La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Small-Town Businesses"
Printing is His Passion
by Rob Strauss
photography by Summer Herndon
Coach of his shop, owner Dick Zahniser (middle) believes in sharing responsibility
and recreation with his employees, such as General Manager Pete Marrugi
(left) and Jim Pearson, the head press man (right). The loyal bond has developed
over 13 years with company-shared fishing trips and other social events.
The small printing shop turns out books, pamphlets and La Verne Magazine.
Zahniser has diversified to refurbishing printing presses and has started
a sound studio.
If Johannes Guttenberg were alive, this would be his playhouse. Warehouse
after warehouse is filled with the machines that are known, in some circles,
as the most important invention of all time.
This is Z Graphics, a mecca of multi-million dollar printing presses
located at Arrow Highway and San Dimas Canyon Road.
It was started in 1985, with its focus toward printing. In the past,
the workers at Z Graphics printed everything from catalogues to brochures
to various publications. The company in the past few years has shifted its
focus to buying and selling presses; however, Z Graphics still does printing.
The person at the helm is Dick Zahniser, a man who lives his life based
on themes such as success and challenge. He went back to college in 1971,
attending Grace College in Indiana and earning units from La Verne College
before graduating from Azusa Pacific College in 1977. In 1985, he took on
the task of forming Z Graphics, when he split from his co-ownership of Folio
Graphics, an El Monte-based company. Zahniser took half the workers at Folio
and formed Z Graphics, which derives its name from its self-motivated owner.
Walking into Zahniser's office, one gets a feel for the principles that
guide this man in his every day operations. Hanging on his door is the Pyramid
of Success, which was created by former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
Zahniser says he likes Wooden's ideas about success.
"You look at John Wooden and what he's accomplished, and you think
about where he's coming from," says Zahniser. "You see what he
has said his life has been built on, and if you admire what he's done, not
only as a basketball coach, but in his personal life, you take that into
Below the "Pyramid" is a poem by Chuck Swindell, titled, "Attitude,"
which states in its last line: "I am convinced that life is 10 percent
of what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it." This describes
Zahniser's self-motivating attitude.
"I like to surround myself with self-motivating people because
I am not one to sit and pick on people," says Zahniser.
As a result, the people who work for Zahniser are hard workers and loyal
to the company. Pete Marrugi, the general manager of Z Graphics, plays the
Sundance Kid to Zahniser's Butch Cassidy role. He has been with Zahniser
since the days of Folio Graphics, where he was a driver. Zahniser eventually
invited him to come to Z Graphics as his sidekick. They have developed a
close relationship over the years. "He's a second father," says
Marrugi. "I've been working for him for 19 years."
Marrugi's relationship with Zahniser eventually formed into a partnership.
A few years ago, the two men took on the task of changing Z Graphics into
a company that buys and sells printing presses. Hence, they formed Z Enterprises
as co-owners. Among their esteemed clients: the countries of China and Japan.
Immediately after its formation, Z Enterprises started doing overseas
business. The two began developing contacts across the United States; one
of the people they were working with had a contact in Japan. It has grown
from there, but it is definitely not an easy or cheap process to bring a
printing press from Asia. "The shipping in we pay for," says Zahniser.
"We bring it [the press] over. We clean, we paint, we set it up; we
go all through it, and then we advertise it for sale."
In general, running a small business can be very expensive, but with
a printing business such as Z Graphics, it can be particularly hard economically.
"If you end up after taxes with 5 percent profit, you're in great shape,"
Zahniser adds that the government regulations of maintaining a small
business can be stifling. Recently, they have been trying to purchase the
building that Z Graphics is housed in, which they have been leasing for
13 years. The list of preparations they have to make is exhausting. "You
have to go through an environmental study, you have to go through an appraisal,
you have to go through the bankers," says Zahniser. "[There's]
many aspects of a business that when you start out you have no idea."
Just within the past year, Z Graphics has begun to do the remodeling
on printing presses built by Heidelberg U.S.A., which is the largest manufacturer
of printing presses in the world. They are the only company on the West
Coast to be involved with Heidelberg U.S.A. The account has brought back
a great deal of the business that they lost when they formed Z Enterprises.
Marrugi says it has an important tool for learning about their trade. "It's
tied so much in equipment that, boy, you learn a lot more a lot quicker
because you see a lot more different presses and a lot of different types
of equipment coming through here quicker."
Since they started doing business with Heidelberg, they have devoted
an entire warehouse toward that part of their business. Overall there are
two warehouses in which, as Zahniser says, they take great care to provide
a quality product for their customers. "We make sure that the press
is going to be a press that's in excellent shape so that when another printer
gets it, he's going to be happy with us so he'll spread our praises."
When one keeps track of three businesses -- Z Graphics, Z Enterprises
and Heidelberg USA -- it can be a very stressful affair, but Marrugi takes
Swindell's line to heart. He keeps a positive attitude.
"There are just so many different items that you have to keep track
of and have to keep on your mind that it's very easy to get frustrated in
a lot of different areas," says Marrugi. "I keep thinking about
that and say, 'You know, I'll get through it. I'm not going to worry about
it.' I don't shrug it off but just take it in a calm step."
Zahniser does not take all the credit for the great success that Z Graphics
has had. He puts a lot of emphasis on teamwork and making sure that the
company has a family-type atmosphere. Employee Tom Templeton has worked
with Zahniser for more than 13 years and says he has "loved every minute
Many of the workers have been with Zahniser before Z Graphics. In fact,
Marrugi can only think of one worker who has not been with the company at
least five years.
"It's a very close, tight family," says Marrugi, whose brother-in-law
and cousin work for the company as well. "We do our jobs during the
day, and once we're out of here, we can go out. You know it's business during
the day, and we all socialize out on the outside too."
The workers often go fishing, and their last Christmas party was held
on the Queen Mary, which was paid for by the company. This is the way Zahniser
"My idea of making a living is sharing it with the people who make
it," says Zahniser. "Without the people, there is no Z Graphics."
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