SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge
A landmark downtown small business that survived the Great Depression, countless recessions, and an information revolution since it opened in 1924 soon will close for good.
Gilbert Mail Service Inc., 611 Monroe St., has begun informing longtime customers that it soon will go out of business.
Nancy Radtke, the firm's president, said yesterday the final day of business is not yet known, but is expected to be by the end of July. She said a decade-long decline in business was the reason for the closure.
Founded in 1924 as Gilbert Duplicating Service by Hal Gilbert, the firm handled printing, mailing, and fulfillment services for some of the region's largest businesses, including Owens-Illinois, Inc., and smallest organizations.
At its peak in the late 1990s, the firm had annual revenues in excess of $2 million - a far journey for a company that started with little more than a typewriter, multigraph, mimeograph, and addressograph.
It offered a range of services, from packaging, addressing, and shipping to creating and printing advertising and other business documents, down to assistance with gatherings such as reunions.
Ms. Radtke said the company and its 10 employees - most of whom have family ties to Gilbert Mail Service that go back generations - had tried different things to stay in business, including obtaining new equipment to broaden its printing offerings.
"We certainly did try to offer more services," she said. "Electronic marketing was a big factor. There were customers that we used to mail a newsletter for on a very regular basis that went over to e-mail. [Printing and mailing] is the first place that, when people need to cut expenses, that they cut back on."
She said increased competition in the mailing industry contributed to the firm's decline as well.
The same decade-long advertising and information trends that have hurt print publications and the U.S. Postal Service have impacted direct-mail firms, according to research from the Direct Marketing Association, an industry group.
Ms. Radtke, who's been with Gilbert since 2002, said the company always prided itself on remaining downtown, even as other businesses left the city's central business district.
"We liked to be right here in the central hub of things," she said.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: