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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We turn next to one man's efforts to ride out a bad economy. In this scene from a recession, we find out that sometimes a company's survival depends on nothing more than a business card. NPR's Adam Davidson reports.

ADAM DAVIDSON: Frank Caracciolo owns Universal Printing Company in Brooklyn, New York, and these days the presses are running.

(Soundbite of printing presses)

Orders have dropped in the last few weeks, but not terribly. His clients still need their stationery.

Mr. FRANK CARACCIOLO (Owner, Universal Printing Company): You know, like, lawyers are still sending out bills with letterheads on them and they still need envelopes to mail their letters in, and...

DAVIDSON: And lawyers might be sending out more bills these days.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CARACCIOLO: They might.

DAVIDSON: But those lawyers' bills and envelopes, those are simple black ink on plain paper jobs. You 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 there still are a handful of union workers and expensive printing machines to pay for. So Caracciolo needs fancier orders, the kind that have a bigger profit built in.

Mr. CARACCIOLO: High-end work for pharmaceutical companies, that's been our niche.

DAVIDSON: He does all sort of high-end work, but the main product that keeps these machines humming is one thing - really fancy business cards.

(Soundbite of a printing press)

Mr. CARACCIOLO: This is a four-color process job.

DAVIDSON: And these are all business cards.

Mr. CARACCIOLO: These are all business cards.

DAVIDSON: You know those cards, they're printed in four colors on both sides, sometimes they have a shape cut out of them, really expensive looking because, well, they are really expensive, and he prints a lot of them. There's a handful of huge multinational pharmaceutical companies that get all their business cards for all-new hires or for people who just ran out, from right here, from Frank Caracciolo.

So let me get this straight, your biggest success in 2008, what's keeping you away from a recession, a personal recession, is just that there's enough pharmaceutical companies that want nice business cards?

Mr. CARACCIOLO: Yeah, basically.

DAVIDSON: So your nightmare scenario is someone like this company calls up and says you know what? We're just going to go with regular old black and white business cards.

Mr. CARACCIOLO: That's - it's a nightmare.

DAVIDSON: Frank's hoping that no matter how bad things get this recession, people will get sick, they'll need drugs, and the companies that make and sell those drugs will need really nice business cards. We'll see. Adam Davidson, NPR News, New York.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Planet Money helps explain the recession and the economy at npr.org/money.

This is NPR News.

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