Dillon Mailing and Printing is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and recently completed the build out of new space at 114 Shield Street in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
Dillon Mailing and Printing is now in its third generation as a family-owned business, and as they celebrate a milestone 90th anniversary and enter the 10th decade the company has just unveiled brand new office and production space at 114 Shield Street in West Hartford.
With the progress of technology, it’s not always necessary to physically expand to improve and grow. In fact, while Dillon’s new space appears airy and expansive, state-of-the art equipment will allow the company to continue to flourish despite occupying roughly 8,000 square feet – a footprint that is significantly smaller than the 30,000 square feet they formerly utilized in another section of the Shield Street building.
About two years ago, Dillon purchased several new pieces of machinery, said Operations Manager Amy Kennedy. “With the newer equipment, we didn’t need that much space,” she said. Upgraded IT infrastructure also takes up less square footage.
Keeping up with the latest technology – as well as adapting to changing trends in the mailing and printing industry – has allowed Dillon Mailing and Printing to continue to prosper for 90-plus years.
The company was founded on Pearl Street in Hartford in 1931 by Richard J. Dillon, and later run by his son, Richard W. Dillon. John Dillon, the grandson of the founder, is the third Dillon to own the business. In a nod to the company’s legacy, historical photos of previous locations decorate the entryway of the new space – a section of which was formerly a loading dock.
Company employees were resourceful in design of the new area, up-cycling furniture and utilizing barn doors and other elements to enhance the natural industrial style of the building.
Kennedy said that today, Dillon’s target clients include small businesses that can’t afford their own marketing departments – for which they often take on the design work as well as mailings to acquired lists. They work with many nonprofits ranging from large organizations to those which operate under the control of all-volunteer boards, and also specialize in work on political campaigns.
Dillon continued operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as an essential business, and Kennedy said during that time experienced an increase in projects for municipal clients. Their fulfillment orders also expanded because there were significantly fewer in-person events where items could be handed out, and nonprofits also had a greater need for the design and mailing of fundraising messaging to a targeted audience – sometimes at reduced postal rates they may have been previously unaware they qualified for.
As the business has evolved, data analysis also plays a greater role.
“We used to ‘spray and pray,’ a million pieces,” Kennedy said. Now mailing is much more targeted on the front end, and includes the use of personalized messaging.
Older equipment relied on dryers, but the smaller, newer equipment utilizes UV to dry the ink.
One state-of-the-art piece of equipment utilizes a camera system to match up names on letters, envelopes, and other relevant materials. That machine alone reduces labor cost by almost one-third, eliminating a task that previously was manual, Kennedy said.
Some projects require only a handful of customized deliverables, and it really depends on the clients’ needs, Kennedy said.
“The data piece is really important,” she said, and for some clients that’s all they are hired to do. “We can do just data, or just design, or work with other printers, agencies, graphic designers. We typically start by looking at their challenges and goals,” Kennedy said of prospective clients.
Some clients, she said, may contract with Dillon just for the “complicated, stinky jobs,” such as when there are dozens of different versions of a mailing that needs to be distributed.
Dillon Mailing and Printing’s complete list of services, described in greater detail on their website, includes graphic design, printing, mailing, list acquisition, storage, and marketing.
“We like to build relationships,” Kennedy said, and are honest about their recommendations of what will best meet goals.
While some clients are in the Hartford area, Dillon Mailing and Printing is more than just a regional business. Kennedy said they are mostly an East Coast operation, with customers from Maine through Florida. Their own business development occurs mainly through word-of-mouth recommendations, particularly with the network of the nonprofit world.
Dillon Mailing and Printing currently employs 15 people in the West Hartford location, many of whom have years of service to the business. Kennedy has been with Dillon Mailing and Printing for 19 years, and the two other front-end employees, Data Services Manager Randy Zimmerman and Production Manager Arnold Jackson, have both been with the company for 21 years.
Kennedy said a recent hire is part of the Futures Inc. transition program. Futures Inc., also headquartered in West Hartford, provides services and training opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
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