Oxnard company buys Ojai Printing and Publishing

Custom Printing in Oxnard has bought Ojai Printing and Publishing Co. now that Al Milner, Ojai’s owner of nearly 40 years, is retiring.

With the purchase, which is not a cash-upfront deal but will occur over time, Custom gets first dibs at Ojai’s 800 customers and $1.2 million in annual sales and will likely absorb its nine employees in phases, Custom President Charles Utts said Thursday. The deal closed Monday.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” Utts said. With the extra printing jobs, Custom will be able to increase its purchasing volume from suppliers, gain more customers and shift Ojai’s print jobs to Custom’s more efficient machines, he said.

That also means anticipated benefits for customers, Utts said. He expects Custom will be able to lower prices as a result of the deal.

Milner said the two companies had helped each other occasionally over the years because each had equipment the other didn’t. Milner said he chose Custom as the buyer of his business.

“I did work with other printers that I wasn’t as comfortable with,” he said.

At 76, Milner said he had tried to retire before but had to return to run Ojai after the deaths of family members who had taken over the company.

“My biggest plan (for retirement) is not to be there,” he said. “In the printing industry, you’re always up against a show or event, so you’re constantly on a deadline. I want to throw away my watch and ignore the calendar.”

With the additional work, Utts said, he should be able to bring on Ojai’s employees to add to Custom’s staff of 43. He’s hired one in sales, and another will start soon.

The timing will depend on the extra workload, Utts said. At this time he’s not planning at this time to cut any Ojai employee’s pay, but he hasn’t seen all the wages yet.

“The nice thing for us is we get to bring people in,” Utts said. That is more important now since the closing of several printers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in the past three years that Utts recounted.

Utts’ father started Custom in 1974. It has since added a sister company that prints direct mail and mails it in-house, Utts said.

Milner started Ojai in 1974, Utts said. It has a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot facility, smaller than Custom’s 30,000-square-foot plant at 2001 Cabot Place.

Milner grew the printing business to produce annual reports, business materials, calendars, direct mail, magazines and bound books. Clients include medical device makers, publishers, educators and industrial companies, Utts said.

Surprisingly, the two printers had few common customers, Utts said, so Custom stands to gain several hundred new ones.

Ojai’s most recent annual sales were $1.2 million, Utts said. Three to four years ago, sales were $3 million.

“I think there’s the potential to get much more than he was getting,” Utts said. “And for us, adding a million in sales to the company isn’t a bad thing,” he said.

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