Downtown printer holding on south of W.T.C.

By Patricia Belizario

Downtown Express photo by Corky Lee

Barbara Baron, right, daughter of the founder of Admiral Communications, in the printing plant on West St.

Just a few blocks south of where the Twin Towers once stood, a family-run printing plant still struggles to dig its way out of the financial and material catastrophe left in the disatster’s wake. Admiral Communications, a full-service printer and bindery that has been in Lower Manhattan for more than 50 years, is among the many small businesses in the area still wrestling with government and private agencies set up to assist such enterprises to keep their business alive.

Founded in 1946 by the late Jack Baron, Admiral’s business was run quite smoothly after his son Arthur Baron took over with his sister Barbara, and his son Joshua. The company first opened on Wall St, then briefly moved to New St., finally settling on West St. adjacent to the Battery garage, where it has been run by the firm’s president, Arthur Baron, for the last 20 years. The Barons work with 15 offset presses, four functional floors of printing and bindery operations, and before the attack, more than 70 employees.

Since the company’s beginning, the first of major changes affecting Admiral has been technological, changes that have only worked to improve the printing and binding industry’s efficiency. Barbara Baron, Admiral’s vice president of sales and marketing, said technology hasn’t replaced the need for manual labor, for with the advent of the Internet, areas of the industry have been made easier, not obsolete. For example, the traditional camera department has all but been replaced with an electronic pre-press department, where those who once dealt with antiquated cameras now work with computers to receive electronic digital files. With the advent of the Internet, the printing and binding industry has greatly improved and should only get better.

“There is definitely a good future for the industry,” Barbara Baron said. “Companies will always have a need for printed materials.”

While the future for the binding industry itself may be positive, Admiral’s is uncertain.

On Sept. 11 Admiral suffered physical damage and later reduced their staff from 70 to 38.

“We pretty much took a direct hit,” said Baron, who along with her brother Arthur, manages the business with her nephew Joshua. “Everything was going quite nicely until the day of [the attack]…”

She said after four weeks of forced closure, the family returned to work, only to find no electricity or phone service, and over a half a million dollars’ worth of damages. The workplace had been inundated with inches of dust and debris, many of the presses were ruined from dried ink, and worst yet, the business lag that the month-long closure and breach in communication wreaked havoc upon Admiral.

“Customers called and got no answer so they didn’t know if we were still here,” Barbara Baron said. “We lost a lot of business that way.”

With bills amassing faster than the relief checks that never came, she began a letter writing campaign to receive the funds set aside for small businesses. “Understandably, the money was first given to the victims’ families, and rightly so,” she said. “But when the time came for small businesses, we never saw anything.”

After months of lobbying, and a small advance from their insurance company, Admiral was featured on television news reports and the New York City Partnership helped them get an interest-free, five year recoverable loan for $250,000. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver connected them to the New York Industrial Retention Network, a citywide, non-profit organization that helps manufactures receive business assistance grants. The network worked to help Admiral receive $40,000 in funds from the Consortium for Worker Education. This much needed help was followed by funding from the World Trade Center for Business Recovery Grant Program, the World Trade Center Small Firm Attraction and Retention Grant Program, and the New York City Economic Lower Manhattan Business Retention Program.

However, “the relief programs only helped us to just stay in business for the past year and a half,” says Barbara Baron. But,“we’re cautiously optimistic about the future. Cautiously optimistic.”


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