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North Little Rock Printer Offsets Virus Impact

4 min read

Scott Levine is a Tiger of the Louisiana State University stripe, so when he saw revenue opportunities to help his print business survive the pandemic, he pounced.

Levine, who owns RiverCity Print & Imaging of North Little Rock with his wife, Jane, turned an advanced cutting tool into a maker of clear plastic face shields, and a sideline of supplying personal protective equipment blossomed.

The business, based in a 12,500-SF facility on Northshore Place near Maumelle, was soon making sneeze guards, COVID-19 precaution signage and a full $179 “Ready for Business Social Distance Kit” including floor decals, posters and foam board signs. The Levines and their 10-employee team developed printed kiosks for businesses to use as PPE containers and later as display space for featured products.

“We have an experienced and bright staff who are willing to pull together and do whatever is necessary,” said Levine, whose shop had a Colex Sharpcut table cutter capable of shaping all kinds of flexible substrates, including the clear face-shield material. That unit, along with RiverCity’s HP flatbed printer, were turned to the new mission.

In early 2020, “we started working on ways to create items to help health care workers, first responders and frontline workers,” Levine said. “We figured we’ve got this equipment that can cut the material, and we were able to find locally acrylic materials that were thin but had the right weight and stability.

“We ended up making a fundamental change in business to be able to accommodate a market for those things.”

Levine worked up a sales PDF for the face shields and through a national network of print business friends got it before Veterans Affairs officials in Iowa. “Long story short, they got the PDF, they were on the phone with us the next day, and ordered a very large quantity of face shields. And then they forwarded on the information to other VAs around the country.”

Of course many companies shifted into PPE manufacturing during the pandemic. But Levine, a New Orleans native who’s quick to add that he loves the Arkansas Razorbacks, deftly found a pandemic niche as a printer.

The new products became a lifeline for the company, which was founded in 1977 by Levine’s in-laws, Milton and Mimi Loeb. It opened in 1977 as Speedee Print, one of Little Rock’s first quick-print shops, and did business for decades at sites on Rodney Parham Road and on Huron Lane.

“Like a lot of businesses, they started off very small,” Levine said, explaining that he met Jane, who’s related to Little Rock’s Pfeifer family, after she transferred from the University of Arkansas to LSU as a sophomore. (Eventually the Levines’ two daughters, Amy and Rachel, would also go to LSU.)

“I like to say I made the Loebs an offer they couldn’t refuse: I married their daughter and bought their business,” Levine said with a laugh.

A graphic design major, he knew a little about printing. After taking over with Jane in 1987, he discovered how little.

“I worked hard to learn, and over the years really started to look for ways to innovate,” he said. The company evolved over the years to offer services far beyond digital, offset and wide-format printing. The menu today includes design and copywriting; banners, signage and vehicle graphics; custom apparel; order fulfillment; and a multichannel marketing service called PowrMail that combines direct mail with seven digital technologies to improve targeted messaging.

Some of those segments took a hit during the pandemic, but normal sales are slowly coming back, said Levine, whose trusted workforce includes security chief Kelev, who arrives at work with the Levines every day. “Kelev is our miniature poodle, and kelev is the Hebrew word for dog.” Kelev helped keep spirits up when revenue declined with the spread of COVID last spring. It also didn’t hurt that the Levines pledged to keep everybody working.

“When Jane and I bought the business, we knew we would need to do things differently, and to offer customers ways to do a better job getting their message out,” he said. “When COVID hit, equipment was sitting idle, and we had to think outside the box to keep our people working. And we did. We told people we didn’t want to lay them off or furlough anybody. That was always in the back of my head, even though as long as I’ve been in business, since 1987, we’ve never experienced anything like this.”

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