by CEO Emeritus, Larry Katz
From its humble beginnings as a local Cleveland art materials manufacturer, Grafix has become a leader in the plastics industry, supplying, manufacturing and converting plastic film and plastic sheet to serve the needs of industrial, commercial, and consumer industries all over the world.
In 1963, entrepreneur Jack Berwit left a well-known local art material and paint firm to start his own manufacturing business, originally known as Ohio Graphic Art Systems, out of his Cleveland garage. After purchasing the inventory and rights to several product lines, Berwit expanded his operation to a 4,000 square foot facility in the suburbs with its own equipment.
In 1985, Larry Katz, who had built a successful custom embroidery machine manufacturing business, was introduced to Berwit by his father, Sam, who knew Berwit socially and had learned that Berwit was looking to retire. Larry recognized the perfect opportunity to own and grow his own business, as well as the chance to provide opportunities for his family, especially Jordan and Hayley his children.
Larry purchased Ohio Graphic Arts Systems in September of 1985. His plan was to build sales by expanding its plastic film lines, by expanding product offerings, and increasing manufacturing capabilities. He also formally changed the company name from Ohio Graphic Art System to Grafix to reflect that the company had always been a nationally-recognized firm.
To keep up with the growing business, in 1990 Grafix purchased a 7,000 square foot building. Larry’s daughter, Hayley, eagerly joined the firm as a product manager after receiving a degree in Art History from the University of Connecticut. With ambitious ideas for increasing consumer sales, Hayley developed successful advertising and marketing campaigns, and established a company presence at numerous consumer trade shows.
During this time, however, there were obvious signs of significant change in the commercial art materials industry, Grafix’s primary market. The advent of computers was drastically changing the way advertising, brochures, and other marketing materials were being created and produced. Grafix’s principal customers were being impacted by the new technology, and were either going out of business, or trying to change their business models in order to survive.
To counteract this trend, Grafix management took a hard look at the business and updated their strategic plans. They proactively expanded their products lines to appeal to the consumer art and craft user. Hayley was instrumental in acquiring and developing new product lines and offering Grafix film in convenience packs and other more consumer friendly formats. The new products and packaging aided the expansion of product distribution to include major craft superstores, the internet, overseas retailers, college book stores, and school and education distributors, as well their loyal art materials retailers.
As business boomed, 12,000 additional square feet were added to the factory. Then in 1994, Larry’s son, Jordan, joined the firm after an immersive career in the aerospace industry, in particular the US Space program, translating the complexities of ever-advancing technologies to serve the unique needs of the commercial world.
While conducting extensive research into the sales base, Jordan discovered that Grafix had a number of clients who were relying on Grafix’s materials for a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications beyond the art material market. And so the Industrial Products Division, better known as Grafix Plastics, was created.
Today, Grafix Plastics sells a wide variety of custom manufactured commodity and specialty films to over 1,000 different industrial and manufacturing customers, from startups and small businesses to Fortune 100 companies, and accounts for an estimated 55% of overall company revenue. Jordan’s extensive knowledge across a wide spectrum of technologies and nuanced understanding of growing trends has helped create a multifaceted experience for Grafix’s customers.
Since 2001, Hayley and Jordan have lead the company as presidents of the Consumer Products Division (also known as Grafix Arts) and Industrial Products Divisions (Grafix Plastics), respectively. Under their leadership, Grafix has continued to grow into new markets in both the industrial and consumer divisions.
In the summer of 2007, Grafix purchased its current 50,000 square foot headquarters to accommodate growth and to better serve its expanding consumer base. With a relentless mission to innovative on behalf of its customers, high attention to detail, extensive products knowledge, and commitment to exceptional customer service, Grafix continually looks to the future and expects to remain both a pioneer and a go-to resource in the plastics industry.