Copy Express broadens customer base

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WOODSTOCK – First and foremost, Copy Express is a printer.

The Woodstock business, housed in the historic Feed Mill on Calhoun Street, prints standard fare for its customers: envelopes, forms, flyers, letterhead.

But over the years, adapting to the quickly-changing print marketplace with an emphasis on digital, Copy Express diversified, printing on banners, pens, even blueprints, with a graphic designer on on staff to help.

Some people like to utilize an independent, family-owned business, while others favor the name recognition that comes with a chain store. But owner Jim O'Leary said he believes he has that name recognition because Copy Express has so many years under its belt.

O'Leary bought half an interest in Copy Express in the late 1970s, and then bought out the other half in 2001. He and his wife now own the company.

Autonomy has other advantages.

"Sometimes the market changes quickly, and we're not tied to anybody else's restrictions on what we can or cannot do," O'Leary said. "If we decide we need to start selling a different product because that's what a customer wants, we can change our product tomorrow."

And change the business has, with an increasing push toward everything digital. Digitization has led to an attrition of printers, but O'Leary said that has brought him new customers.

He compared it to the housing market. Now is a good time to buy a house; now is a great time to get new customers.

"I think our customer base is broader than it used to be," O'Leary said. "We're doing smaller jobs, but more of them."

His customers may want to drive people to a website, but they'll send out a postcard, for example, encouraging people to log on.

"To me, we will always have a place in the media market," O'Leary said. "There will always be a need at some level for print. It's just kind of hard to say what it will be."

Shari Gray, executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, said Copy Express has been a longstanding member and a great community partner.

"From a chamber standpoint, we support all members that are part of the business community," Gray said.

But independent business owners like O'Leary and Copy Express are the pulse of Woodstock, and they are an easy business to form a partnership with, she said.

"They are visible within the community and they do a lot of networking," Gray said.

The business also puts out a calendar, and this year's theme commemorates the 20th anniversary of "Groundhog Day."

O'Leary remembers when the movie was filmed in Woodstock and Columbia Pictures used his business to print copies of the script.

"We thought, 'This doesn't sound like much of a movie. I don't think it's going to go anywhere," O'Leary said.

But the movie's title turned into a common phrase – "This is like Groundhog Day" – so O'Leary's initial impression wasn't exactly spot on.

The calender can be found at the Woodstock chamber and at Copy Express. The first copy is free; additional copies are $5.

* * *

Copy Express:

Where: 301 E. Calhoun St., Woodstock.

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Information: Call 815-338-7161 or visit copyexpressyes.com.

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