Clark Graphics: 18 Years on OaklandAttention to Detail Creates Customer Loyalty

Clark Graphics

by Jean Scherwenka,photos Kurt Johnson

When Clark Kaufman hauled a printingpress into his brother’s basement oneday in the early 80’s, he didn’t know thefirst thing about printing or copying.“People always need forms,” his brotherhad said. “We really ought to get intothe printing business.” So they did.

“We had no idea what we were doing,”says Clark. “I taught myself how to runthe press.” The business took off andgrew out of the basement and ontoLocust Street into a portion of the spacethat is now Atomic Records. Their

services expanded to include copying.

Three years later and still growing,Clark Graphics moved down the streetto its present location, 2915 N. OaklandAvenue, and has served a loyal base ofcustomers there for 18 years. “We havecustomers [today] from when I startedback in 1982,” says Clark. He attributestheir loyalty to good service, reasonablerates, leading edge equipment, anda great staff. “We look at it this way.We want totreat peoplelike we’d wantto be treated.”Apparently heapplies the samestandard to howhe treats his staff;store managersKevin and Coryhave been withhim for 16and 14 years,respectively.

Reasonablerates alsoencourage hiscustomers’loyalty. Duringthe 80’scompetition washigher with agreater numberof print andcopy businessesin the area. Atone point, Clarkwas squeezed between a Kinko’s onKenwood and the one on Farwell andBrady. “Our customer base stuck withus, and in fact our sales went up,” saysClark. “Our prices and services arebetter, and I guess that’s why we’re stillhere and most of the others are gone.”

“We also keep updating our equipment.We’re running all this on computersnow.” His staff informs him on thelatest technology and the equipmentthey need to stay competitive. “We get anew piece of equipment in, and the staffknows more about it and how to run itthan the techs who come in to serviceit or the trainers who come to show ushow to use it,” says Clark. He’s proud ofhis staff.

Over the years, Clark has seen a lotof changes along Oakland Avenue.The city’s recent idea for running theConnector train up and down bothsides of the street concerns Clark. “Itwould eliminate all of our parking forevery business on the street. All thesecars parked here would be forced intothe neighborhoods.” The CommonClark Graphics: 18 Years on OaklandAttention to Detail Creates Customer LoyaltyCouncil had passed the plan, but theMayor recently vetoed it.

Other changes being considered on theAvenue include a new Walgreen’s DrugStore with about 50 apartments above iton the north end of Sentry’s parking lot.The Sentry food store would come downto provide space for a new parking lot.

As President of the Oakland AvenueBusiness Improvement District for anumber of years, Clark’s been involvedin street improvements. Using an annualbudget that the businesses collect fromthemselves, the BID installed harp lightsand tree grates, and planted flowers.“We also have a graffiti fund to takeoff the graffiti when it comes around,and we hire a service to help with litterpick-up,” says Clark. “We’re taking careof the neighborhood.”

Riverwest Currents online edition – June, 2006