Fit to Print

I t was 1971.

New Haven, a college-town tinderbox in the thick of the Vietnam War protest era, was still smoldering from the national news-making “Black Panther Trials” begun the year before, which had sparked enough local tumult to prompt the rollout of the National Guard.

Lifelong New Havener Michael Iannuzzi, then a junior at Southern Connecticut State, was getting ready to start a business on Broadway, and he remembers one atmospheric detail in particular. “Everybody in this area—everybody—had gates on their windows,” he says, intimating that it was a dangerous time to have first-floor real estate. Perhaps that explains why he and his business partner opted to start out in a second-floor unit, situated above the old York Square Cinema, which stood about where the Apple Store stands today, and which screened its last art-house film nearly a decade ago.

The business Iannuzzi started is one even very recent New Haven transplants are likely to know, as it’s still alive and kicking: Tyco, now better known as Tyco Printing, and now occupying a whole three-story building near the corner of Elm and York, about a block from where it started.

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“Tyco” stands for typing and copying, the two things the business did at the outset. If, say, you were a student in need of a typed term paper and didn’t have time to do it yourself, Tyco was there for you. If you needed more than one copy of that typed term paper, Tyco was really there for you, saving you reams of time via newfangled photocopying technology, which could take one typed-up version and make virtually endless replications.

Tyco’s name harks back to a much simpler business model than the one it has today. With typing services have gone the way of the typewriter, and photocopying having fewer applications than it used to, Tyco’s service list has expanded exponentially because it’s had to, finding new ways to be useful: printing specialty projects like business cards, banners and wedding invitations, binding documents (from spiral-bound collections to hardcover books), creating promotional items like branded pens and T-shirts and you-name-its and offering graphic design consultation throughout. “It wouldn’t be as simple today” to come up with a business name, Iannuzzi jokes. “There’d be a lot of other two-letter combinations we’d have to add in.”

Whereas most legacy businesses find it difficult to adapt to changes a tenth as radical as the ones that’ve affected Tyco in the past 44 years—among them, the rise of personal computers and printers—Iannuzzi and team, which Iannuzzi says generally hovers between 15 and 17 employees, is on offense. The clearest indication of this is www.needprint.com, “a division of Tyco Printing” that goes up against fast, massive, online-only companies like VistaPrint and OvernightPrints.

In doing so, Iannuzzi says, the company’s harnessed the forces of globalization—generally viewed as the enemy of local enterprise—to make itself more competitive, not less. To a customer halfway across the country, dislocated VistaPrint has no inherent advantage over equally far-off Tyco’s NeedPrint; but to a customer in the city, the state or even the broader region, NeedPrint has a major advantage. All else being equal, Iannuzzi thinks, a customer in Hartford or New York City would rather use a New Haven-based service provider than one based across the country—or, as with VistaPrint, on another continent.

One aspect where Tyco no longer zags from the traditional small local business narrative is its familial nature. Ellie Iannuzzi—Michael’s wife who, working for Xerox at the time of Tyco’s founding, helped inspire him to pursue the photocopying trade in the first place—joined Tyco as a co-owner in 1995. In 2006, their son Mike Iannuzzi and son-in-law Vinny Morrotti came on as additional co-owners. Along the way, Mike’s cousin Don Scoopo, who had worked at the shop in high school, came on as the manager. Meanwhile, Michael speaks of his other employees, like graphic designers Susan Bialecki and Roger Woronecki, with a certain affectionate respect, clearly valuing what they do for the company.

After some 44 years, Michael is looking to step back a bit. “More of the decisions moving forward should be theirs,” he says, referring to the younger generation of Tyco’s owners, “because they’re the ones that are going to live with those decisions.”

It’s an adaptive and pragmatic approach, which is to say: it’s business as usual at Tyco.

Tyco Printing
262 Elm St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Thurs 8am-7pm, Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun noon-5pm
(203) 777-TYCO (8926)
www.tycoprinting.com

Written and photographed by Dan Mims. Image, from left to right, depicts Josh E., Michael Iannuzzi, Vinny Morrotti, Art Inglese, Mike Iannuzzi and Don Scoopo.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories, helped in no small part by a small team of dedicated contributors.

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