Printer Sees Recession In Black And White

It's Your Recession.

We're just blogging it. . .

Frank Caracciolo owns Universal Printing Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y. He says that even in these days of recession, the presses are still running. Orders have dropped in the last few weeks, but not terribly. His clients still need their stationary.

"You know, like, lawyers are still sending out bills with letterheads on them and still need envelopes to mail letters in," Caracciolo says over the din of the machinery.

But those lawyer bills and envelopes are simple jobs, just black ink on plain paper. A company like Caracciolo's can't make a lot of money that way. Universal Printing isn't big — the whole operation would fit in an apartment, even a New York apartment. But it's still home to a handful of union workers and expensive printing machines.

To pay for all that infrastructure, Caracciolo needs fancier orders, the kind that have a bigger profit built in. For that, he's got a steady source.

"High-end work for pharmaceutical companies," he says. "That's been in our niche." And the main part of that work, the economic engine that keeps his machines humming, is really fancy business cards. "This is a four-color process job," he says, pointing out one order. "These are all business cards."

You've seen the kind of card he means. They're printed in four colors on both sides. Sometimes they have a shape cut out of them. They're expensive looking, not least because they are really expensive. A few huge multinational pharmaceutical companies get all their business cards from this shop, from Caracciolo.

His disaster scenario is that the companies will call up and ask for regular business cards in black and white. "That's a nightmare," he says.

For now, he's hoping that no matter how bad things get during this recession, people will get sick and they'll need drugs — and the people who make and sell those drugs will need really nice business cards.

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