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Hopefully you have never attempted to move a print shop. It’s not an easy task yet we’ve moved 4 times in the past 40 years. You read that right; one move every decade. Pro tip: don’t try this at home.
In 2000, we signed the first lease for Anderson Square, Phase 1, a new commercial development on Oleander Dr. Steve Anderson was planning his first commercial real estate project and we were honored to become his first tenant.
Our new 5000sqft space gave us valuable elbow room to add technology (incidentally, we were the first to introduce digital printing to local businesses), create a pleasant lobby area for our growing list of customers, and plenty of off-street parking on one of Wilmington’s busiest thoroughfares. Life was good – and prosperous!
In January 2004, the transfer of power occurred when I became the corporate president which meant when I asked for his input, Daddy would shrug and say he supported me (it would have been great to have had more guidance to avoid some of my epic fail decisions . . . sigh).
It’s important to note, that throughout his tenure, Daddy was very benevolent to his employees as well as the community. Because of his leadership over the decades, we were actively involved in helping several local non-profits whether through in-kind donations, discounts on their printing or volunteer leadership. He, my mother and I all served in various capacities on numerous local non-profit boards, and I took it a step further with my participation on regional and national industry-related boards. A few of the boards on which I served were: Cape Fear Chapter of the American Red Cross, WHQR Public Radio, Wilmington Housing Authority, Southeastern Reprographics Association, and International Reprographics Association. Being involved with worthwhile community & industry associations has been, and continues to be, an important part of our family culture for four generations.
Until May 2010 when he was well into his 80’s, Daddy was an active part of our day-to-day operations; he went to the PO, made bank deposits, schmoozed with old friends when not reading a book in his office. He loved the interactions, the atmosphere, perhaps even all the noise, of Copycat.
In September 2010, the Great Recession caused us to consolidate back to smaller space, moving into Units I & J, also in Anderson Square, which my parents and I had purchased in 2006 as investments. Hands down, the years of the recession created the most stress I had ever experienced. The loss of business was approximately 55% which clearly wasn’t sustainable. Miraculously, we kept the doors open and business picked up after years of weathering the financial storm. This, in spite of the proliferation of new printing companies in our area, coupled with vendors placing printing equipment in our clients’ offices, thereby reducing the need for our services. To counter punch, we began introducing new technology to set us apart in the increasingly competitive market. This remains the norm today, resulting in a modified business model, always with an eye out for new technology.
Sadly, on December 6, 2017, the near-legendary Max Kahn drew his last breath, just two days shy of his 95th birthday, a great loss to everyone who knew and loved this gentle man. About 5 months later, on April 23, 2018, the venerable David Turner, who securely held his place as another Copycat icon having joined the team in 1984, passed away unexpectedly not long after his retirement. The loss of these two institutional historians was significant.
In June of 2018, I finally realized I truly didn’t have a clue about running a profitable business; turns out there’s more involved than just following your gut.
I hired business coach Reggie Shropshire and started drinking from a firehose in terms of learning all the best practices for the four tenets of business operation: Strategy, Processes, People and Cash. Thanks to my willingness to be the old dog learning new tricks and Reggie’s guidance, within a year we had realized a 46% increase in our profitability!
In December 2018, real estate pro Jeff Hovis helped me purchase a former medical office on South Kerr Avenue for the 4th (and final) relocation. Primarily, I wanted to be in a standalone building with high visibility; equally as important, we wanted to ensure plenty of off-street parking for our team and clientele.
Architect Philip Humphrey, who had provided his design expertise for our two previous moves, once again played the key role of converting 637 S Kerr Ave into our new home. With his guidance, we selected Environments Unlimited and project manager Darren Jones for the task. The renovation began earnestly in April 2019 with lots of surprises along the way, like discovering interior walls made of brick behind linoleum panels and Italian marble buried underneath yucky old flooring.
I’ll save the rest of the renovation story for another blog. For now, all you need to know is that we finally moved into our new digs at the end of February 2020, a very exciting day in Copycat history!
Exactly two weeks after our move, due to the COVID pandemic, the state of NC went into stay-at-home orders on March 13, 2020. Oy vey.
All plans for an open house to show off our new facility had to be scrapped. Fortunately, we were able to stay open because we were considered an essential business and/but we could not allow anyone inside to see our amazing new space.
Fast forward through all the COVID protocols and here we are today…wearing masks again while being able to greet you at our front counter. We continue to update our technology and strive to provide 5-star customer service every day. None of this would be possible without our amazing team which has changed over the years, along with amazing clientele which is constantly growing.
It’s pretty amazing to look back on the past 40 years and consider all the changes that have occurred along the way, be it new technology, locations or personnel. Some of it occurred in what feels like the blink of an eye while progress in other areas evolved gradually. What’s most important is that none of Copycat’s progress could have occurred without a willingness to adapt, to learn, and to grow.
Thank you for enduring what might be the longest blog ever written … please feel free to share your recipes for success and how long you’ve been using them.
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