When Jerry and Cindy Maddux, owners of Coast Printing Co. in Gulfport, started out 20 years ago with their new business venture, neither had worked in the printing business.
Jerry Maddux had been working as a comptroller in Richmond, Va., for several years and wanted to get back home to the Coast and start his own business. A relative knew Joe Fleming, the print shop owner who had been in business since 1956.
“We jumped in blind,” Cindy Maddux said of their purchase of Coast Printing in 1993.
Fortunately for them, Fleming agreed to stay on board for a year and a half to help the new owners get on their feet.
In the early days, Maddux wasn’t sure that was going to happen as they learned everything on the job.
“There were lots of late nights, lots of tears and lots of trial and error,” she said.
The shop has remained small and the owners run the business without any employees since Hurricane Katrina eroded so many small businesses like their own. “Our customer based dwindled a bit,” she said. “A lot of people just didn’t come back.” Jerry Maddux picked up the slack and made his workdays longer, Cindy Maddux said.
The couple knew they weren’t going to get rich but the business “paid the bills and gave you a little comfort cushion,” Cindy Maddux said. “It got (Mr. Fleming’s) two daughters through college.”
The duties are clearly split: She does all the prepress work and he does all the printing. “We each have our own duties and we don’t butt heads,” she said.
Prepress includes typesetting and design, neither of which Maddux had done before they bought Coast Printing.
“For the first three or four months, I cried every day and said we’re not going to make it, it’s too much. But we did,” she said. “When it’s your bread and butter, you do what you have to do and learn how to do it as fast as you can.”
She started out with no computer experience, learning the basics of designing business cards and other products. “I had no idea how to import a piece of clipart or what copy and paste was,” she recalled.
Twenty years later, she thinks back on that learning curve and wonders, “How in the world did I survive?”
Now, she says, “I’m pretty happy with some of the stuff I’m doing.”
Coast Printing has been serving some of its customers since it opened. The Navy Seabee Base in Gulfport is an original customer and so are several car dealerships.
The Madduxes didn’t court the Coast casinos for their printing business. Cindy Maddux said. “We didn’t put many eggs in that basket. We’ve always focused on small business. We find we like that better. You’re able to build relationships and your customer knows they can depend on you, that develops loyalty.”
Contacts come and go in large corporations, she said. “One day you’re talking to one purchasing agent and the next time, you’re talking with another.” Smaller businesses are more solid when it comes to maintaining personnel, she said. “I have built friendships with some of my customers,” she said.
Coast Printing counts construction companies, trucking companies and medical clinics among their long-standing customers. “It’s a good range of different businesses,” she said.
Printing products include letterhead, forms, business cards, brochures, labels, various sizes of envelopes and basic copies.
For all of the publishing software and apps now available to consumers who want to do their own brochures, Maddux said it’s not keeping everyone out of the print shop.
“They may attempt it but they get so frustrated,” she said. “The printers run out of ink so quickly, and most people just don’t know what it’s all about.”
Many end up with computer files that need to be reworked by experienced typesetters and designers before they can be printed, she said.
In the future, Maddux said, digital printing will dominate the industry. “For people who want low volume and quick turnover, digital is going to take over every time.”
Maddux likes to point out that Coast Printing is a basic print shop whose main focus is on their customers. “We’re a small business that believes in doing the very best we can to make our customers happy and keep them happy. We know what being a small business is.”
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