Michael Levy, owner of Minuteman Press in Levittown, says his bread and butter, the printing required for special events, like flyers, programs and tickets, all but disappeared with the onset of the pandemic.
In addition to printing, Minuteman does design, marketing and promotional items, but In March 2020, when things began shutting down — including many customers — he needed a Plan B.
"I wasn’t sure if my business was considered essential, but I knew that businesses that were involved with medical supplies were," Levy said.
One of his customers is a hospital. He reached out with a proposal. If he produced and donated face shields to the hospital, would it give him a purchase order? The hospital agreed. He says having that purchase order from the hospital made his company "essential." That kept the doors open. He soon began getting emails from manufacturers saying they could get him masks and sanitizers. "This was not the scope of my business, but our largest customer is a franchise who does home health care," says Levy.
He had a lightbulb moment with the idea of offering personalized masks and hand sanitizer (bottles and credit card-sized sprays) to them for distribution to their staff, who needed them to safely do their jobs.
Levy shares how this move kept Minuteman in business.
How did you expand beyond your existing home health care client?
Within a snap of a finger, word got out, and the orders came so fast that I couldn’t keep up. We sold about 100,000 personalized hand sanitizers and over 50,000 personalized masks.
What was the appeal?
In the early days of the pandemic, it was hard to get hand sanitizers and masks. For hospitals and other organizations, this was an opportunity to offer a promotional item with their logo on it that was needed at a crucial time. It was an ideal gift.
Are you still selling the personalized masks and sanitizers?
Yes, we are, but not as much as before. They helped us get through this difficult period. While COVID hurt most of my customers, we were down only 5% in 2020 because of those sales.
How is business now?
The screen printing and other parts of the business are somewhat back to normal. But the print business is back to about 75 percent. The number of events isn’t what it used to be, so there is less customer demand for printing for events. But so far, 2021 is about 5% above last year. I’m hoping to get close to our normal revenues.
What are your thoughts in looking over the past 18 months?
I feel good that we donated over 700 face shields to hospitals and doctors. We did a GoFundMe and purchased two more 3D printers to be able to meet the demand. I have enjoyed all the family time with my wife of 32 years and my three grown children. As for business, I confirmed what I already knew. A business can’t sit still. You can’t wait to see how things shake out. You have to be ready to adjust. When one piece of your business is down, you must have something else you can do.
How are you feeling about the future?
Optimistic. Eight years ago, when I bought the Levittown store, I never thought I would have a second. In June, I purchased another Minuteman, in Farmingdale. The owner is a friend and we had planned that when he retired, I would buy the store. I went ahead. It’s a challenge to run them both right now, but things will be different, better.