Houma couple not ready to retire; buys out Kwik Kopy

Now in their sexagenarian years, Houma business owners Gordon and Jerri Fitzgerald have opted to invest in a print company franchise rather than retire and travel the world like most retirees.

Jerri and her husband, both age 62, laughed at the idea of retiring. “We are too vibrant to retire,” she said. “Retiring is not something that we are thinking about right now.”

When asked an appropriate age to retire, Jerri said, “I don’t know, let me think on that one.”

She never came up with an age. But she did say when the couple does decide to retire, they are going to pack up their dog Belle and get in their 35-foot Georgie Boy Pursuit RV and travel the country.

That is something she and Gordon agree on.

“We have been wanting to do it for years,” she said.

For now, those plans are on hold because the couple’s business interests have expanded.

For the past 18 years, the husband-and-wife team has owned Fitzgerald Carpet Cleaning Inc. In June, they purchased Kwik Kopy Business Center on Main Street in downtown Houma.

Gordon and Jerri are the third owners since Kwik Kopy was established in Houma in 2000. They purchased it from Joey and Connie Cehan.

They first learned that Kwik Kopy would be up for sale shortly after Joey Cehan won the District 8 Terrebonne Parish Council seat in last year’s election.

“Joey believed it would be a conflict of interest to serve on the council and provide services to so many of the governmental entities, so he wanted to get out before it became a problem,” Jerri said.

Original storeowners Don and Davey Underwood were the first to encourage the Fitzgeralds to venture into the printing business just like the Cehans did in 2005. Jerri recalls Don telling her that she and Gordon could run Kwik Kopy because he was business savvy and she was “well-liked in the community.”

“I know everybody in the community and I have the customer base from my other business, and Gordon is good with computers and things like that,” Jerrie said.” When you put them both together they make a great marriage, don’t you think?”

However, Jerri, a former Wisconsin schoolteacher, was not initially optimistic about investing in another business. Actually, she thought her husband was nuts when he began investigating the option.

She said Gordon took a medical retirement earlier this year after 19 years as an air medic pilot for Acadian Ambulance Service. Instead of staying retired, he wanted a business venture that would take them into their senior years.

“We were looking for a small business that would actually take us into retirement, and Kwik Kopy was a perfect match,” Gordon said.

Jerri finally got on board with the idea. And before they leaped into business, the Fitzgeralds consulted with several loan officers.

“Loan officers at Synergy Bank and MidSouth Bank calculated the numbers for us and told us basically that if we wanted to purchase the business we could,” Jerri said.

“Gordon said we could sell it anytime we wanted to and that we should just have fun with it and enjoy a different market,” she added.

Gordon will run Kwik Kopy, while Jerri continues to run the family carpet-cleaning business.

Gordon is learning the “how to’s” of commercial printing. As part of the franchise purchasing agreement, he is training in Cypress, Texas. He is in the middle of a three-week induction at the company headquarters.

“Gordon is just learning some of the stuff and the staff is doing a great job in helping him learn everything,” Jerri said.

During the changeover, the Fitzgeralds will retain the four-person Kwik Kopy staff at the Houma store.

“It says something about a business when the staff is loyal no matter who the owner is,” she said.

The company does mainly business-to-business sales and doesn’t have a walk-in market.

The company offers an array of services including scanning and archiving services, and engineering documents, banners, signage, billboards, exhibits, backlit signs, counter graphic, photo enlargements, wall murals, stage graphics, flags, wall coverings, window graphics and fine arts reproductions.

Like the previous owners, the Fitzgeralds said the business is a “one-stop shop” – designing, color printing and digital copying and printing.

“Small-to-medium business as well as individuals in our community trust the reliability and customer-focused service given by the Kwik Kopy staff,” Gordon said. “We are taking over a well-oiled machine and bringing a fresh perspective – providing solutions for today’s business challenges.”

Kwik Kopy generates the majority of its business from the medical and law industries. It does a great deal of scanning and archiving for local lawyers and the court system in Houma, Gordon explained.

Last year, the business introduced color and the CanonImage PROGRAF W8400 and KIP 3000, two large-format printers, into the mix because the business provides engineering drawing and blueprints to homebuilders and commercial construction companies in the area.

“We’ll constantly seek innovative ways to better serve our community,” Gordon said. “We plan to work closely with local business owners to meet their needs, and will position our company as an important partner to help them build and enhance their marketing and communication efforts.”

In Terrebonne Parish, there is only one other business that can offer this form of service. However, with the added machinery, the Fitzgeralds believe they are delivering a speedy, convenient, quality product.

Kwik Kopy parent company, the International Center for Entrepreneurial Development, presented the Houma business with last year’s Shining Star Award for highest sales growth for 2005 and 2006. At that time, the Cehans had increased sales by 87 percent.

Come this September, the parent company will present the Fitzgeralds with the coveted 2008 Shining Star Award for a 97 percent increase in sales for 2007.

Need something designed, printed or mailed? The company accepts files electronically for all types of printing projects, and assists in consulting, creating and distributing marketing materials for businesses of any size.

KKBC also offers Parcel Plus, which includes packing and shipping through UPS and DHL, cargo and private mailbox rentals.

Houma’s Gordon and Jerri Fitzgerald are the new owners of Kwik Kopy Business Center in Houma. At age 62, the Fitzgeralds took over ownership of the business in June. This marks their second business venture in the Tri-parish area.The couple is pictured with store manager Tony Chapman. * Photo by SOPHIA RUFFIN