Mitchell Graphics celebrates 50 years of business

·4 min read
Mitchell Graphics staff members pose outside its Petoskey location at 2363 Mitchell Park Dr.
Mitchell Graphics staff members pose outside its Petoskey location at 2363 Mitchell Park Dr.

PETOSKEY — What started as a printing business with setups in the basement and garage of the owners, is now celebrating 50 years of service.

Mitchell Graphics, at 2363 Mitchell Park Dr., started out as Little Traverse Printing in 1972 and was owned by brothers Bill and Andy Fedus. They were eventually able to expand into their own building.

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In 1982, Andy split from the business to operate a print shop while Bill changed the business name to Mitchell Color Cards and began selling postcards nationally.

With the internet becoming more and more relevant, Bill’s son Gary took over in 2006 and expanded the business to offer marketing services in addition to printing. Gary started at the company in 1987 after leaving the hospitality industry.

“My dad was working on me from an early age trying to get me to come in the business and that was something I was never interested in. I was in the hospitality industry and I wanted to own my own restaurant,” Gary said.

“If you work in that business long enough, you come to realize that if you want to do that, that is a way of life. It's not a job. It's a minimum of 50 hours a week, up to 100 hours a week. So it's your life. And I determined that I don't want that to be my life. So my dad was continuing to try to get me to come back and try it out. So finally in 1987, I came back here and tried it out. Something I thought that I would hate, I loved. I fell in love with it. I fell back in love with the Petoskey area and the business.”

Current president of Mitchell Graphics, Gary Fedus (left), joined Little Traverse Printing as press room supervisor in 1987. He is pictured with his father Bill Fedus (right), founder of Mitchell Graphics.
Current president of Mitchell Graphics, Gary Fedus (left), joined Little Traverse Printing as press room supervisor in 1987. He is pictured with his father Bill Fedus (right), founder of Mitchell Graphics.

Gary found himself engaged in the combination of art, sales, marketing, manufacturing and science that presented a new challenge every day and allowed for constant innovation and new ideas.

In the last year alone, Mitchell Graphics has made significant investments in new equipment and software upgrades that allow them to create a wider variety of designs and products, as well as automate small tasks to increase efficiency.

“That kind of longevity is just awesome to know that you're an established company that has that kind of roots in the community,” regional account manager Julie Joles said.

“We're making changes internally that will keep us viable for another 50 years where we started as a printer, we really transitioned into a marketing company. So that gives you the type of longevity to take it to that next 50 years. So it's nice to be part of something that has such a rich, rich history, but to also be looking ahead and knowing that they're making investments to be viable for that next 50.”

After finding its footing in the internet age, Mitchell Graphics faced another challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

Suddenly they were printing a lot more door signs and floor graphics. While the sales team and graphic designers were able to work from home, the employees running the printing equipment were not. Fortunately, due to the company’s partnership with the U.S. Postal Service and other essential businesses, Mitchell Graphics was also deemed essential and able to continue operation under strict guidelines.

In 1993, the staff of Mitchell Graphics broke ground on a new construction site to accommodate the growing business.
In 1993, the staff of Mitchell Graphics broke ground on a new construction site to accommodate the growing business.

As the pandemic eases, Gary said that some sense of normalcy has returned, but its likely that the business and industry will never be the same again. Paper has become increasingly more difficult to get a hold of and costs have risen, forcing Mitchell Graphics to adapt and problem solve.

“We're able to solve problems for customers and every project that we have, (there’s) been virtually none that we haven't been able to produce,” Gary said. “But it has taken a tremendous amount more effort. It's a lot higher cost and it's just something you used to take for granted. Now you can't take it for granted.”

While the business has evolved far beyond what it was when it was first founded 50 years ago, the base principals are the same; to take care of employees, customers and the community.

“My dad always felt it was very important to understand why you do what you do. Not just what you do, but why you do it. And he felt like it was about taking care of the employees, taking care of your customers and taking care of the communities that serve you too. I'm proud to be able to carry on that mission, that purpose and those values and to provide a place to work that is enjoyable for people and (work) that’s meaningful,” Gary said.

The company will be celebrating its anniversary with customers, friends, family and community members on Aug. 10 and will include refreshments, a tour of the facility and demonstrations of new technologies.

Contact reporter Tess Ware at tware@petoskeynews.com. Follow her on Twitter, @Tess_Petoskey 

This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Mitchell Graphics celebrates 50 year anniversary