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VOL. 130 | NO. 21 | Monday, February 2, 2015

 

Best Rubber Stamp Presses On

By Bill Dries

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In an age of online printing and paperless workplaces when commercial printers are struggling and transforming their businesses, you would think a company that makes rubber stamps would have a tough way to go.

Yet, Brad Blankenship, a partner in Best Rubber Stamp Inc., continues to make a living out of the Midtown storefront at 1618 Union Ave.

The sign across the front of the store reads “Best Stamp, Trophy and Engraving Co.,” which was the business Blankenship and his partner bought in 1999. Since then, they haven’t bothered to put the new business’s successor name up.

Best Rubber Stamp co-owner Brad Blankenship demonstrates the rubber stamp making process. The loud wallpaper is from the building’s previous life as a dress shop in the ‘70s. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We changed the name, we just didn’t change the front,” Blankenship said. “We’re not getting rich, but we’re making a living.”

Blankenship says he “bought a job” when he decided to invest in the business 16 years ago.

“I was on the road buying vegetables for Pictsweet frozen foods and some others at a company out of Pennsylvania,” Blankenship said.

He got a call from his sister and brother-in-law who were in the rubber stamp business in Kansas City and knew Best Rubber Stamp was for sale in Memphis.

“They said, ‘Do you want to go into that and run it and be a partner?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll think about it,’” Blankenship said. “The next day, the people I was working for in Pennsylvania, which was a family deal, called and said they lost their biggest customer.

“Since I was the only non-family member, guess who got let go?” he said. “So I called my sister back and said, ‘I’m a whole lot more interested than I was yesterday.’”

Blankenship admits he had his doubts initially about the business.

“I think it’s here for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We kept thinking when the computers were becoming more and more prevalent that it would become like buggy whips. We’re still pretty active with quite a bit of work coming in.”

The company’s customers are banks and notaries public.

“We still sell to a lot of banks and office supply people,” he said. “Banks use them for deposit stamps for their customers. We do quite a few date stamps for the banks. They’ve gone from the wooden handle where they bang, bang on the pad and then the paper to the self-inking with just one shot at it. A lot of it is out of state now. There are a lot of banks that sold to out of state banks. We do independent banks.”

The rubber stamps themselves that are fitted on mounts and handles and other devices are made at the Midtown business.

“We’re still using what they call polymer,” Blankenship said. “It’s about the consistency of honey. You type out a page full of stamps – an 8 ½ (inch) by 11 (inch) sheet of information. You make a negative like you did in the old days for a picture. You put developer on it. Then you put on a sheet of this polymer, put it under a black light and what’s not black rises up and makes your stamp – makes your print.”

Best Rubber Stamp also does engraving as a smaller part of the business.

“We do trophies and plaques coming in – plaques mainly,” Blankenship said. “We can’t compete with the bigger trophy people in the area.”

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