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Embracing new technology

By PAT SHAVER Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - Bill Edwards started in the printing business in 1962 making $1.80 an hour.

Now, he and his wife, Bev, are celebrating their 50th anniversary as owners of The Copy Shop in downtown Bloomington. The printing business is 60 years old, but was taken over by Bill Edwards in 1964.

The Edwards will also celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

The business has 15 employees and offers graphic design; digital blue prints; offset printing of envelopes, brochures, business cards and event invites; and has a digital copy service. Specialty items such as magnets; menus; napkins; match books; rubber stamps and name badges can also be made there.

In 1964, most of the shop's business came from production of blueprints for architects and engineers. Today, The Copy Shop has diversified its services and evolved with digital trends, Bill Edwards said.

"We had the disk, then a bigger disk, then CDs and now everything is on a thumb drive," he said.

The printing business was started in 1954 by Leslie Nelson at 102½ E. Monroe St. in Bloomington. In 1963 it was bought by the Illinois Blueprint Co. of Peoria where Edwards, then 23 years old, was working as a manager. In 1964 he started to acquire the company over a 10-year period.

The Copy Shop bought its first Xerox machine in 1968. At that time, the machine could make about 24 copies in one minute. Machines today can produce 90 color copies or 110 black and white copies in one minute, Edwards said.

"The digital world is definitely where we're going," he said. "We do nothing today that we did in 1964. The technology is just amazing and you've got to embrace it."

More organizations have opted to stop printing newsletters and fliers and instead use online-only documents. The advancements in printing technology have led to a more competitive market, he said.

With the current equipment the store operates, one person can do the work that three people did 50 years ago.

"I've always said that I wouldn't have any equipment that I couldn't run. Well, I can't run everything. You just can't do it all," he said. "Nowadays, every five years you've got to get new equipment."

Bev Edwards left her job as a registered nurse and officially joined the business in 1986 when she took over human resources and bookkeeping.

"I love working with people so I love human resources, it was just natural," Bev Edwards said. "We have a great team."

The shop moved to 519 N. Main St. in Bloomington in 1961. In 1976, Edwards opened a second location at 1340 E. Empire St. that closed in 1999. In 2003, the business moved the Main Street store into the 7,000 square-foot space on East Washington Street.

Bill Edwards said he would like to retire in a few years, but has no immediate plans for retirement. The couple has met with a few people about taking over the business, but hasn't had any serious inquiries.

"I'm 72. I don't know, hopefully I can find somebody that would do what I did and buy the business over time," he said. "I want the business to continue because I want to see the staff we have keep their jobs. We have good employees and we have a lot of loyal customers."

The Edwards have two sons, but neither is interested in taking over the business, Bev Edwards said.

"I see us actively involved. I've always said with our business our customers show us the route to go. They lead us, if we don't do it, we'll find a way to do it," she said.

Pat Shaver writes for The (Bloomington, Ill.) Pantagraph.

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