Ewing Printing’s 100-year-old company changes with the industry
By Bernie Schmitt
Like most everything, the printing industry has changed tremendously in 45 years.
Just ask Jim Zeigler.
As owner and president of the 100-year-old Ewing Printing Company, Zeigler and his company has kept pace with modernization, adapting to technological changes that help the company thrive and to serve its customers.
“Everything is different than when I started,” Zeigler said. “We have changed three complete times since 1973.”
Ewing Printing is a full-service commercial printer that strives for quality. It is a multi-million dollar business that serves local and national customers. Zeigler and his son, Jerry (vice president), take pride in having built a printing business that can handle just about anything.
Ewing Printing’s longevity and success show that there is still a need for printers, even in a digital world. But to be competitive, one has to keep up with the latest trends and be willing to change. Always keen to their customers’ needs, the owners of Ewing Printing try to do that.
“We can do just about anything here,” Zeigler said. “We don’t run every machine every day, but we do something with them each week. There are certain jobs where we need certain machinery. We want to be able to satisfy our customers.”
Adding more space
Ewing Printing has been located at 516 Vigo St., in the former Montgomery Ward building, since 1989. After four different renovations and additions, the printing complex has 22,000 square feet of space and is expected to grow.
“We just added another Mueller Martini 14-pocket collator and binder,” Zeigler said. “We’re full again. We are always expanding.”
The Zeiglers have purchased adjacent property, namely the former Kramac Printing property on Vigo Street, as well as the former Dick Leonard car lot property across the street. In 2006 the Zeiglers bought what was a rear parking area for the former Gardner Funeral Home, which is next to the printing facility. It is likely where the next expansion will be, Zeigler said.
Ewing Printing was recognized this spring with an Indiana Century Business Award presented by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The Zeiglers were honored during a ceremony with the governor at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.
“It was an impressive day,” Zeigler said. “It was very nice. It was fun. It’s too bad Dale Wilkes couldn’t be here for that.”
Zeigler is referring to Milton Dale Wilkes, the man he went to work for 45 years ago, and who formerly owned Ewing Printing. Wilkes lived to be 90 and died just a few years ago. He teased Zeigler about his predecessor’s success.
“He once told me, ‘Man, if ever I thought you could make a printing company like this, I’d never had sold it!’” Zeigler said. “That’s probably the best compliment I could get. He and I remained friends for many years.”
Walter A. Ewing first opened his Vincennes print shop in 1918. His wife kept up with operations after his death in the late 1940s, then sold the business to Wilkes in 1959. That same year, Zeigler’s mother, Catherine, began working for Wilkes.
A career detour
Wilkes made changes, of course, and moved the shop to Ninth and Main. Later, in 1970, Wilkes merged his business with George Klein, and the printing company moved to 121–125 N. Second St. Klein sold out to Wilkes in 1970. In 1977, Wilkes sold Zeigler 49 percent of the business. In March 1983, Zeigler bought the rest and the company was his.
But Jim Zeigler didn’t study or apprentice to be a printer. He was graduated from Indiana State University in 1970 with a business degree. He was working at E. Bierhaus and Sons in 1973 when ran into Wilkes at the post office when he was offered a job.
“I didn’t know anything about printing,” he said. “But I learned, and went out to VU (Vincennes University) to take some classes. I learned a lot there. I learned about printing the right way and about all the new things on the horizon.”
In the 1980s, when Macintosh computers and desktop publishing revolutionized the printing industry, Zeigler was paying attention.
“Tim Harmon (computer sales person) brought in one of the very first Macs, maybe a Mac Plus,” Zeigler said. “He sat me down and told me I had to think about this like a filing system with all these different folders. I think I bought two of them that very day.
“I am left-handed,” he said. “I do everything with my left hand. But when he was showing me that, he put the mouse in my right hand and from then on I use a mouse with my right hand. I draw with my right hand in Illustrator.”
Ewing Printing had state contracts until 1989, a line of continuing business established in 1962 by Wilkes (whose schoolmate, Matt Welsh, was then governor). Zeigler said Ewing did a third less business in 1990, but made more money.
“You hate to give up business,” he said. “But after that point in time, we worked for those who had an appreciation for the work we do.
“Customers tend to want a high-quality product at a low price, and when they want it,” Zeigler said. “You can usually have two of those, but not all three. If we do good work and deliver on time, that is what is most important.”
His business skill, and knowledge that change would be important, helped him build a company with a national reputation for quality. Zeigler’s daughter, Jill, worked in the business until later becoming owner of the Melon Patch in Oaktown. Son Jerry joined the business after college in 1996, though he had worked at Ewing since he was 9 years old.
I didn’t know anything about printing. But I learned, and went out to VU (Vincennes University) to take some classes. I learned a lot there. I learned about printing the right way and about all the new things on the horizon. — Jim Zeigler
“I think we’re successful because we have good customers and we have good employees,” Jerry Zeigler said. “We’re versatile, too. We’re not too large, and we’re not too small. We can change rapidly to accommodate any job. It’s easier to change when you’re not huge.”
In 1992, Jim Zeigler purchased his first two-color perfecting press capable of high-speed multicolor work. This was quickly followed in 1993 with his first Heidelberg six-color press. A design department was added to compliment the business.
In 2000, another Heidelberg five-color perfecting press was added to the pressroom to greatly improve quality and service. In 2002, another Heidelberg six-color perfecting press with in-line aqueous and UV coating was added.
At the same time the pressroom experienced growth, the pre-press and bindery grew the same way to compliment the presses with new imagesetters, signastation, folders, banders, cutters, and a 6-pocket collator, stitcher-trimmer with a cover feeder to accommodate the increase tonnage of printed material. In 2004, a computer-to-plate system was purchased to make Ewing Printing one of the most modern up-to-date printers in southern Indiana.
Ewing has a complete direct mail service, allowing a customer to have a job designed, printed and mailed all from the same place on a quick turnaround. In 2007, two Mutoh value jet printers were added for signage and a Mutoh vinyl cutter to complete the sign and banner facility.
In 2010, a new liquid laminator was added to compliment its sign and banner business. In 2011, “Display Design and Production” was added. The company can now supply graphic displays for trade shows and conventions.
Perhaps the largest purchase was in 2009, when the Zieglers installed a $1.5 million XL 75 Heidelberg 23×29 five-color press with coating. At the same time they added 7,500 square feet to accommodate the machine as well as add some additional working space.
“I was 60 years old then,” said Zeigler.
Now 70, the businessman who turned Ewing Printing into a full-service, nationally-recognized printing facility continues to look forward.
“Things are changing so fast,” Zeigler said. “If we don’t keep up, we’ll be out of business.”
But business is good these days, thanks to the forward-thinking Zeiglers.
“We are filling a lot of orders,” he said. “We ship to some place every day. It’s a good thing.”
After 45 years in the 100-year-old business, Jim Zeigler will likely be around for quite some time. Retirement isn’t something he’s thought about.
“My mother worked here until she was 85,” he said with a smile.