Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect Jake Shaffer’s present role with McCormick-Armstrong. The original story inaccurately reported that he was retiring.
Jake Shaffer is a farm boy. Maybe that explains why he’s worked so long and hard at Wichita printer McCormick-Armstrong.
Shaffer has done what is rare and getting rarer: spending 50 years at the same company.
Shaffer, 71, is handing over the title of company president to John Bobbitt, who’s raring to go and looking for new markets for the 114-year-old company.
Shaffer will remain as chairman and part owner of the company.
An open house to celebrate Shaffer’s years with the company is planned from noon to 6 p.m. Friday at McCormick-Armstrong, 1501 E. Douglas.
How did you get started in the business?
When I was graduating from Wichita State in 1965, there were not very many people interested in hiring me because I was No. 2 on the draft list and was going to be drafted. What happened is the president of McCormick-Armstrong called Wichita State and said, “Gee, we need to hire an accountant, would you send somebody out?”
They told me, “Jake, you need to go see these people.” I was surprised they decided to hire me.
(He was drafted, and he served six years in the Army Reserve, including two years of active duty.)
You were going to work at McCormick-Armstrong for a few years and then farm full time. What happened?
Well, the cost of buying a farm went up dramatically and I never did figure out how to afford it. The other thing is you get started in the printing business and you get wrapped up in it.
You still own your family farm in Greenwood County. Do you help with the harvest?
I try, but they harvest so fast. They’ll call and say, “Jake, we’re about ready to cut wheat,” and I’ll say, “OK, I’ll be there.”
And, shoot, by the time I get out there, they’ve already cut 40 acres.
What was the company like when you started in 1965?
To start out with, we did a lot of typesetting. We had the largest inventory of different types outside of Chicago here in Wichita.
How has the industry changed?
More people are doing things on the Internet, where they don’t want a printed hard piece to hold in their hand. Companies are changing, the number of catalogs is declining, the number of pages in that catalog is declining. … Publicly owned companies used to have quarterly reports printed. That ended up completely going away.
How has the company changed?
It’s larger as far as sales volume, but we have also continued to expand our capabilities. We upgraded technology in 2008 in the pre-press area, in the press room, even in the bindery area. We can turn jobs a lot faster.
With new technology we control the quality of the printing consistently through the whole job. We continue to expand our post-press capabilities. We are doing more mailing, more fulfillment.
What can the company do?
We do all kinds of things. Do we do publications? Yes. Do we do calendars? Yes. Do we do direct mail? Yes. All kinds of specialized promotional pieces? Yes.
You planned to retire at 55. Why are you still here?
I’m here with the business because of the employees. We have a very strong staff, very dedicated, very committed, a lot of people who have been here well over 30 years.
But, aren’t you the longest-serving employee?
I’m afraid so.
So, be honest, isn’t this just an excuse for a party?
McCormick-Armstrong is moving forward. I want as many people to come as possible. I’d be thrilled to death to see them. I want them also to meet John (Bobbitt). He’s the new president and I’m also excited about that.