Chelsea is the "melting pot."
by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Published in July, 2019
John Edwards calls Sheridan MI of Chelsea "the melting pot of the Michigan book industry." Edwards should know: now Sheridan's vice president for market development, he was formerly CEO of Edwards Brothers Malloy.
Founded in 1893, Edwards Brothers spun off half a dozen other book manufacturers. But for at least the last twenty years, the industry has been shrinking.
In the late 1990s, BookCrafters merged with Braun-Brumfield to form Sheridan. In 2012, Edwards Brothers merged with Malloy, Inc. Soon afterward, the CJK Group began knocking on Ann Arbor printers' doors.
Minnesota-based CJK purchased Sheridan in 2017. Meanwhile, Edwards Brothers was trying to stave off financial disaster from shrinking sales and a legacy pension fund by merging with former competitor Malloy and putting its Ann Arbor site up for sale.
"We faced the perfect storm: the economy was down, the book market was down, the pension fund was struggling, and paper costs were soaring," Edwards says. Although EBM reached a final pension obligation settlement for $10 million in 2016, the company was unable to recover from the subsequent costs and payments. EBM closed its doors last June.
Thomson-Shore was the storm's latest victim. In March, the employee-owned business filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and in May, all 177 employees were let go. Immediately afterward, CJK bought its assets and offered jobs to 100 former employees at Sheridan's Chelsea plant on Industrial Dr.
"They'll be doing exactly the same work, with the same clients, just in a different location," Edwards says.
After the storm, Edwards says, the survivors have emerged stronger.
"Edwards Brothers could print university materials, texts, and bookstore books," he says. "Now, the local industry is much more diverse. Sheridan/CJK can print catalogs, directories, library books, reference books, textbooks, and direct-mail advertising materials locally. In fact, the news of our death is greatly exaggerated."
Edwards anticipates one more significant industry merger: Quad/Graphics (Sussex, WI) and LSC Communications (Chicago). "When that happens, we'll become either the second- or third-largest printer in the country. That's like Coke and Pepsi becoming Coke, while we're the 7-Up of the industry. Edwards Brothers would have been in the position of Diet Snapple with Splenda."
[Originally published in July, 2019.]
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