Share story

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — Ask Jim or Jerry Zeigler why they think Ewing Printing Co. Inc. has been able to survive — and thrive — for 100 years, and they’ll give you a number of answers.

Tenacity is one reason, good management is another, and financial wisdom is up there, too.

But what tops the list, they say, is their staff.

“This is the truth: We have good people. They’re the most important thing,” Jerry said. “You can have all the software in the world, all the equipment in the world, but it won’t run without people. They’re all like family.”

Some employees who are currently with the company, Jim noted, have been there for decades.

“We’ve got good people and we’ve got longevity,” he said. “Just to show how good our people are: Everyone can probably do four or five different jobs. We all do whatever it takes.”

Ewing Printing was recognized earlier this month with one of the state’s Century Business Awards from Gov. Eric Holcomb during a ceremony at the statehouse in Indianapolis.

It’s an honor that caps off 100 years of providing the community with a wide range of print products, from county record books and documents in the early days to brightly colored banners, guidebooks, mailers, wedding invitations, logos, signs and vehicle lettering — just to name a few.

BEGINNINGS

Ewing Printing was founded by 19-year-old Walter Ewing in 1918 and operated out of the second floor of the Pielemeier Building at Seventh and Broadway streets with just a few employees.

In 1934, Ewing moved the plant to a small building that once sat at 705 Main St. and is now occupied by a parking lot between Fort Sackville and Illusions Bridal. By 1936, he held contracts for printing in six different Indiana counties.

After Ewing’s death in the late 1940s, the business continued under the leadership of his widow until she sold it to Dale Wilkes in 1959. He started making changes to put the business on solid ground and started by moving the company to a new location at Ninth and Main streets.

A year later, he received contracts from the state of Indiana, becoming the first printing company from outside of Marion County to ever receive those contracts.

In 1970, Ewing and George Klein Printing merged into one company, retaining the Ewing name. Wilkes purchased Klein’s interest in the printing company a few years later and shortly after, Jim Zeigler entered the picture.

He knew Wilkes well because his mother, Catherine Zeigler, had been a mainstay and integral part of the company for years, right up until her last day of work on her 85th birthday. Wilkes recruited him, taught him the ins and outs of the business, and agreed to eventually leave it in Jim’s hands.

By the 1980s, Jim became the sole owner and Wilkes retired. Jim moved Ewing printing to its current home at 516 Vigo St. and his son, Jerry, later joined the company in the mid-1990s.

The father-son duo are now partners in ownership and operation.

“Honestly, I’m very lucky,” Jerry said. “I got to work with both my grandmother and my dad.”

Over the years, the Zeiglers have been able to find success and staying power in an ever-changing world. “Setting type” was once done on big, loud Linotype machines; now it can be done on an iPhone.

But that didn’t scare away Jim or Jerry.

“Everyone wants to say, ‘Hasn’t the internet messed up your whole business?'” Jerry said. “Not really. Computers have been good for our business.”

The company has now shifted its focus to commercial business, continues to purchase more and more machines and equipment to expand services, and has added additional departments to meet demand and stay ahead of the curve.

In 2006, for example, they added a direct mail service to the repertoire, giving customers the ability to have a job designed, printed and mailed with a quick turnaround, all in one location.

Now, Ewing Printing has over 20 employees who work out of a building that’s been expanded several times to accommodate all those machines and computers.

Inside, massive Heidelberg five-color presses whirr, trimmers slash through stacks of paper 8 inches thick, and laminators place a shiny protective coat over outdoor signs and banners.

“We’ve certainly gotten a little bigger,” Jim joked.

WHAT’S OVER THE HILL

Looking ahead to the company’s future, Jim Zeigler considered the past.

Down a hallway from the warehouse and production spaces is a conference room whose walls are lined with photos of the people behind the business, including Wilkes, a dear friend of Jim’s who passed away several years ago.

“You’d have to know Dale to appreciate this, but the biggest compliment he ever gave me is he came in the door here one day and said, ‘You’ve done well with this place. If I’d ever known we could make this kind of place out of it, I wouldn’t have sold it to you,'” Jim recalled with a chuckle. “He was joking, of course. He was a good guy.”

The company didn’t reach this point, though, without experiencing tough times. Leaning back in his conference room chair, Jim recalled how the stock market crashed just as he signed off on the $1.5 million Heidelberg color press.

“Really, it’s been interesting,” he said with a grin, then turned his attention toward what’s next on Ewing’s horizon. “One thing is for sure: Change is always just over the hill. We’re going to keep changing and making new investments because we want to stay in business.

“Without doing that, we won’t be here.”

___

Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial

___

Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com