A family-owned Wilkes-Barre printing business has managed to survive eight decades even as the world has become more digital in recent years.
Corcoran Printing is celebrating its 80th year in business this year.
It began as a small family business in Patrick Corcoran’s basement in 1940 and has since grown and transformed dramatically. Today, it is seeing its fourth generation of employees.
Current owner Bill Corcoran Sr. started working with his dad Tom, Patrick’s son, in 1978.
He never thought that after his 42 years in the business, the company and the print industry overall would have evolved into what it is today.
“Believe it or not, when we started in business, resumes and tickets were the big products,” Corcoran said. “Our products and services have evolved considerably since then and we are now much more specialized.”
Corcoran Printing now focuses on specialty foil stamp print, die-cutting, small packaging, cigar bands and jewelry cards as well as traditional print.
Corcoran said as they saw the volume of previously printed products such as newsletters declining, they knew they had to evolve to survive.
They evaluated what they needed to do and five to 10 years ago, Corcoran Printing started to specialize in product packaging, Corcoran said.
“We realized that almost all product packaging has print needs,” he said. “We looked at smaller, more specialized packaging that was a good fit for our capabilities, such as highly specialized foil stamping and embossing.”
They targeted printed jewelry packaging, such as foiled and die cut hang tags and earring cards, as well as foil stamped cigar bands and other foiled, embossed and die cut packaging.
With the help of his wife Ruth’s expertise in online content marketing, Corcoran said they have been able to rank at the top of Google searches for items such as cigar band printing, foil stamped jewelry tags and foil stamped product packaging.
“This has helped us build inbound sales to make up for the loss of traditional sales, and gain clients around the globe,” he said.
Shortly after Bill Corcoran Sr. took over the business, his father Tom Corcoran passed away in 1997. He said he thinks his dad would be proud to see Corcoran Printing grow into its fourth generation.
“When I began working with him, he would always allow me to pursue opportunities the way I saw fit, encouraging me to ‘go for it’,” he said. “While he taught me the ropes of the business, he gave me the runway to figure things out on my own. That enabled me to take the chances needed to grow.”
Corcoran now hopes to give his son Bill Jr. that same opportunity.
Bill Corcoran Jr. was introduced to the family print business doing odd jobs as a teenager. He joined the company full time in 2012 and has been working in sales ever since.
He also handles the company’s social media presence, gaining a following with his “Match Color Monday” and “Foil Stamp Friday” posts.
“I remember the first day I started at Corcoran Printing. my dad said, ‘be yourself, be confident, and be honest.’ Those words stuck with me from the beginning,” Bill Corcoran Jr. said. “Besides the technical aspects of the business, my dad always shared his failures as much as his successes and often tells me he wants me to ‘learn from his mistakes.’ He taught me that every situation has an opportunity for improvement and to always do the right thing for the customer.”
In addition to Patrick, Tom, Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. all working in the business through the years, other family members have helped as well.
Two of Bill Corcoran Sr.’s sisters worked there in the earlier years with his sister Sue recently returning part-time.
His mom Beverly worked as their part-time bookkeeper for 15 years after retiring from her job at the phone company.
Bill Corcoran Sr.’s wife Ruth and stepson Greg oversee web, digital and content marketing strategies for Corcoran Printing. Various cousins, nieces, nephews, and other relatives have also helped throughout the years.
One of the biggest changes Bill Corcoran Sr. has seen in business has come over the last five years.
In the 1960s and 1970s, he said that most business came from a 10 to 15-mile radius around the shop, usually through word of mouth. In the 1980s, yellow page advertising brought in customers from up to 50 miles away.
Now, Corcoran Printing has more than a dozen international clients from all over the world as the company continues to expand its online marketing efforts.
“An increasing amount of business now comes in via online inquiries as opposed to the direct outbound sales model of the last 35 years,” Bill Corcoran Sr. said. “With the help of my wife and stepson, our digital marketing and blog efforts have enabled us to capture customers as far away as Barbados, Denmark, Africa, and Australia. They’ve also helped us reach the top of many Google print search pages.”
Corcoran said he has been amazed as to the swing in sales success from the old standard of knocking on doors to a more digital focus as well as the building of social media leads through Bill Corcoran Jr.’s efforts.
“My dad would be so proud of how our capital investments through the years have paid off and to see just how far we’ve come through hard work and a focus on technology,” Corcoran said. “He would have been proud to see his grandson not only in the business but also landing a professional sports team as a client for us.”
Some of Corcoran Printing’s notable clients include The Philadelphia 76ers, Kraft Foods, Random House and the U.S. Secret Service.
In addition to the commitment of the family to the longevity of Corcoran Printing, the company has more than 10 employees.
Along with technology, Corcoran said the high skill level of this staff has enabled the company to grow. Most employees have been with the company for more than 15 years.
While the COVID-19 pandemic brought a significant decline in business, adjusting their business model and putting a stronger focus on online sales has enabled Corcoran Printing to survive.
“The most valuable lesson I learned from my dad is that hard work and persistence pays off,” Corcoran said. “You need to think big, plan long-term and invest in the future. That long-term view has really come in handy this past year.”
To learn more about Corcoran Printing, go to corcoranprinting.com.