Lodians and out-of-towners alike have most likely walked down West Pine Street and past a sign that reads “Abrahamson Printing Downstairs,” then glancing in the direction an accompanying arrow points toward.
That arrow leads clients and the curious down a flight of concrete steps and into the windowless business that emanates the smell of paper and ink, producing everything from calendars and fliers, to event tickets and high school newspapers.
And Abrahamson Printing has been producing such materials for the Lodi community a decade shy of one century.
The family-owned business celebrated its 90th anniversary in October, and the Lodi Historical Society and Lodi District Chamber of Commerce recognized its legacy in downtown with the 2019 Longevity Award at its 15 W. Pine St. location Friday morning.
June Aaker, who has been managing the business since her parents John and Rosalie Atwood purchased it in 2006, said she was overwhelmed, blessed and honored to be recognized by the Lodi community.
“I never would have thought that taking over a print shop in 2006 would be so gracious and humbling,” she said. “To take a business that had longevity and grow on that thought, but yet keep the work ethics from our forefathers from their businesses — it still applies today. Everybody says out with the old school. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to build rapport, you’ve got to build relationships. That’s number one in any business. If you don’t have that you’re not going to have a business.”
The print shop was started in 1929 by Vic Abrahamson, originally located in the Hotel Lodi building on School Street.
When a fire destroyed the original shop in 1946, Abrahamson moved to the business’s current site on West Pine Street.
George Abrahamson, Vic’s son, took over the business in 1952 with his wife, Jerrie. They ran the business for 32 years, selling it to their employees in 1984 when it was time to retire. Larry Gust became president and sole owner of the shop in 1994, selling to John Atwood in 2006.
The Atwood family has been a printing dynasty in San Joaquin County since 1882. In 1959, John Atwood returned from the United States Navy to help run Atwood Printing in Stockton, but in 1973 he founded his own company, John Atwood Graphics.
Two years later he purchased Big Valley Printing, and ultimately purchasing Abrahamson’s Printing n 2006.
Not only is Abrahamson’s Printing one of the oldest businesses in Lodi, chamber chief executive officer Pat Patrick said it’s his organization’s oldest documented member.
“It’s very rare that we have a family business that lasts this long,” he said. “From the first generation to the second generation is a huge accomplishment in a time with business closures and failures over the years. This is extremely rare, especially for a small family business.”
Lisa Craig, historical society executive director, said the building the shop has called home for nearly 75 years has brought back fond memories for her.
A former editor of the Tokay Press, Craig recalled routinely walking down the concrete steps to the building’s lower level to pick up copies of the high school newspaper.
She said Aaker’s enthusiasm for customers and pride in her parents’ legacy is infectious.
“(The Atwoods) still carry on the same traditional approach that Abrahamson’s has for years,” Craig said. “Caring customer service and a very personal touch when working with their clients. After 13 years running the operation, we can all be grateful that June found her place in the family business.”
In addition to housing a printing press, Craig said the shop was once home to a three-lane bowling alley, a pool hall and a place for archery, something that astounded Lodi Mayor Doug Kuehne.
A business owner himself, Kuehne thanked Aaker not only for keeping the family business running, but for her commitment to being active in the community with organizations such as the Heroes Behind the Badge Run and the Lodi Homeless Committee.
“You’re involved in a lot of things, and for that I thank you,” he said. “And the city thanks you for your efforts and energy. Not only is June just a force of nature, you’re also pleasant, so I thank you for that.”
Rosalie Atwood thanked the chamber and historical society for keeping the Lodi community abreast of some its most historical locations and businesses.
“When John and I moved here in 1969, the population was around 26,000 to 30,000 people,” she said. “And we have so many housing developments that are building now. With so many people coming to Lodi, I think they need to know these things. I think it’s a wonderful thing you are doing, (recognizing) that we’ve been here a long, long time.”