Autographics: 20 years and counting

Despite several area competitors, the Dinkytown printing shop is not worried about the recession.

Owner of Autographics Printing Skott Johnson said he gets some of his best work done when his storeâÄôs doors are locked. And with multiple businesses locking their doors permanently, Autographics doesnâÄôt need to worry. Located at 1300 4th Street SE in Dinkytown, Autographics offers full service printing, binding, mailings and newsletters for local churches, restaurants and businesses and prints course packets for various University of Minnesota departments. âÄúI like to think that we are almost like a âÄòCheersâÄô barâÄîwhere you walk in and we remember you,âÄù Johnson said. âÄúI want my employees to know customers by name and a lot of people appreciate it.âÄù Though many local businesses have been affected by the economic decline, Autographics has only had to make slight changes, such as not ordering new printing equipment. Johnson, who has been with Autographics for 20 years, started the business after graduating in 1978 from the University with a degree in journalism. He first started working at NelsonâÄôs Office Supply store in Dinkytown until he found out the store was closing. Instead of finding a new job, Johnson just decided he would start his own printing business. âÄúI figured âÄòwhat do I want to do? Apply and work somewhere else and be the low-man on the totem pole, or maybe I can continue to do thisâÄô,âÄù Johnson said. Through connections he had already made with vendors, Johnson said he was able to âÄúopen very cheaply.âÄù Johnson said over the years Autographics employed as many as six students, but when they graduated, Johnson said he didnâÄôt replace them. Autographics now only has one part-time employee aside from Johnson. Junior graphic design major Adam Babel started working at Autographics in early February. Babel, who works 10 hours a week, said he is happy to see small businesses survive in Dinkytown. âÄúSkott knows a lot of people around here and since itâÄôs a small, local business, people come in and respect that and understand that,âÄù Babel said. âÄúItâÄôs a different environment than a bigger shop or more corporate shop.âÄù Babel said, because he has only worked at Autographics for less than six months, he cannot tell if changes have been made because of the economic decline.

Loyal Customers

Eileen Vescio of VescioâÄôs Italian Restaurant in Dinkytown has been doing business with Autographics since it opened. Autographics prints VescioâÄôs menus, coupons and correspondence, and does a lot of their advertising, Vescio said. âÄúI just have so much trust and confidence in anything he does for us Vescio said about Johnson. âÄúHeâÄôs very, very creative. Pretty much anything we want he does and does it very well.âÄù Vescio said she chose Autographics over a competing business because of JohnsonâÄôs quality service. âÄúWe like to have a real personal touch where we know the people, we know the names and we can adapt to it,âÄù Johnson said. âÄúBeing a small business we can do that.âÄù

Surviving the economy

On May 5, Autographics will celebrate 20 years of business. Johnson said he is often asked how the economy is affecting business. He said he knows of certain customers who arenâÄôt going to be doing business with Autographics much longer because they are downsizing. To his surprise, he said he noticed a number of new accounts that have come to support Autographics. Johnson said he does not see other printing shops in the Dinkytown area, such as Paradigm Course Resource and Alpha Print and Copy , as competition. âÄúI donâÄôt see a whole lot of competition,âÄù he said. âÄúWe seem to have found our own niche.âÄù Johnson said he is not going to update any of his printing equipment until he figures out where the economy is going. âÄúBusiness is always up and down and never smooth,âÄù he said. âÄú[There are] bigger highs and bigger lows right now; thatâÄôs a big difference IâÄôve noticed.âÄù Johnson said, because Autographics is a small business, he can make overnight changes with things like policy or prices if he has to. He said it is much harder to make these changes for bigger companies. âÄúThatâÄôs one advantage I have being small,âÄù he said. âÄúI can react.âÄù Johnson said he has tried numerous forms of advertising, including a radio ad, as a way to draw in customers. However, he said the storeâÄôs front window and word-of-mouth have been his best form of advertisement. Johnson said he is glad to see people support small business in this tough economy âÄî not just by doing business with Autographics, but other Dinkytown businesses as well. Johnson said he is concerned about any corporate developments that might want to take over Dinkytown, forcing small businesses like Autographics out of the community. âÄúIâÄôll always be pushing for this area to be an area for development for small businesses,âÄù he said.