By Mary Beth Roach
Co-owners, Upstate Printing
Kim Vinciguerra and Debi Rotondo may be the co-owners of Upstate Printing, but the pair say that it’s important to them that the employees at their plant on Syracuse’s West Onondaga Street realize that they, too, feel a sense of ownership in the company.
They see their employees in the press rooms as craftspeople. As such, they will sometimes take the lead from them. For example, if there is a problem with a piece of equipment or a certain product, they’ll have the employees meet directly with the vendors to discuss the problem and arrive at a solution.
“They’re just as proud of what goes out this door as we are and just as passionate,” Vinciguerra said.
With 10 employees, Vinciguerra underscored how important it is to them to keep it “where we still know everybody and we’re still that family unit within our company.”
They celebrate birthdays and children’s achievements, she added.
The idea of family seems to permeate the business.
The company started in 1996 by Paul Vinciguerra, Kim’s husband, along with long-time friend and business partner, Jack Rotondo, Debi’s husband. Since Jack had his own business, Rotondo Warehouse, he was not involved in the day-to-day operation of the printing company, but Debi began there on day one.
The business started on Corporate Circle, in East Syracuse, then moved to the Franklin Square area near downtown Syracuse. In 2014 when Upstate Printing took on some employees and customers from the now-defunct Scotsman Press, the company needed to expand. It had to decide whether to rent or buy a building. In 2015, Paul Vinciguerra purchased the former Lettergraphics site on West Onondaga Street, but one month later, he died unexpectedly. His share of the business transferred to wife Kim; Jack gave Debi his shares, and they opened the new building in 2016.
Today, Kim Vinciguerra and Debi Rotondo are co-owners, with Vinciguerra serving as president and CEO and Rotondo as CFO. Sons Pauly and Joshua Vinciguerra are also involved in the company, with Pauly in business development, estimating and production management, and Joshua assisting in social media.
Upstate Printing produces a wide array of material, from business cards to banners and T-shirts. It also offers mailing services and marketing support. Vinciguerra oversees a good deal of customer service and handles a lot of the promotional items, while Rotondo handles purchasing and accounting. They share human resources responsibilities. Their focus is on nonprofits and their clients include Syracuse University, Helio Health, the Rescue Mission, Vera House, Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park and several local events groups, like the Syracuse Jazz Festival.
Rotondo came to Upstate Printing with 20 years of retail experience, having been in the merchandising buying side of that field and then becoming a store manager. Entering into the printing business, she said that there was a learning curve, but she credits the employees at Upstate Printing and vendors with helping her maneuver that curve.
Vinciguerra had worked for a food distributor, but then became a stay-at-home mother. When her children grew older, she got increasingly involved in the printing business.
Over its 26-year history, the business has grown to where moving to larger spaces was necessary. It has updated its inventory of equipment and processes and has added the mail house component to the business, which means, for customers, that Upstate Printing can not only print their materials, it can personalize them, sort them and mail them.
As with so many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Upstate Printing’s operation. They have remained open, but had skeleton crews, Rotondo said. But the greatest impact of the pandemic is being felt now, she said, with supply chain issues affecting their ability to secure paper, plates, plastic gloves and chemicals, for example.
“I would never tell you in 26 years that I couldn’t get a No. 10 envelope. Not anymore,” she said.
Those issues aside, the co-owners are looking ahead to the business’ future, planning upgrades, updating the mailroom operation, continuing to invest in their digital equipment, and increasing their social media presence.
“Our goal is to just stay on top of our equipment, get things that are going to make it faster, better,” Rotondo said. “And stay true to who we are. We’re a quality house.”
While they may add a few more employees over time, they still plan to remain a relatively small company, which allows them to know their customers personally, Vinciguerra noted.
“We want to be big enough to stay small,” she said.