Chris Andrews’ great-great-grandfather founded the Owen G. Dunn Co. in 1902 in New Bern, North Carolina, as one of the state’s first printers dedicated to supporting area businesses. As a fifth-generation operator, the Andrews family recognized both the equity of the company’s name and the need to embrace the future of communications in the Digital Age.

Together with his father Owen and team member Michael Linden, Andrews engaged AlphaGraphics in 2011 as a way to expand their marketing reach, transforming the family commercial printing operation in New Bern into an AlphaGraphics Business Center. It was a way to refocus the B2B segment of their then mostly elections-based business. Two years later, they acquired Commercial Printing Company (founded in 1894) in downtown Raleigh, and converted the state’s oldest printer to AlphaGraphics as well.

These were major moves with big implications for two legacy families, but Andrews and Linden were confident in their decision.

“We are 30 and 32 years old, respectively, so we’ve been with AlphaGraphics for the bulk of our professional careers. What we needed help with—and the reason we looked for a strong Franchise organization—is exactly what we’re getting,” Andrews says. “We’ve never questioned the value… things just keep getting better and better. We get to run our own business and have the support when we need it.

Access to other Franchisees in the AlphaGraphics Network has been just as great a benefit as the corporate support, being able to rely on peers for advice, ideas and even capacity, he says.

“On the corporate side, they develop the expertise on industry trends and new software, they negotiate contracts and provide a lot of valuable resources, but the relationships we’ve developed with other AlphaGraphics owners have been the most rewarding,” Andrews explains.

Over the last couple of years, AlphaGraphics Raleigh has installed additional digital printing equipment, added full mailing capabilities, as well as roll and rigid sign printers to offer large-format and dimensional signage to a range of businesses.

Very few shops in our area have this breadth of capabilities, not to mention the experience inoffset printing along with the digital piece. It gives us a ton of flexibility,” he says.

“We have people who have been operating presses for years, that dying breed with ink under their fingernails who know exactly what they’re doing and are the best in the business. I grew up in my dad’s shop with pressmen just like the ones we have now, but now we’re all amazed to stand there and watch a computerized router cutting an aluminum sheet for signage, and it’s just fun to come to work every day. We’re living the evolution of our industry within our walls.

Andrews says AlphaGraphics online ordering platform and digital presence has driven business to them, and they’re starting to incorporate multi-dimensional marketing campaigns thanks to the systems tested and refined by the corporate team.

“We’re always diversifying and paying attention to the trends, but our core work is still very much there, and it’s really continuing to grow. Print has so many applications now. Where we’re headed is to the full-service model, and strong companies truly care about quality. We are now in a position to serve all of those needs in a comprehensive way, and that’s a strong position to be in.

When the two oldest printing companies in North Carolina joined forces with the leading Franchise in the industry, Entrepreneur Magazine took notice. For more insights, check out this Q&A with Chris Andrews in the October 11, 2015 issue.