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AK Litho celebrates 65 years

Posted: October 11, 2012 - 11:04pm
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Galen Wyatt, head press operator, loads a plate onto an offset press at Alaska Litho on Thursday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Galen Wyatt, head press operator, loads a plate onto an offset press at Alaska Litho on Thursday.

For six decades Alaska Litho has been a relevant part of Juneau’s business community by embracing change.

“We’re actually going into our fourth or fifth generation of our business,” said Richard Stone, owner of Alaska Litho. “Print is only one aspect of what we do now. Even though we stated as a mimeograph service and print is our mainstay you have to change with the market and the needs of the customers and Litho has been very successful at that for generations now.”

From its start in 1948 by printing a church bulletin on a mimeograph machine to its newest venture into Internet media services, Litho has adopted new technologies and sought out new opportunities.

Since the days that Pastor H.E. Beyer supplemented his bulletin prints with a small business in local offset printing, Litho has gone through several owners and even a bankruptcy, before current co-owner Richard Stone bought into the business in 1989.

“Chris Garrison and I ran it as partners for a number of years before I bought his half of the business in 1998,” Stone said. “Within a few years I sold 30 percent of it to the employees … so we would have more of an employee-owned business rather than just a single owner.”

Stone said he considers employee ownership as one of the main reasons for his business’s success. He said he knew when he bought the business that it would outlast his desire to be involved.

“And that’s been over 30 years now,” Stone said.

Stone said he wanted to be able to involve the employees as stakeholders and allow them to benefit from being actively involved in the business.

“I felt like that was a really critical component to the long term sustainability of the company,” Stone said.

Prior to moving to its newest location on Airport Boulevard in 2006 Litho was located in its own building on Mill Street in the rock dump area for eight years. Before that Litho was located at Warner’s Warf on S. Franklin for 20 years and then moved down near the Taku Smokeries before moving to the rock dump.

Travis McCain, general manager said that in addition to keeping up with technological advancements in printing equipment, Litho has also embraced its biggest asset and competitor, the Internet.

“The Internet has been huge for us,” McCain said.

McCain is a 19-year employee of Litho and one of its earliest employee-owners.

Having its own Internet presence allows Litho to offer services throughout Southeast Alaska and beyond, McCain said. “We’re not just specifically a Juneau printer.” Customers can upload print projects directly to Litho’s website and the company’s media services are available to anyone with an Internet connection.

“It allows us to do business over a distance,” McCain said.

Litho has worked with customers from Ketchikan to Florida.

At the same time the Internet is a challenge, McCain said.

Litho did not see much of drop in business as personal home printers became ubiquitous and so far the long-anticipated paperless world has not materialized. However Litho is not just waiting for the curtain to drop, McCain said. The business is supplementing its traditional print business with online media services. Going forward, Litho is beefing up its web design services, mobile device application development and social media services. It offers seminars to introduce these technologies and services to its Southeast customers.

Stone said his business success has come in large part due to the loyalty of local customers.

“The Juneau community particularly, as well as Southeast, has been the kind of business community that is very easy and welcoming to do business with,” Stone said. “The whole attitude of buy local and support for the businesses in the region has been successful for us and we’ve certainly appreciated it. I hope that we are reciprocating in the same way. My perspective is a warm thank you to the community for their support.

For more information about Alaska Litho call 586-3170 or visit www.aklitho.com

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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