Allentown Economic Development Corporation

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Funeral Industry Keeps Allentown Printer Alive and Thriving

They say print is dying, but don’t tell Robin Cook.

Together with his partner, Edwin Jarvis, the operators of Rob-Win Press in Allentown’s East Side have made a healthy living for more than 35 years by providing the funeral industry with custom stationery such as prayer and acknowledgment cards, register books and service folders.

Two years ago the partners sold the business to Aurora Casket Co., which runs the stationery division as Aurora Essentials — a move that keeps the classic print shop alive by offering an expanded sales staff and investment potential. Jarvis has since retired but Cook remains on the job for another three years to lead a staff of 15 to 25 people including some who have been with them since Cook bought the former J. R. Fuehrer Advertising Co. in 1977.

“It’s nothing real complicated,” says Cook, a tall, thin perpetual motion machine with ink and grease on his hands from fixing presses that are, in some cases, a century old. “We had a niche and it’s still working.”

A one-time music major at Haverford College, Cook ended up in the printing business after graduation when he was looking for work. His father, a career paper salesman, suggested he reach out to Fuehrer who opened his business in Coopersburg in 1938.

“I met him and I had to prove to him for several years that I could do the job,” Cook remembers.

Jarvis joined the business in 1978 and in 1984 they moved to their current location on Trump Street in the Rittersville section of Allentown, purchasing a 38,000-square-foot building with assistance from the Allentown Economic Development Corp (AEDC) and Allentown Commercial and Industrial Authority (ACIDA).

ACIDA also helped them purchase a press, but the most unique attractions of the business are a pair of genuine steel die engraving presses customized by Fuehrer and Cook – one is 100 years old and the other is 98 years old – that will feed, score, print and count acknowledgment cards while adding gold embossing.

“We are still the only foiler in the Lehigh Valley,” Cook says.

The move to Allentown allowed the partners to focus on growth as well as maintaining the high-quality standards set by Fuehrer and both men learned to operate all of the equipment as well as run an in-house machine shop that is used to produce components for the printing and bookbinding operations that Jarvis created in 1988 to produce the register books.

In 1997 they established an exclusive relationship with artist Lena Liu to use her designs for the register books, and they also produce custom-made register books for veterans and emergency responders that are made from the same materials as military, police and firefighter uniforms of the deceased.

By 2011, when Aurora expressed interest in the business, Cook and Jarvis were considering the future for themselves and the company. “I’m 61, Edwin is the same,” Cook said. “It gets to the point in any business, but especially printing, where you start to think that it would be good if the business can continue after you.”

“I could have sold to a competitor but they probably would have shut it down here,” he said. “We have a family here and at least four of our people have been with us since the Coopersburg days. This gave us a chance to be something bigger and better. They kept all our employees, their seniority and their health care benefits at no cost (to the employees).”

Aurora rents the building from Cook and Jarvis, and Cook has remained on board to support the operation and keep his hands-on approach, something he truly enjoys, especially when it means getting down and dirty to fix a balky press.

“It’s been a good little shop,” he says. “We obviously did well enough to interest a bigger company to purchase us.”

Urban Amenities, Walkable Environment Lure Trifecta Technologies To Center City

One of the tenets that have made Trifecta Technologies Inc. a leader in the enterprise web and mobile solutions marketplace is an overwhelming drive to be out in front – not just in front of the competition, but in front of its own customers. Founder Doug Pelletier and his team are very passionate about what they do and they are driven to help their customers transform their businesses by leveraging technology.

That same drive has pushed Pelletier and Trifecta to the front of the line when it comes to the renaissance in downtown Allentown. Next spring, Trifecta Technologies will move its headquarters from Lower Macungie Township to 612 W. Hamilton St., the former Schoen’s Furniture Store, when the building is renovated and ready for occupation.

“We don’t want to just come downtown, we want to be part of the community,” said Pelletier, who was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He came to the Lehigh Valley to earn a MBA at Lehigh University while his father, Alfred Pelletier, was CEO at Mack Trucks. He remained in the Allentown area after his father retired and his parents returned to Toronto.  “I’m already involved in the community and I have been reaching out to local institutions, such as Symphony Hall and the Art Museum, to see how we can help them and work with them.  We have also ‘adopted’ Jefferson Elementary school and will do what we can to help students there.”

In some ways Trifecta’s relocation to Center City is a homecoming in itself. Founded in 1991 with two employees in the back of an old warehouse at 12th and Green streets, Trifecta moved several years ago to the former State Farm claims adjustment offices off Brookside Road as it grew and needed more space.

When the relocation is completed in spring 2014, Trifecta will occupy 18,000 to 24,000 square feet in the historic building in downtown Allentown, taking part in the revitalization of that area sparked by the creation of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). Trifecta believes that this urban location will appeal to the new generation of technology experts.

What began as a business specializing in helping companies migrate from antiquated IBM mid-range computers to high-speed UNIX servers has evolved into an industry leader in creating transformational custom web, mobile and e-commerce solutions by leveraging key partnerships with cloud technology pioneers such as, Heroku and IBM.  Trifecta has been recognized for its iOS and Android mobile applications and innovative custom web application development.

In June 2013 Trifecta hired its 100th employee. The company now has about 72 employees in Lower Macungie, 30 in Toronto and about a dozen in India, said Senior Vice President and COO Andy Derr. Clients range from Disney to Musikfest and include global companies such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Wacoal-America, SunGard K-12 Education, Varsity Brands, Burt’s Bees and the Bethlehem-based EcoTech Marine.

After weathering the economic slump that began in 2008, the company has rebounded strongly and rapidly over the past three years, Derr said. In many ways, that is also motivating the move to a more urban setting.

“I would put this development team against anyone in the world,” Derr said. “That requires talent, and the only way to attract that talent is to widen our appeal to the universities and other places where you find the talent.”

Pelletier and Derr say they are of the same mind as Scott Unger, Executive Director of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, a strong advocate for walkable cities with nearby employment, entertainment and shopping amenities. AEDC sold the Schoen’s building to the partnership consisting of father and son team Doug and Jeff Brown. Pelletier has since become a partner in the ownership of the building.

“There is no question that creative professionals entering the workforce are seeking not just employment but also a sense of place; and cities are the principal nexus of those two elements,” Unger said.

“Our environmental need is to be in an urban area, a walkable environment with a top notch collaborative workspace,” Derr said. “We want to be able to offer our people an urban, suburban or rural setting.”

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