BERWYN – You could say Bill and Virginia Woznicki have printer’s ink in their blood.
The Woznicki’s, owners of Little Village Printing, 3210 Grove Ave., Berwyn, have been in the business since before desktop publishing and desktop printers gave everyone the ability to produce all sort of materials that once were the bread and butter of the small print shop.
Today, the shop caters mostly to commercial customers, producing forms, letter head, envelopes, books and business cards, among other items.
Bill’s road to a career in printing had an unusual start, he said.
“I actually went to work for Lyon and Healey to learn to work on musical instruments, and they had an opening in the print shop,” he said. “They told me when they had an opening [in the instrument department] I could transfer.”
He decided to stay with the print shop.
“As I was working for Lyon and Healey, I was sort of selling printing on the side – wedding invitations and business cards were a big thing,” he said.
In 1965, he and Virginia started their own shop in a three-car garage at 28th and Pulaski, in Chicago’s “Little Village” neighborhood, hence the business’ name. Eventually they moved to a storefront at 26th and Lawndale.
The couple then moved to Riverside to make a home for themselves and their growing family of three daughters and one son.
“We wanted to stay in the area, so we rented a store at Oak Park Avenue and Cermak Road,” Bill said.
Things were going well and the Woznicki’s worked hard to build their business. Then tragedy struck when a fire roared through about a block of the area, destroying several buildings and the printing business, Bill said.
Undaunted, the Woznicki’s found another location at 3210 Grand Ave. and have been in business there for 25 years.
“Computers have both hurt and helped the printing business, depending on the type of business you are going for,” Bill said.
Changes in business aren’t limited to technology only, he added. The way of doing business has changed as well from years past.
“That’s when a handshake meant something,” he said. “Now, it’s strictly pricing. People don’t care about the quality. I lost an order for 5,000 envelopes because I was 10 cents over per 1,000. That’s 50 cents. That’s how people were and still are.”
But there still is a niche for the small “Ma and Pa” shop, Bill said.
“It’s for people who like the personal touch of working with somebody,” he said. “You get these big box stores, they have no idea how it’s done. If it’s bad copy, that’s what you get. They don’t help the customer to better the copy.”
Bill said he believes maintaining a personal touch is still important when it comes to doing business.
Through feast, famine and even fire, Virginia Woznicki has been a constant in the business, while at the same time raising their children, now grown and on their own.
Most of their business today is by word-of-mouth, she said
“But we enjoy people coming in to just it and talk, finding out what’s going on,” she said.
Bill said looking back, there have been good and bad times.
“But we put four kids through private school, had nice cars and have a nice home,” he said.