In many communities around the country, the small, family-owned business is disappearing.
But for Swiss Alps Printing and Office Supplies on Pike Street in Vevay the ‘family’ element of the family business is still going strong.
The business will celebrate its 45th anniversary of being in business this Saturday, April 1st; and an open house will be held tomorrow (Friday, March 31st).
“We started on April 1st, 1972,” owner Tonya Krall said. “My dad, Paul Andrew, started it from scratch. It was strictly printing then. The banks, the lawyers, all those people, nobody had their own copy machine, so we had a copy machine, and there were printing presses – and they were letter presses back then, too.”
Paul Andrew was the administrator at Jefferson Proving Grounds, and part of his responsibilities were overseeing the mail and printing operations there. As he neared retirement, and knowing about printing, he decided to start his own business here.
Then, in 1980, Andrew was asked to go back to the Proving Grounds and finish out his retirement; so he spent three years doing that job as well as keeping his business here open.
“He worked all day, and we as a family worked all evening and kept the business going; and then when he got his retirement, then he did this full time.” Krall said.
Andrew continued, bringing his daughter into the business; and when he began to get sick in the early 1990s, Tonya took over the family business on a full time basis.
Paul Andrew passed away in 1994.
“I kind of took in the business, and then after dad passed away, we brought in a color copy machine, that was something brand new back then,” Krall said. “Then people would come in and say ‘Can I buy a folder from you? Can I buy a pencil from you?’ so I started with one little rack of office supplies, and it grew into this.”
Krall said that much of her business today is office supplies, because the printing industry has changed so much because many people to their own designs on their personal computers.
Owning a small business has its challenges today, something that Krall works to overcome everyday.
“It’s hard at times,” she said. “A lot of people will drive to Walmart before they shop locally; but it’s also a very good thing because I know the people who walk in my door for the most part. If I don’t know them, I try and get to know them. It’s hard to compete with the Walmarts and the Amazons of the world, but people need to support their small local businesses, or sooner or later they aren’t going to be here.”
And, in the 45 years that the Andrew family has owned the business, Krall said that there have been a lot of changes in the printing industry; so being able to adapt to those changes is necessary for suvival.
“I still have printing presses,” she said. “They’re still functional, but do I use them? No. It’s all digital. Everything now is from computers to high speed copiers.”
The family has also changed, as Tonya’s mom, Belvedean, passed away in 2012; and brother Giles lives on the East Coast.
But it’s important to remember and celebrate the history.
Hanging on the front of the business is a large, marble slab, which features the Swiss Alps Printing logo.
“That was the top of the work bench, that August “Red” Mead used for letter press,” Krall said. “August always cut his own wood cuts. We have proof press that he made; and that was the top that he worked on, because it had to be a very hard, very smooth surface for him to work on. So, when we got rid of all of the letter press stuff several years ago, Searcy Monuments engraved that for me; and we eventually got in attached to the front wall. It’s another part of our history.”