Wichita shop engraves 'about anything'

One side of his sign advises that it's time to order Cub Scout pinewood derby and Arrow of Light trophies, but Pete Lungwitz says his business is definitely not a "trophy shop."

Oh, he sells trophies.

But they're a small part of Lee Reed Engraving, which is celebrating its 50th year.

"We engrave about anything," Lungwitz said. "That is the business."

"Anything" includes name tags, commemorative bricks, aircraft parts, memorial plates, safety awards, Golden Apple awards and custom creations, for a start.

Lungwitz, 53, has owned the company for 17 years and has been part of it for about 25. His father, Ken, bought the company from Reed, its founder, "and then he asked me if I wanted to come in." His father has since died.

Lungwitz attributes the company's longevity to customer relationships. "The people know us. They trust us. People appreciate that when they come in, I know them by name."

The business has grown steadily through the years. "This last year was the exception," he said, in part because identification engraving for aircraft parts manufacturers makes up a chunk of his business, and when their business is down, so is his.

But "they trust us. We don't lose customers," he said. "They come back."

Lee Reed Engraving is a small company — Lungwitz works with his wife, Sherry, and a part-timer. "We don't have salespeople of any type," he said. "Everything is by word of mouth."

As a small-business owner, overhead is his greatest challenge and customer relationships his greatest joy. "You build relationships in a small business that you don't have in the corporate world."

When he started, engravers chose the letters one by one, locked them in place as if setting type, then traced over them to create the engraving. Lungwitz had three engraving machines; he has sold two but keeps one for odd-shaped projects, such as mugs. "It's kind of a lost art," he said.

Everything else is done by computer now. "We had the first computerized engraving machine in the city."

His strangest engraving job? "When people make up their own stuff. We've done toilet seats, things I can't tell you."

His toughest? Memorial plates, such as those that might be attached to a building or park bench. "Those are hard to deal with," he said, though he does at least one a week.

Working with his wife has not been a problem, Lungwitz said. They enjoy different parts of the business, and they leave work at work. "If you can't do that, you're not going to make it," he said.

Lungwitz has two sons who've shown no interest in the business to date. That's OK — he's in no rush to retire and loves what he's doing.

"I've got to work with my wife. I got to work with my dad. I got to work with my mom. It's been a good ride. It really has."

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