What began as a part-time venture in the 1970s has developed into a successful and thriving business more than 40 years later.
Mainly printing funeral cards at the start, Kansas Graphics quickly expanded into offering a variety of print services. They now prints paper products, screen prints shirts and produces wide format vinyl. Now the next chapter for Kansas Graphics has begun.
After years of searching for the right buyer, Marvin and Vicki Adcock and Ron and Jane Scott sold their business to John and Brenda French.
“I’ve gone to church with both those guys,” John French told the Leader-News this week. “We share the same priest — they’re a sister parish. The fact that they’re a family first, faith-based company, and the integrity of both individuals, is just unbelievable.”
And it turned out they shared an accountant, who was instrumental in helping secure the deal.
“My accountant, Bryan Whitmore, was the one who turned me onto this business,” French said. “We shared the same accountant — which is huge — because he’d always done their books. He’d already done mine and the previous company that I was involved in. He did all my tax work.”
French, who made his career in the telecommunications industry, is based in Council Grove and has connections in Chase County and Emporia — and all across the country. In the 1980s - 1990s, French worked for Value Line, with a territory that stretched all over the region.
“I was VP of sales for a telecommunications company,” he said. “I traveled all over the United States and you enjoy that at some point in your life. But you want to be there for ballgames — and I still have young kids. So, this was an opportunity to get off the road and, honestly, go back to my roots.
“The areas that I traveled in my 20s were easy day trips so it didn’t even feel like traveling,” French added. “That was very, very appealing. Now I’m working with some of the same customers I did 20-25 years ago that I called on for telecom. It’s just pretty cool.”
One of the customers French worked with once upon a time? Well, that was Ron Scott.
“I got to meet them and get reacquainted with them after initially knowing them,” French said. “They don’t miss deliveries. My favorite quote from Marvin Adcock is, ‘our customers are our friends.’ And so that’s how they treat people.”
French said it was that commitment to family and the local community that was really special and he felt honored that the families trusted him to continue the legacy of Kansas Graphics.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity from the Scott and the Adcock family to continue their legacy in Cottonwood Falls and in Kansas and the Flint Hills,” French said. “Small business owners almost like the farmer; they are just fewer and fewer all the time. There’s a lot of printing companies out there, too, so I feel really blessed. We do work with a lot of other printers on the wholesale side.”
The couples told the Leader-News in 2019 that they were motivated to start the business so they could continue to live and work in Chase County. While they had received many offers to sell over the last few years, the Adcocks and Scotts but wanted to see the business will continue to thrive and benefit the people of Chase County. So, any offer that involved a move out of the county was declined.
But the Frenches were different.
“They want to keep it a family business, which was our main concern right off the bat,” Marvin Adcock said.
“Yeah, we want business to stay here,” Ron Scott added.
“And they’re basically the same way when we started the business; we knew nothing about it and they don’t either,” Adcock said. “They’ll learn from the ground up. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing.”
Marvin Adcock had done print work when he was in the navy and swore that he’d never work in printing again when he came back home. An opportunity to build a business with his brother-in-law — Marvin and Ron are married to sisters — changed his mind.
“We wanted to be able to go to all of our kids’ ball games,” Marvin Adcock said. “We decided in the beginning, family comes first. Family, our family and our employee’s families are the first priority.”
They bought their first used offset printer a few years after he got home and borrowed a horse trailer from another brother-in-law.
Kansas Graphics had grown and expanded quickly from a part-time operation to a full-time endeavor. As their business grew, so too did some of their clients’ businesses. One of those businesses was Dynamic Discs, which just inked two major endorsement deals at $500,000 and $4 million.
“I couldn’t imagine that, when we first started working with [Jeremy Rusco],” Marvin Adcock said with a laugh. “I mean, we used to print shirts for him on credit because he couldn’t afford to pay for it.”
They purchased the Chase County Leader-News in 1981 and both Vicki and Jane joined their husbands at the company to work full-time as well. By 1989, a larger building was needed and construction began on the current location at 418 N. Walnut St.
“If it weren’t for Jan and Vicki, there would be no Kansas Graphics,” Marvin said. “They spent their whole lives working it, too. It was a corporation owned by all four of us. It was always a quartet.”
The Adcocks and Scotts plan to spend their retirements enjoying their families, and some hobbies and activities they never had much time for before.
Adcock will spend more time with his music, pitching songs himself for a change instead of going through his manager. Scott’s looking forward to spending time with his retired friends and actually being able to go golfing once in awhile. He also enjoys working with metal in his shop.
The brothers-in-law thanked the community for supporting Kansas Graphics over the past four decades.
“The community’s been very supportive of us and we like to think that we’ve supported the community,” Adcock said. “That’s something that’s always very important.”
French understood the significance of that support and said he loved the idea of taking over a family business and embracing the next generation. The convenience of working so close to home was also a big plus. Not only has the business stayed in Chase County, French also kept employees local.
“We’ve added two but kept everyone that was here prior,” he said. “We’ve had one employee retire. We’ve added an all-star — Jeff Sowers — who came from this industry but had also worked with me in telecom.”
French said Sowers is one of his three graphic designers. Kate Murphy and John Collins round out that team. French said a former employee, Linda Starkey, is now working at the business again covering a maternity leave. When that leave is over, she’ll likely stay on in some capacity.
“I absolutely couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “My background was knowing how to hit the power button on a printer.”
French does have some ideas for expanding Kansas Graphics further, which includes bringing in more verticals. As an “avid outdoorsman,” he’d like to do more work with the fishing, hunting and the marine industry. He would also like to do some work with the telecom industry.
French said he’s honored that he is the one that’s allowed the Adcocks and Scotts to retire — but welcomes all the help he can get.
“We’re really proud of that, that we gave them the opportunity to retire,” he said. “It’s something they deserve and that may not have happened.”