Those were the circumstances behind the founding of Top Level Printing Ink, a Dallas, TX-based printing ink distributor and manufacturer. Top Level Printing Ink was started in 1997 by Billy Ragland, Doug Raley and the late Ronnie Lemaster, who passed away in September 2001.
All three men had been in the printing ink industry in the Dallas area for many years. Mr. Lemaster owned Lemaster Litho Supply, which was acquired by Flint Ink in 1991, and Mr. Ragland had worked with him before joining Flint Ink. Mr. Raley had spent 13 years at Atlas Printing Ink, another Dallas ink manufacturer.
By 1997, the three men, who had known each other for many years, decided it was time to go into business for themselves, and the business has been growing well.
“It’s a great industry, and we all got together and decided to start our own ink company,” said Mr. Ragland, who has been in the industry since 1977. “My side was technical, and Doug and Ronnie were from the sales side.”
“We had worked the idea around a bit, and everything kind of fell into place,” said Mr. Raley, who had worked in pressrooms for 15 years prior to joining the printing ink industry.
Top Level Printing Ink started as a distributor for T&K Toka’s sheetfed and UV inks, which Top Level could then customize, and the company began manufacturing some ink as well.
“We began as distributors, which allowed us to get the right inks to our customers,” Mr. Ragland said. “We went into heatset and forms inks after some of our customers came to us and asked us to run these.”
Today, Top Level has grown to 14 people, and has a full-service lab and blending department.
“We strive to furnish our customers with exceptional products and service,” said Mr. Ragland. “We strictly focus on ink and not on supplies. Our key is the service end, and we can focus on the limited number of customers that we have. Ninety percent of our orders can go out the same day.”
“We’re really service-oriented,” added Mr. Raley. “I’m still fairly comfortable around the pressroom, and there’s a need for service for the small and medium printers.”
Because of their focus on service, the company has kept fairly close to its Dallas roots.
“Our main business is in Dallas, but we do some business as far away as Philadelphia and Minnesota,” Mr. Ragland said. “However, it all comes down to service, and you have to be near your customers in order to provide service. We do a lot of customizing because we are customer-specific, and we don’t try to offer limited products. We go above and beyond to provide service while also remaining competitive.”