Kevin Doyle, president of Fair Publishing in Norwalk, celebrated 50 years on the job Thursday at an informal lunch.
Doyle started at the 127-year-old family company in 1957 as a traveling salesman. Four months later, he was in the air force. But he was back in 1960.
Soon Doyle took over as ad manager, then manager, and then he was vice president of Fair, which was then owned by Rotary Publishing. In 1975, he bought both companies from his brothers and sisters. His father had bought the company in 1920.
He sold Rotary Printing in 1982.
There have been a lot of changes over the years. In fact, Doyle said, "In the past 50 years we've changed everything but the location (Norwalk)" though they did move buildings. What is now the Fair building used to be a 7Up bottling plant.
One of the first things Doyle did was stabilize the workforce. There were six full-time employees in 1957. Every summer they hired 40 college students to get most of the printing done. It was very inefficient and you had to totally retrain every four years.
They've mechanized every possible thing, and now they're digitizing. Much of the printing at Fair is now controlled by computer. In fact, Doyle said Fair recently purchased a new computer the first of its kind in the industry. If someone had told him 20 years ago that he'd pay that much for a piece of equipment, he'd have fainted dead away, he said. Now, it'll pay for itself in two years.
They've also got a Chandler printing machine still in service that the 72-year-old Doyle said is older than he is.
It's one of the only remaining machines he can operate. There was a time, he said, when he could operate every machine in the building, though he didn't care to try it with the Chandler. Having not operated it in 25 years or so, he didn't think it would be long before his fingers were printed too.
These days Doyle and his wife, Dianne, of 43 years spend half their year in Florida and their son Charlie runs the company. Doyle is there "just to help out."
Doyle has two other children, a son, Kevin, who's an editor at Cond Nast magazine in New York. And a daughter, Kerry, who's going into real estate in Chicago.
Doyle said he and his son work well together. Charlie said the most important thing he learned from his father is to "take care of your employees." He later added, "... and the customer."
One employee at Fair retired after 57 years, so Charlie says his dad's got at least eight years yet to go. They are proud of the fact that of their 26 employees, six have more than 25 years in service.
Today, at Fair Publishing, Doyle and his son "do everything you need to put on a fair," Doyle said. Fair is the largest publisher catering to fairs in the country, and about two-thirds of their business comes from fairs. You've probably seen their posters, torn their tickets, or won their ribbons yourself, since they supply something to every fair in the state.
Fair is about twice the size of its nearest competitor, and it does business in all 50 states. It is also a good time to be in the fair business. There are more fairs today, and there are more people attending them than there were 50 years ago.