Competing print shops ink merger
Taylored Printing celebrates 30 years, new owner & enhanced offerings
By Melissa James, York County Contributor
The commercial printing business is extremely competitive. For many years, Taylored Printing, a locally owned and operated shop in Victory Industrial Park, fought hard against larger print shops in the area to gain market share. But after three decades of growth, the York County mainstay agreed to merge with Worth Higgins & Associates—taking its services to a whole new level.
It’s only the latest in a series of smart business decisions for Taylored, where meeting the changing needs of customers has always been at the forefront.
“What started out in 1992 as a small, single and multi-process operation quickly grew into a full-blown commercial print shop under the leadership of its founder, Mike Barton,” said Easley Johnson, president turned account manager. “Mike had the foresight to add direct mail services, making Taylored Printing the first in the state to offer in-house, start to finish printing, inserting and mailing solutions for our clients. The service was so popular, we needed our own mailing permit and a full-time postal employee. This was huge and really set us apart in the market!”
This success propelled the business’s growth, adding new employees, equipment and additional services along the way. Soon, one-process printing press turned into two, allowing the team to attract much larger clients in the government, educational, medical and real estate industries. New offerings included graphic design, copywriting, printing, warehousing and fulfillment.
“Mike fully believed in investing profits back into the company, as did Tom Elphink, the company’s second owner,” recalled Johnson. “It was another thing that set us apart. We weren’t afraid to invest in new technologies. Even though Taylored Printing has changed hands two times now, we’ve always remained dedicated to having the latest equipment and certifications.”
In the 1990s, certifications became an important part of staying competitive in the printing industry. Taylored Printing achieved G7 Process Control Master Qualification, becoming the only printer on the Peninsula—and one of just a few in the state—with this certification and requisite capability.
With the company’s recent merger with Worth Higgins & Associates, Taylored Printing has acquired even more services, certifications, equipment and capabilities than ever before.
“I was honored to be able to negotiate such a successful merger with Worth Higgins & Associates,” said Johnson. “For many years, they were one of Taylored Printing’s biggest competitors in the Richmond-Hampton Roads market. Now that we’re working together with them, the opportunities for our clients are endless. It was a very exciting move for us.”
“Our employees are our biggest asset,” said Johnson. “The acquisition was a win-win for everyone, especially for our very loyal employees, many of whom had been with the company for decades. Several accepted new positions under Worth Higgins & Associates, and others chose early retirement packages instead.”
Under Worth Higgins & Associates, who officially acquired the printshop in September of 2021, Taylored Printing, can now offer clients full-service solutions, including everything from promotional items and signage to wide-format printing.
“Our team was excited about the new solutions we could offer,” said Johnson. “The increased capacity alone is a huge opportunity for us. Now we just have to get that message out into the business community.”
Since taking over, Worth Higgins & Associates have approved new sales positions in the Peninsula area, putting boots on the ground to spread the word about the company’s new capabilities.
“Our focus is on building our share of the local printing market, from Richmond to Virginia Beach,” Johnson said. “Worth Higgins asked me to stay on for a few years to oversee the marketing and outreach campaigns needed to gain better name recognition and exposure for us in this local market.”
Although the company has changed hands over the years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is its commitment to customer service and client satisfaction.
“That has been our strongest selling point since we started,” Johnson said. “We’ve formed good relationships with our existing clients, so they trust us. It’s a ruthless market, so the way we treat people makes us a reliable resource for the local community. It’s what differentiated us in the past, and I’m confident that will continue under Worth Higgins & Associates strong leadership.”
When asked what makes him most proud, Johnson said simply, “that we’ve survived!” He explained how the COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental impact on the printing industry as a whole, but especially here in this tourism-driven market. The company’s sales took an even deeper hit when several large clients canceled marketing campaigns and events. Then there were the supply chain issues that wreaked havoc on availability and timelines.
“Many people don’t realize how critical the supply chain is for the printing industry,” said Johnson. “We simply couldn’t get enough paper to fulfil our orders and the paper mills, not having any other option, put their clients on allotments, which still exist today.”
“We are so thankful that Taylored Printing was able to navigate through the pandemic and come out on the other side,” said Kristi Olsen-Hayes, director of York County’s Economic & Tourism Development Department. “To see this legacy company not only make it through, but now be growing and thriving, is incredible.”
Johnson said that the merger with Worth Higgins & Associates will significantly improve any supply chain situations that come up in the future, due to the company’s sheer size. Worth Higgins & Associates have more employees working to secure supplies, stronger relationships with larger distributors and warehouses, and overall more resources to solve these types of problems.
“The larger the company, the more purchasing power they have with the paper mills and the higher allotments they receive,” Johnson said. “This will bode very well for our customers, should additional supply issues arise.”
So, how does Johnson feel now that the acquisition is complete?
“To combine resources with a former adversary and have it work out so well for our clients and employees feels amazing,” Johnson described. “I have to smile when I see Worth Higgins & Associates on my business card, as I just never saw that coming. But I feel very fortunate with how it all worked out.”