Shop Talk: Pioneer Announcements
Four generations have kept a family tradition of stationery excellence
Spotlight On: Miami, Fla.
At Pioneer Announcements in Miami, Fla., they feel their "pride is their work, and their work is their family's heritage." Considering the fact that this family owned and operated business has been around since 1948, there's good reason to believe they treat each and every customer like a member of the family as well.
Jacob Jacobowitz started Pioneer Announcements, Inc. in 1948, as he was beginning a new life in Florida after printing labels for jam and jelly jars in New York. The business began with simple, thermographed wedding invitations and commercial stationery.
Years later, under the guidance and helm of children, grandchildren, and now a fourth generation of great-grandchildren, a natural evolution and progression lead the business into the sophisticated invitation company that it is today.
"Each family member is involved in the day-to-day running of the operation, as well as setting goals for the future," said Laurie Schenker, vice president. "Each generation has added its own touch; developing large square layered invitations, introducing the use of the finest imported papers available and installing sophisticated computers and software to increase efficiency."
Pioneer employs 20 people of all ages, from the youngest family member who was the creative force behind their latest wedding album to "grandma," who is 84 years young and still makes the catalogues and albums along with cakes and cookies for the employees every Monday.
While a company that has been in business since 1948 has had to institute many changes and explore new goals and products, Schenker maintains that they stay true to themselves and go back to the basics, which is their love and manufacturing of perfectly beautiful custom invitations.
After all, it was an invitation album of simple panel cards and foldovers that got things started back in 1948. The next generation, Muriel and Leonard Schenker, took the company to new heights when they started going to the New York Stationery Show held at the Coliseum in New York City. They expanded the line by designing larger scaled invitations and became one of the big hits of the Stationery Show.
"Their daughter-in-law and son joined the business in the late 1970s and own/run the company today with their daughter, the now fourth generation." Together they manufacturing fine custom invitations for all occasions that are sold in stores and home studios throughout the United States, South America and in Europe in Spanish, German, Polish, French, Lithuanian, Russian, Arabic and other languages for accounts all over the world.
"We operate from a family owned three-story building in downtown Miami, doing business on the second and third floors," Schenker said. "We have gallery space on the first floor, which springs to life in December just in time for Miami's Art Basel Week."
Schenker said the space allows them to constantly bring in equipment so they can do almost everything in-house, such as foil stamping, embossing, laser cutting, letterpress and envelope conversion. Having all these processes in-house allows them to oversee that everything produced "stands up" to their high standards.
Pioneer has won many awards for design and use of paper selections. In addition to countless weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and other events, they have also designed and manufactured invitations for celebrities, designers and rock groups such as Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, The Animals and The Moody Blues. They pride themselves on their personal attention to detail and advise, consult and help to design the perfect invitation for every event.
"Some of the most unique and custom invitations are the result of many consultations between the dealer, the end user and one of Pioneer's staff that continually help, guide and inform," Schenker said. "Even during the printing process, all parts of the order are inspected by one of our managers to ensure quality craftsmanship. Our dealers can always get a family member on the phone, and those that are very active in sending orders can take advantage of many benefits that we offer clients."
Since they are wholesale to the trade, Pioneer has exhibited at the New York Stationery Show for the past 30 years and has seen trends come and go.
"For many years black was the color," Schenker said, "then brown, now black again, but added are hot neon colors that were trendy and are now again."
They have also seen printing go from letterpress, to offset, to digital and back to letterpress - whatever is old becomes new again. Schenker said trends, colors, papers and designs come and go, but a true test of artistic beauty is a design that is simple, clean, sophisticated and timeless.
"These qualities keep even the oldest style Pioneer invitations current by today's standards," she said. "Many of our employees have been with us for 20 years or more and all of us at Pioneer feel as though we actually ‘give birth' to each invitation."
Through all the changes, the one constant in the custom invitation world is that people who are planning special affairs still want a beautiful invitation as the presentation piece to their event. Schenker said the invitation is still the first look, the first impression of their event, and that it should provide the "wow factor" as to what lies ahead. Whether it is a wedding or a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, people want to stress, impress and ensure that their guests will be excited about attending their event.
To do this, they strive to make their relationships with dealers as personal, seamless and friendly as they can and Schenker feels it's that personal attention and sense of tradition that sets them apart. Each family member is responsible for certain areas and plays an intricate role in customer service, design, production, financial, Web/internet and future projects.
"We have an online presence and website that allows the end user and store/home studio dealers to view all of our invitations," she said. "But we still refer all interested viewers to our dealers to make their Pioneer purchases, as we do not sell direct to the public as do many of our competitors."
They are also on Facebook and Twitter and are venturing into blogging.
"We consider ourselves pioneers in an ‘old school' craft that hopes to preserve the beauty of old school ideas while staying current with all the modern tools of communication," Schenker said.
That adaptability and "family outlook" spills into everything they do, encouraging a general feeling of quality and tradition that translates to their products and through the years. After all, their "pride is their work, and their work is their family's heritage."
By Abby Heugel