Olker family celebrates 50 years in business
LAKE BARRINGTON – In the technology-driven world of printing, constants are rare.
The Olkers are an exception.
The family bought Forrest Press a half century ago from Forrest Freeland, its original owner and namesake. Through the years, the machinery has changed, prices have fluctuated, services have expanded.
But, since 1963, the Olkers have stayed at the helm.
“Some of our customers go back 40 years, and they’re still coming in,” said Char Olker, who today runs the business with her two sons, Steve and Chuck. “It’s a feather in our cap.”
Steve Olker has been operating the presses since he was about 13. Chuck Olker helped out in grade school, and came on permanently in high school.
Another son and daughter, Tom and Chris, used to help out in the early stages but have since moved on.
Char’s husband, Nick, bought the company in 1963, when it was still located at an old blacksmith shop in Barrington. But the village bought that building in 1968, and the Olkers built their business on land at 1010 Northwest Hwy, Lake Barrington, where it stands today.
Since then, they’ve learned to stay on top of an ever-changing industry. Chuck Olker started learning digital printing in the early 1990s, and he remembers buying the office’s first computer, which had Windows 95.
He figured he’d use it for estimating costs, but he soon realized it could provide a much greater advantage.
“When I started playing on the digital end of it and I could see the kind of things I could do, I swung my focus over to doing pre-press on the computer,” he said.
The Olkers caught a break not long after, when a pushy salesman insisted the company try out – for free – a color copier. At the time, they were skeptical. They’d been getting next to no customers asking about color copies.
“It’s so funny, because it was a handful of people that would ask, do you do color copies, and we’d say no,” Char Olker remembered. “And then as soon as the machine was in, wow. It really took off.”
Today, the company has settled into a mix of digital and offset printing techniques.
“Digital has a niche, for shorter runs, especially for the color market,” said Chuck Olker, who designs and oversees the digital printing in the front portion of the store while Steve Olker works with the offset printing in the back. Char Olker handles the phones and pays the bills.
“There’s a breaking point where it’s not cost beneficial to go digital as oppose to go offset,” he said. “If it’s a longer run, it’s something that’s going to go offset because it’s just going to cost too much to go digital.”
The determining factor, Steve Olker adds, is cost.
“People are shopping around, so whatever way we can do it least expensive for them is what we try to do,” he said.