Greg Demetriou is a survivor in the literal sense.

Not only did he survive a potentially fatal gunshot wound in his earlier career as a police officer, but he also managed to survive the economic downturn and grow his direct mail marketing company despite the industrywide downturn.

Demetriou, chief executive of Lorraine Gregory Corp. in Farmingdale, said the company's headed for 23 percent growth this year, recently completed an acquisition and may make another in 2011.

"Direct mail is not dead," said Demetriou, 63, whose company consists of Bi-County Mailing, American Mail Communications and its new acquisition, Direct Printing Connection. "It's still one of the most important ways to reach businesses and consumers, and will be for years to come." 

A downturn
Still the industry has taken a hit with the downturn.

Nationally direct-mail spending is projected to be $50.3 billion this year, up from last year's $47.8 billion, but still down from 2008's $52.9 billion, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Lorraine Gregory has maintained a profit throughout the downturn, despite having flat years in 2009 and 2010, primarily due to the economy.

Demetriou attributes the company's resilience to careful planning, noting that when printing orders took a 20 percent dip in January 2009, it was able to ride out the storm because he had set up a forced savings plan 10 years earlier.

"It was a challenge," said Demetriou, who purchased the company in 1992 with his wife, Lorraine, executive vice president. "We put away about 4 to 5 percent of revenue a year."

The reserve helped them stay on top of their bills and maintain good standing with their landlord and vendors, with whom they renegotiated better rates. The company also implemented a 5 percent pay cut across the board.

"Everybody understood if we were going to be around tomorrow, we needed to do this," Demetriou said. The efforts paid off. Late last year Demetriou started to see a turnaround. 

Company growing
In March the company bought Direct Printing Connection, which allowed Lorraine Gregory to offer in-house printing services. It's presently eyeing another acquisition, said Demetriou, noting his company has grown from $200,000 in revenue in 1992 to more than $2.5 million now.

Not bad for a former NYC police officer, who got his start in direct mail working for his stepbrother Robert Lamiroult's direct-mail shop in Maspeth. Demetriou helped Lamiroult set up the shop. Lamiroult died in 1989 and the company folded.

In 1992, Demetriou saw an advertisement for a direct-mail house in Bethpage, and the rest is history.

"It's remarkable how the company has grown," said Lorraine Demetriou, noting that the company originally consisted of only Bi-County Mailing. American Mail Communications was formed several years later.

Over the years, the company has had to become more than just a direct-mail house to survive the rise in Internet marketing. It has diversified and serves in an advisory capacity to many clients trying to pair Internet marketing efforts with direct mail.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Greg's very good at offering advice," said Joan Connor, Long Island chapter administrator for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a client of the firm. In 2008, Demetriou received the group's Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer award.

"He's involved with a lot of community organizations," said Tim Freeman, president of Printing Industries Alliance, a trade association in Amherst, N.Y., that has Demetriou on its Long Island chapter steering committee. "He's very innovative." 

Lorraine Gregory Corp.

Who. Gregory Demetriou, chief executive

Business. Direct mail / printing

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Where. Farmingdale

Revenue. $2.5 million-plus

Employees. 26

In the family. Wife Lorraine, executive vice president; son, Jay, general manager; daughter, Gina Del Vicario, data processing manager; and stepbrother, Ron Lamiroult, handles shipping and receiving.

Trivia. On Demetriou's office wall is a Medal of Honor he was given by NYPD after being shot Aug. 17, 1979, in pursuit of a bank robber. Demetriou was a police officer from 1965 to 1979