The Hamblin Company celebrates 40th anniversary
Ray Hamblin, founder of The Hamblin Company, credits the start of his 40 years in printing to Jim Lincoln, Sr. and Hamblin’s time at the Lenawee Intermediate School District Vocational Technical Center. A teacher at the school shortly after it open in 1970, Hamblin sent several of his print shop students to work co-op at the Tecumseh Herald, and became friends with Lincoln, owner of the paper.“It was the teaching and Mr. Lincoln that really set things in place,” Hamblin said.By the 1970s, Hamblin had extensive experience working in the print field, which Lincoln was quick to notice. Working in the print field was an accident for Hamblin, who planned to major in business at Andrews University in Berrien Springs.Because he started his freshman year in January instead of September, Hamblin had to find a class to complete his schedule. “Introduction to Linotype” fit his schedule, and Hamblin thought his high school typing classes would help him with the course.Although he felt out of his element at first because the linotype keyboard was different than a traditional keyboard, Hamblin’s professor was impressed with his skills. “He said, ‘I can tell you’ve got good rhythm in your hands,” said Hamblin.At the end of the semester Hamblin’s professor helped him write a classified ad for a free regional paper that was distributed to all the area newspapers. Hamblin received 13 requests for his linotype operator skills, and chose to work that summer for the weekly newspaper in Peru, Indiana.He also changed his major to industrial arts/printing with a minor in business. One of the biggest draws of printing was the good pay and “not having to pump gas outside in the winter.”“I thought, boy, this is great,” Hamblin said. “I worked my way through college as a linotype operator.”By the time, Hamblin was teaching at Vo-Tech in Adrian, he had knowledge and experience about printing from both work experience and educational learning, including a Master’s degree from Western Michigan University. “The head knowledge was good, but the hands-on experience was more important,” said Hamblin.By 1973, Hamblin and his wife, Madlyn, were living in a house in Raisin Township with a 1,300 square foot basement. Lincoln had finally worn down Hamblin’s concerns about starting a business, and he had enough room to give it a try.“I put a print shop in half of the basement,” Hamblin said. Lincoln and the Herald were his first clients, and for the first year Hamblin worked two jobs.Whenever he was ready to start printing full-time, Lincoln told Hamblin he would buy the building across the street from the Herald, and rent it to Hamblin. Then when the company was on its feet, Hamblin could buy the building using the rent he paid to Lincoln as a down payment.Hamblin was ready, and moved into the back of the building while One-Hour Martinizing stayed in the front.“Without them it would have been tough to approach starting a business the way we did and succeed. It was totally different back then,” Hamblin said. “We could not start now and succeed the way we did in the ‘70s. There’s no way.”Printing changed rapidly in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and Hamblin was committed to stay on top of all the changes that came with the computer age. “I like technology. I like the results,” said Hamblin. “You have to change as best you can to stay up with technology.”The slowdown of print work in the past 10 to 15 years has been a challenge to Hamblin. The jobs have changed to smaller press runs, and now it takes six digital jobs to equal the profit made on one offset print job.“I don’t think print will ever go away completely, but there will be fewer and fewer printing shops,” Hamblin said.One advantage from the digital age for The Hamblin Company is that clients no longer have to be close by, requiring travel time. The print shop works with customers from all over the country and work is proofed online.“About 80 percent of what we print goes directly in the mail,” said Hamblin.Hamblin believes he has been successful in the printing field for 40 years because he knows exactly how printing works. He has never hesitated to get ink on his hands and isn’t afraid to navigate the digital world.He worries that the new generation of young people entering printing and print design will be missing the tangible experience of the print shops of the past, but respects the knowledge and ease those young people bring to the profession.“At least for my generation it’s a lot more abstract,” Hamblin said of the digital world of printing.Until Hamblin decides he is ready to retire, The Hamblin Company will continue to design traditional print pieces, as well as creating digital displays and branding. Clients can get communication services in direct mail, digital and offset printing, coordinate web blasts for advertising, and digital billboard ads.The Hamblin Company can be reached online at www.hamblincompany.com or by calling 423.7491.