Customers ordering posters, invitations, programs and other items to advertise and host special events constituted a large part of business for Arrow Printing in San Jacinto. With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, all celebrations, concerts and public events had to be canceled or postponed and printing other items became the norm.
Owner Kevin Walker said his grandfather Roy started the family’s printing business in 1928 in Los Angeles before moving to San Jacinto in 1953.
“The original name of the business was Walker Forms. When they moved to our present location (in 1955), there was nothing here but orchards and farmland,” Walker said. “No one knew where to go to find us. My dad (Walt) and grandfather came up with the idea to make a large arrow. It was welded (by Carl’s Welding in San Jacinto) out of 3-foot lengths of scrap pipe, sanded and painted and went in the ground in 1961. A couple of years later they decided to advertise that they were not just a printer of forms but could produce regular printing also. Hence the idea of the new name: Arrow Printing.”
Walker said his father joined his grandfather in the business in 1960, and both families lived near the company’s current location.
“My first job was working at the shop doing sweeping and cleaning at 9 years old,” Walker said, adding that it was considered family chores back then. “My grandfather taught me how to put the old handset type back in the cabinets and in high school, it became my after-school job. I came on full time in 1976, became a partner in 1983 and now I’m sole owner.”
Walker said that when COVID-19 closed many businesses, he was fortunate that printers were considered essential and were able to stay open.
“There was concern, but the printer’s association that we belong to fought and got the state’s blessing, if you will,” Walker said. “When (the coronavirus pandemic) really hit in March I had to tighten my belt. There was one layoff, and shortened hours, although we are back to three employees now.”
He said a blessing was the newfound popularity of graduation yard signs, especially for local high school seniors.
“My daughter Shelby used social media to promote them and it took off. Signs and banners were a hit. The sales were so good that it helped to replace much of the loss of regular work,” Walker said. “My thanks go out to Kelly Laskowski at Abby’s Café and Melissa Galletta at Smitty’s Auto Paints. They are both moms of seniors who gave us the idea and helped on social media. We also started printing yard signs and banners for other events and that continues.”
Although Walker said a decent percentage of Arrow Printing’s business came from advertising and revenue continues to be down in that area, he hoped it would improve soon. He said many of his regular accounts have canceled events through the end of the year, however.
“Part of being an essential service as printers, we have produced COVID-19 related printing such as notices, informative items, closure and safety-related waterproof signage and banners plus floor distancing stickers,” Walker said. “Along with generic floor signs, we have produced custom floor signs.”
He said most of this type of printing is requested by local schools, cities, parks and recreation and some small businesses.
“Also, because of COVID-19 issues, giveaway menus were needed along with signage and banners for our local small restaurants,” Walker said.
The printing press building is housed separately from the office space at Arrow Printing. When Walker is running the presses alone, he doesn’t need to worry about facial coverings and social distancing, but he said he and others inside the office always practice safe guidelines and proper distancing with customers and among co-workers.
“Our strength continues to be our reputation in this community of providing excellent printed materials at very competitive prices,” Walker said. “We have a strong inventory of equipment in our own buildings that allows us to produce most work in the plant.”
This advantage has allowed Arrow Printing to continue its work without relying on a questionable supply chain that has affected many businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Weathering the storm
Walker said that his stress level has been high during these past several months, but he has been inspired by those in his community that continue to remain strong.
“Our world looks ugly as presented by the media. I wish that there would be more good news,” he said. “So many of the people in our valley and surrounding area continue to uplift me with positive actions and it makes me glad that this is my home.”
Walker said he is grateful to have stayed busy due to a strong presence on social media and having the chambers of commerce and community members continue to refer new customers. He said the business has survived other economic downturns such as the Great Depression of 1929 and he recalls firsthand the devastation of the Great Recession of 2008/2009.
“We have been family owned since 1928, with continuous operation under the Walker name,” he said. “God-willing, we will stay at it.”
Arrow Printing, 1400 Mountain Ave., in San Jacinto is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 951-654-9101 or visit http://arrowprinting.net.