Small Business Spotlight: Panther Graphics

August 29, 2019 10:35 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The repetitive, rhythmic sounds of the commercial printing press fill the air inside this 30,000 square foot facility.

This is Panther Graphics on Central Avenue in Rochester. And on this day, the printer is spitting out thousands of sheets of Wegmans labels for its canned peas and carrots.


"We offer full-service printing, in-store signs, p.o.p., commercial print, brochures, newsletters, annual reports -- anything that can be on paper, we can do it," said company president Tony Jackson.

Jackson started the company in 1993. He says he knew he wanted to be in the printing business from the time he was a teenager at Edison Tech.

"I saw the printing department and I saw a kid standing there putting paper into the machine and he was playing with all these levers and knobs and taking sheets out and looking at them and they had ink on them, and I was like, that looks interesting," said Jackson.

For the next 20 years, he bounced around from one printing shop to the next, well-respected for his knowledge, but admittedly head strong.

"I would challenge ownership and the company to be better and I'd get fired or I'd have to leave," said Jackson.

"And I'd get home and I'd have a voice mail message -- heard you got fired today, can you come in for an interview on Monday?"

Jackson eventually decided to venture out on his own. He says their mission at Panther Graphics hasn't changed in 26 years.

"Delivering high quality and service to our customers while being a staple within our community, especially focusing on our youth in it," he said.

And no doubt, you've seen their work. Whether it's high school sports programs, health care benefits booklets, business cards or clothing hang-tags, his customer base goes beyond local accounts. 

They just finished doing 280,000 maps for the New York State Fair.

His 30 employees work two shifts, manning the presses, shrink wrap and cutting machines. Jackson estimates he has about $5 million in equipment and most recently invested in this six-color press to increase their capabilities.

Jackson has been committed to keeping his business city-focused. He has internship programs for Edison Tech students. And Panther Graphics has been recognized five times as one of the top 100 inner city companies.

"Being African American, being from Rochester, being from this neighborhood, sometimes I feel like the company is owned more by the community. So there's a sense of pride," Jackson said.

Pride in a company he hopes to one day pass along to his daughter Taylor, who he recently made his brand manager to reach a new generation of customers.

Brett Davidsen: What's your favorite part of the job?

Tony Jackson: "People. My employees. I care. I come from the floor. I come from where they're at. So when I built the company, it was built about respect, trust and value the people who are here."

Jackson says while paper is a shrinking industry, they have been able to adapt and adjust. 

"There's always going to be a need for paper and we just want to make sure we put our name in the hat."

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Brett Davidsen

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