required me to be downtown in the Chicago Loop everyday after school. My duties included running the press and making deliveries to the restaurants daily, Monday through Friday. Once I graduated, I immediately went to work full time for Sam.

I was at Ranis about seven months before I was introduced to Kim Jue, a friend of Sam’s. Kim, also an immigrant, printed menus for the Chinese restaurants in Chicago’s China Town district. A short time later, I ran into Kim and he asked me if I would like to work for him at night running a 17”x22”  Webendorfer–a fairly large offset press on which I was never trained. He said he would teach me and being enthusiastic to acquire any knowledge I could, I accepted. So, after working a full day from 9 am-5:30 pm with Sam at Ranis Menu, I would leave and go upstairs in the same building to work for Kim until 10 or 11 pm, 2-3 nights per week.

I really had a blast learning all I could on these presses and it was pretty cool to work for both Greek and Chinese printers. I learned a lot about their heritages, but mostly I learned a work ethic that remains with me until this day. Their energy and enthusiasm was to be admired. At this point I did not realize that I was working in the heart of the famous Printer’s Row of Chicago.

 We were located at 529 S. Dearborn in Chicago, Illinois. Every building within an area 2 blocks east, 3 blocks south and 3 blocks west were printing-related comp-anies. This included printers, paper companies, binderies, printing equipment dealers, printing supplies and everything related.  To be continued next issue.