AlphaGraphics may have just opened its doors in Weatherford, but the owner of the local franchise, Cary Meeks, has been in the printing business for years, building on his grandfather’s empire.
The late Victor Cornelius, Meeks’ grandfather and a resident of Eastland, began working in the graphics industry as a sign painter, traveling across the Lone Star State.
“That was the only way they had to get signage back then,” Meeks said. “He’d use a sable brush and did a beautiful job of hand layering.”
While honing his craft and traveling, he began to recognize advertising opportunities cafes and restaurants presented. Cornelius’ entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up a “nickelodeon circuit” of jukeboxes, Meeks said, and designed a way to advertise songs playing on the jukebox to patrons.
“He came up with this little tin frame that went on the side of a napkin holder and he would print the list of what was on the jukebox and it would get patrons to use his jukeboxes,” Meeks said.
After much success with his jukeboxes, Cornelius began thinking of other things he could put on the side of napkin holders. What he came up with started a national revolution in theatre advertising and in 1936 Victor Cornelius Incorporated was born.
“He figured out how to put movie bills on the side of napkin holders,” Meeks said. “He was able to set up a nationwide business, selling subscription advertising to movie houses all over the country.
“In little Eastland, Texas, in the middle of the Great Depression, he set up pretty much a mail order business where his presses were working seven days a week, 24 hours a day, printing movie bills ... along with movie posters. And that was the start of Victor Cornelius Incorporated.”
By the 1950s, Cornelius had begun diversifying, purchasing a few hotels with restaurants. This sparked a new printing idea in him, as he needed a cost effective solution for printing restaurant menus.
“What he found when he went looking for a menu printer was there was no such thing,” Meeks said.
The biggest cost of printing back then was the up-front costs of preparing a product to go to the press, Meeks said, not the ink or the paper. As a result, most print jobs were done on “long runs.”
“Victor figured out that if he could streamline that operation, then he could focus on short runs,” Meeks said.
Cornelius was met with success in his endeavors once again, and grew his company into “the nation’s largest menu printing company,” Meeks said.
Two decades later, Cornelius’ business sense was still on fire, leading him to purchase an idea from one of his employees to help nursing home communications.
“[The end product] was a plastic card that let nursing home dietary supervisors and dieticians communicate the food needs and preferences of their residents to the kitchen staff. There was a whole line of products built around that,” Meeks said.
Cornelius continued to work until he died in 1991. Two years later, the family turned to Meeks to take the helm. At that time, Meeks was an engineer working for an iron foundry with little knowledge about printing.
“Having grown up in New Orleans and being an engineer and not really being in the printing industry, it was all new to me,” Meeks said. “[But] the idea of working for myself in this tremendously successful business was really exciting, so I went ahead and took my family’s offer and came to work.”
At the start of his printing career, Meeks met with a chief financial officer of a large company who asked him why he was going into printing. The man also asked Meeks if he had ever heard of AlphaGraphics and told him to consider investing in the company.
Fast-forwarding to the wake of the new millennium, Meeks began looking for ways to remain relevant in the industry and invest into “quick printing” solutions. He hadn’t forgotten AlphaGraphics and decided to give them a call. He spent almost two days at AlphaGraphics’ corporate location and resolved to buy in and supplement his grandfather’s business.
His first AlphaGraphics was opened in Eastland, but he has also opened shops in Stephenville and Weatherford, which he is converting to his main location. His current service area spans across much of North Central Texas.
Unlike any other AlphaGraphics location, however, the solutions Victor Cornelius Incorporated provides folds into Meeks’ services, making his business an “anomoly” in the AlphaGraphics company.
“We have large presses that most AlphaGraphics do not have,” he said. “We have foil stamping and embossing. We have access to numerous graphic artists so that we have the capability to do pretty much anything in print communications, either directly through our AlphaGraphics, the network of our AlphaGraphics partners or through Victor Cornelius. “There’s very little we can’t offer our customers, and offer them at competitive prices.”
Victor Cornelius on its own still produces restaurant menus and dietary cards for nursing homes.
To learn more about AlphaGraphics call 817-727-8939 or visit their website, www.ag-nct.com. The Weatherford location is at 608 South Main.