When it comes to seeking new opportunities and landing a good one, Dick and Loretta Davis, owners of Sentinel Printing Ltd. on Kirk Street, are winners.
Established in 1966, the company continues to print brochures, business forms, envelopes, municipal newsletters, letterheads, wipe-on, wipe-off signage and books but now another product line is generating roughly 25 per cent of the revenue.
Loretta Davis says with the advent of desktop printers, owned by most businesses, the industry has changed 360 degrees.
“A lot of things that people would have traditionally taken to a printer, they can now do in-house,” she said.
Online availability for specialty printing services, including business cards and books, began taking bigger bites out of their business. With the end of ferry service, orders from tourism related operations slumped.
There came a point where the Davis’s knew they had to start getting creative in order to survive.
Examining waterproof material, Dick began to think of practical applications for the local fishing industry about 12 years ago. He devised crate tags in response to a new requirement in the industry: lobster fishermen were moving from traditional wooden crates to new IPL crates that have side slots for ID tags.
That’s where it started.
The crate tags grew in popularity. Colour-coded tags for shipping cages, identifying different lobster sizes, followed these. The coloured tags proved helpful for plant workers who were not proficient in English.
“One crate of misidentified lobster can be extremely expensive for an exporter,” said Loretta.
From there the business began branching into other things, including seafood tags for scallops and oysters. Two-sided tags are in-demand by the food and processing industry. These have instructions on how seafood should be stored.
Their son Mark developed a software system and a website for the business.
New orders began rolling in and demand expanded from the local fishery to orders for backflow inspection tags required all over the United States and fire sprinkler system tags for Florida.
Tuck n’ tug and die-cut products were added. Full colour tags were required for the lumber industry.
Specialized inks (including food grade) and dyes are now used by the business. The existing printing machinery is versatile enough to do customized jobs. That includes printing on many different calipers of material – from 7 1/2 to 20 mm depending on the application.
Dick devotes many hours to researching new markets, tag legislation and techniques.
The company is now shipping millions of tags around the world: for an Australian hatchery; for PEI and NB buoys; for crab fishery businesses in the Potomac River; for a stone quarry located in New England; and a North Carolina sheriff’s department for impound vehicles. There are retourque tags; bloodbank tags; soil sample tags and more.
Loretta refers to their workforce as a “tight little staff” and says the tag division has enabled the company to keep the five employees they have instead of needing to lay any off during what was a tough economic period.
“The people who work here have been here a long time and regard it as their own business.
“It’s a rare day that we don’t have a couple of new customers. That’s how busy it’s become, so it’s wonderful