Raff Printing Then And Now: Family, Community And Dogged Determination.
The doors opened for business on August 10, 1951 with the name Raff Printing deriving from the four founders; Reds & Alida Price, and Fred and Francis Aheimer. Reds. Alida. Fred. Francis. R-A-F-F.
The Prices’ involvement in the company was short-lived, however. Two weeks after opening, Reds Price was offered a job in Ohio. He decided to take the job and offered his half of Raff to the Aheimers. So for $1200 ($600 cash and $600 borrowed), Fred and Fran Aheimer began building their company, Raff Printing.
Raff’s birthplace was a 19’ x 25’ storeroom on 2228 Spring Street in Pittsburgh. This housed the company’s first equipment: one 12” x 18” handfed press, one cutter (manually powered), one type cabinet with a variety of type faces, and a marble stone to lock up the chase for the handfed press.
1951 Was A Good Year. Because We Made It To The Next Year. And The Next…
Raff’s sales totaled $172.00 for their first month of business. For that shortened first year (1951), sales totaled $1172.75. Some of Raff’s first customers included Father Bertin of the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers, who has continued to be a loyal customer for well over half a century.
In 1955, Fred and Fran’s son, Fred C. Aheimer, graduated from High School and began working for Raff full time. He spent his time learning the operation of equipment, helping with the accounting, and making deliveries (all by trolley back then!).
1959 marked a monumental year for Raff Printing as they made the purchase of their first offset press, stripping equipment and a plate burner. Raff’s growth continued and soon demanded the need for more space, so Raff expanded.
Raff took over and moved into the two additional floors in the three-story building on Spring Street, and ushered in a new era of growth that would never quite slow down.
A Founding Father Leaves A Legacy That Lasts.
In 1971 Fred J. Aheimer passed away, leaving the company to Francis and her son. Having literally grown up in the business, Fred C. was perfectly poised to help steward and grow the printing business his father had begun on a wing and a prayer over two decades ago.
In 1980 Fred E. Aheimer, Fred C. Aheimer’s son, began working full time at Raff after graduating from Duquesne University. (Does this pattern sound familiar?) Fred E. also married that year, and his wife Debra joined the company as well.
In 1981 current President, CEO, and Owner Ron Yeckel began at Raff Printing as a pressman, and a few years later, he and Fred C.'s daughter Kym, were married.
By 1983, Raff employed 22 people and again needed space to grow.
In 1984, Fred C’s daughter Kym joined the company working full time in the front office.
Growth, Triumph and Tragedy.
A building at 70 Allen Avenue became the new home for Raff’s operation and business was on the rise. Raff had grown from occupying 2,200 square feet on Spring Street to 10,000 square feet at the new site. The additional area allowed Raff to install two new presses: a two-color and a four-color 26” offset press. Growth was incredible both in working space and in personnel.
In 1989 Raff again was in need of space. Expansion came with the purchase of the building next door, giving Raff 18,000 square feet, every inch of which was used! In 1992 Raff purchased a six-color Heidelberg press. These were exciting and energetic times for the company.
At the height of this positive momentum, disaster struck Raff Printing in 1992.
A wet, heavy snowfall swamped western Pennsylvania, falling hard on the roof of the new building, causing it to collapse. The collapse blew out the walls of the new building, landing them on the attached building, and caused even further collapse. Tragically, three men lost their lives in this catastrophe. Raff Printing lay in a pile of rubble.
The sorrow was felt by so many—and it was a tragedy that sent waves of grief throughout the owners, employees and associates both within the company and throughout the community.
Reimagined Through Determination And Pride.
The jobs of all Raff employees were in jeopardy, but the determination to rebuild was overpowering. As it would turn out, everyone was on our side.
A new site was found for Raff Printing in the old Duquesne Brewery on Mary Street in Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. Rebuilding was swift.
Within four weeks, the small press department was back up and running thanks to the hard work of the employees. Another key in getting Raff back in operation was the aid of Raff’s suppliers, and even some of Raff’s competitors.
These companies provided trucks, warehouse space and most needed of all, manpower. Without their help Raff could not have achieved this unbelievable reconstruction.
An Evolution Sparked By Talent And Technology.
Since its rebirth in 1992, Raff’s expansion has continued, currently employing over 75 people across sales, customer service, press, prepress, fulfillment and shipping. The company has obsessively focused on adding the latest technology year after year, and this is evident in each department throughout our full service print shop that was once a brewery.
We’ve grown up and grown outward. From digital pre-press and high speed addressing to small and large offset presses, and from full-service digital printing and variable data printing, to bindery expansion, shipping, warehousing and computerization of the entire operation.
Raff’s pre-press department continues to be state-of-the-art, utilizing the latest hardware and software including computer-to-plate technology. In 2005 Raff purchased another 6 color 40” Heidelberg press to continue growth throughout the new millennium. Raff continually upgrades their Heidelberg presses to keep up with technology throughout the new millennium.
And Now That We’re In Our 20’s….
So what is Raff looking forward to in the decade of the 2020’s?
While Fred Aheimer has retired, Ron Yeckel remains at the helm of Raff Printing. Ron has purposefully integrated his twin sons Jesse and Justin into the company by making sure they, like he did before them, have worked across every aspect of the Raff Printing operation (across many summers while earning their respective college degrees).
Jesse leads production and sales development, and Justin leads accounting and HR. Together, the now fully active forth generation of Raff printers have added additional services and capabilities to the company.
Union Printing. Dedicated off-site backup printing. Increased warehousing and storage capacity. All while evolving our variable data, fulfillment and shipping services to become an authentic one-stop, end-to-end printing, mailing and distribution company.
Raff Printing is uniquely positioned to professionally and cost-effectively create and distribute the print communications materials of the 21st century.