Back in 1923, John Pottage Sr. and Ed Owens sat in a Chicago bar, having a beer, when they started talking about a unique process called screen printing that they had come across.
Moments later, they hit upon a business idea: forming a company devoted to making screen printing inks.
With that, the story goes, they noticed a coaster sitting on the bar with the word “nazdrovia,” which is Bohemian for success. With that inspiration, Mr. Pottage and Mr. Owens decided to call their new company Naz-Dar.
It has been a little more than 75 years since that beer; however, Nazdar (the hyphen was dropped in 1993) lives on, as the leading screen printing ink manufacturer in America. From those early days where Mr. Pottage and Mr. Owens struggled to make a living, to today, when the multi-million dollar company leads the screen printing ink segment and is eyeing the digital ink market, Nazdar has continually grown.
Mr. Pottage did not stay long with Nazdar, and Mr. Owens briefly ran the company. One of his decisions was to have a significant impact on the whole screen printing industry: he hired Welling Parmele, the company’s first chemist. Mr. Parmele developed the fledgling company’s first ink, which was used for point of purchase items and automobile tire covers. Mr. Parmele’s brother, Howard, was soon hired to handle sales.
Howard Parmele became Nazdar’s president in 1925, and remained there for 28 years. He made Nazdar a force to be reckoned with throughout the screen printing industry, creating new inks and applications. As a result, the Screen Printing & Graphic Imaging Association International created the Howard Parmele Award in 1955. This award, the highest honor in the industry, recognizes an individual’s achievements and contributions to screen printing.
The company continued its rapid growth, particularly after World War II when screen printing became valuable in plastics production, and Nazdar began to reach outside of the U.S.
For Nazdar, 1977 was a milestone year. The company reached $8 million in sales, and Thrall Enterprises, Inc. acquired Nazdar.
Jeff Thrall, chairman and CEO of Thrall Enterprises, Inc., said the purchase of Nazdar in 1977 made good sense for growth reasons.
“It looked to be a company with a lot of opportunities to grow, with its products having such a wide range of applications,” said Mr. Thrall. “The numbers looked good.”
Mr. Thrall’s analysis of Nazdar’s potential has been on the mark; the company has grown both internally and through acquisitions.
“We have a real family-run organization,” said Mike Fox, Nazdar’s president, who has worked with the Thrall family since 1974. “The Thrall family provides us with strong financial support and interest in the ink industry.”
Nazdar consists of a variety of companies. For example, Nazdar has Ron Ink, a Rochester, N.Y.-based offset ink company which originally specialized in business forms. Ron Ink is now branching out into the sheetfed market. There’s Adheron Coatings, a specialty coatings company located in Oak Forest, IL.
Along the way, Nazdar made some critical purchases, beginning with KC Coatings of Kansas City, MO in 1982. Mr. Fox said that KC Coatings’s strong suit was R&D, which helped the parent company continue to come up with new and improved products.
“Dale Sloan was very much of an innovator,” Mr. Fox said of Mr. Sloan, KC Coating’s founder, who remains a consultant to Nazdar. “He created the first UV screen printing ink.” KC Coatings was also responsible for developing jet drying poster inks, heatset enamel inks for outdoor signage, and screen printing systems for aircraft interiors.
Mr. Sloan, incidentally, earned the Parmele Award in 1991.
In 1987, Nazdar purchased Process Supply and Western Supply in 1987; Cincinnati Screen Process Supply in 1989; and Advance Process Supply Co. in 1993.
This past year, Nazdar added Ink Dezyne, a Toronto-based 45-year-old screen printing ink manufacturer that has manufacturing and distribution centers in Toronto, Ontario and Sparta, MI. In addition, Ink Dezyne also offers digital ink capacity, a major plus for Nazdar.
Ink Dezyne gives Nazdar both increased screen printing ink manufacturing capabilities plus further entry into the digital ink market, an area which Mr. Thrall foresees a strong future. “We see digital as a growth opportunity,” Mr. Thrall said.
“The market is changing dramatically,” Mr. Fox said. “The digital revolution is coming. We’ll be both an innovator as an ink company and as a seller of digital equipment.”
As a result, SourceOne Digital Systems, the graphics division of Nazdar, has introduced SubiJet inks, which enable full-color sublimation transfer printing using the ENCAD NovaJet PRO and PROe inkjet printers. Nazdar also represents a number of digital equipment manufacturers.
In order to support these developments, Nazdar offers a strong R&D operation, located in its new 110,000 square foot headquarters in Shawnee, KS that the company opened in 1995.
“We have a strong R&D commitment and orientation to satisfying the customer,” Mr. Fox said. “We’re absolutely dedicated to that.” Nazdar also utilizes a network of branches and independent distributors, and opened its first Florida branch earlier this year.
One other advantage Mr. Thrall noted regarding Nazdar’s acquisitions is the excellent group of people who have joined the company. “We’ve been fortunate to bring good people to our organization through these acquisitions,” Mr. Thrall said.
“We’re very proud of our team,” Mr. Thrall said. “They’re the best. We couldn’t do this without the people we have with us.”
Mr. Fox said that the Nazdar family of employees is critical to the company’s continued success.
“Our people really are dedicated and enthusiastic, and are focused on our customers’ happiness,” Mr. Fox said.
Mr. Fox said that the future looks bright for Nazdar. “There continues to be opportunities for screen printing, to help printers become more efficient and profitable,” Mr. Fox said. “We’re able to work together.”
With 75 years of success under its belt, Nazdar is looking ahead to even greater opportunities and successes down the road.