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Published: Monday, 12/9/2002

Graphics firm renowned for being colorful

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
SFC employee Ken Celski examines a 3-foot-by-5-foot print as it comes rolling out of a processing machine at the Toledo plant. The company employs 35 people. SFC employee Ken Celski examines a 3-foot-by-5-foot print as it comes rolling out of a processing machine at the Toledo plant. The company employs 35 people.
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From the frozen food aisle of Kroger supermarkets to a photo gallery in Newport, R.I., specializing in sailing scenes, the handiwork of Toledo's SFC Graphics, Inc. is on display.

The 100-year-old firm, which describes itself as one of the nation's oldest “color houses,” specializes in preparing color photos and graphics for printing. Jobs range from private-label brand Popsicle cartons to clothing to be sold through catalogs.

Additionally, the firm uses digital technology to print poster-sized items, such as store displays, artwork, and photos like those sold at the Rhode Island gallery.

“We have well over 2,300 customers with 30 to 40 key accounts,” said Paul R. Clark, company president and the third generation of his family to work for the firm known for many years as Seidel-Farris-Clark, Inc. “Half of our business is in Toledo and the other half is national.”

SFC's main office is on East Woodruff Avenue in downtown Toledo. It has four sales offices elsewhere, including Cleveland and Detroit.

Sales are expected to top $4 million this year, and executives are pursuing a growth agenda built around new printing technology. To prepare, they are planning an expansion of the firm's headquarters.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the new technology, Mr. Clark points out a window shutter on which a photo of a child's face has been reproduced. The digital printer, which Mr. Clark claims is only the third of its kind in the nation, can print images on wood and other materials up to two inches thick.

These and other digital machines replace screen-printing methods, which made it difficult to produce small quantities at economical prices, Mr. Clark said.

Another new venture is Acclaima.com, a computer software package being promoted to the direct-marketing industry as a way to further personalize sales pitches. Letters and brochures addressing potential customers by name have become commonplace. But the program envisions a much more sophisticated pitch in which a customer's name is scribbled on a sandy beach, spelled out on a birthday cake, or placed in a color advertisement or coupon.

SFC, which was founded in 1902, has a rich history. It traces its origins to Toledo's Peninsular Engraving, which in 1927 prepared an advertisement for the Saturday Evening Post on the Toledo-built Willys Knight automobile that was said to be the first double-page color ad ever in a national magazine.

In 1955, the firm, then known as Seidel-Farris, merged with a firm operated by Mr. Clark's grandfather, Paul J. Clark, and father, Tom Clark. Tom Clark is SFC's chief executive.

Major accounts include the clothier American Eagle Outfitters, for which SFC provides “catalog management” services, such as taking and re-touching photos of products that appear in the catalog.

The Toledo firm has prepared product-package art for Kroger brand products for 30 years.

“Their quality is excellent,” said photographer Onne van der Wel, who operates the gallery in Newport, R.I. “It's a hassle because it's in Ohio, but it's worth it. They have a good handle on digital photography and scanning.”

Locally based Root Learning, Inc., which conducts training for Fortune 100 firms such as Motorola and IBM, often needs large, instructional poster boards made on short notice.

“It is critical that we have good quality and the work is usually under tight deadlines,” said Jason Cash, Root's manager of production services. “They do an excellent job. The majority of what we do is short run, low quantities - maybe 50. It's a lot more cost-effective to send it to SFC than to a large-scale traditional printer.”

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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