100 Years of Printing
January, 2010"My wife’s grandfather, Grant Northrup, started the company in 1910,” said Roy Carter, President of Toledo Ticket. “He was a prolific writer. He chronicled the company’s beginnings and its history.
“But his most memorable writing is about the real story behind Abraham Lincoln’s decision to grow a beard and the world-famous letter Lincoln wrote in response to Grace Bedell, my grandfather’s cousin.
“Grant was a politician, a city councilman, vice mayor of Toledo (OH), county treasurer. When he lost an election, he founded American Ticket, the forerunner to Toledo Ticket.”
Roy Carter started the conversation when Parking Today sat down with him and his son, Tom, the company’s vice president, at the beginning of their celebration of Toledo Ticket’s 100th anniversary. It was a conversation about family, history, and close working relationships.
“Originally, we printed tickets, all types of tickets,” Tom Carter said. “Tickets by the millions for theaters, churches, drawings, circuses. You know, the little 1-by-2 tickets that shot out of the machine when you gave your quarter to the cashier at the theater.
“I was asked by my dad to join the business when our lead salesperson decided to retire,” Tom said. “There were issues – we had to adapt.
“With the advent of credit card in / credit card out, and other non-ticket technologies, the number of spitter tickets used is going down,” he said. “We have been expanding our product range, including access cards, violation books, bumper stickers, hang tags, arm bands and, this year, partnering with Transcore, an RFID hang tag.”
It’s a family operation, with Roy, Tom and Roy-Grant – Tom’s brother, who manages the production facility – and Tom’s son, Trevor, who is training to become the fifth generation at Toledo Ticket.
“My wife’s grandfather was named Grant,” said Roy, “as was his son and his grandson, who was my partner before he became ill, and my son is Roy-Grant. The name pops up a lot. The name comes from the fact that the original Grant’s father served under and had great admiration for Ulysses S. Grant.”
After World War II, the use of the automobile took off, and the need for more formal parking arrangements skyrocketed. “Operators opened up parking lots and they needed tickets,” Roy said. “We were there to provide them.”
“It’s a specialty market with many variables, and the supplier must be able to react quickly to its needs.”
“It would be almost impossible for a company to break into the parking ticket printing business today,” Roy said. “The three major suppliers in the U.S. – Digital, Southland and Toledo – have excellent reputations and provide good service and quality products.
“We three also have good working relationships,” he said. Other companies would have a very difficult time, indeed.”
“The NPA (National Parking Association) has always been close to our hearts,” Roy said. “We are its biggest commercial sponsor and spend quite a lot of time being involved in its activities, traveling to Washington, DC, for board meetings, the national conventions, and the winter board meetings.”
“The key to sales in a commodity business is relationships,” he said. “We don’t just put our toes in the water but jump in completely. Price, quality and delivery are important, but many of our customers have become our friends. Look in our booth at the NPA or IPI (shows), you will see people who come by and just hang out.”
“Sponsorships are important to us,” Tom Carter said. “We just finished helping with the National Valet Parking Association’s Valet Olympics, and we are involved in many parking organizations across the country.”
“Parking is by far our largest business,” Tom said, “but we also print coupon books (for toll bridges and roads), tickets for sporting events, coupons for raffles for churches and fire departments. We print a large number of magnetic cards for hotels.”
“We produce tickets by the millions,” Tom said, “but we are also a custom house.”
Customers want printing to be unique to their business. Promotion and advertising on tickets has to be current. The company that reacts to the needs of the market will do well.
“Ticket counterfeiting became a new struggle as entertainment prices became more expensive, making precise house counts necessary,” Tom said. “We installed a new press with computer capabilities to remember the venue size and accommodations to meet that need.”
As of 1977, Toledo Ticket was one of only a handful of firms in the United States that printed nothing but tickets. In 1999, parking garages, bridges, subways and carnivals were still the “ticket” to success for Toledo, despite more competition.
The five-generation family company was by then printing tickets internationally in more than 30 countries. It expanded and now has three pressrooms and runs two shifts.
Presently, the company has 100-plus employees, partners and reps; four manufacturing facilities; and 18 sales offices. Toledo Ticket has more than 6,500 parking customers and 2,000 sports and entertainment clients.
“We are proud of our reputation and our history,” Roy Carter said. “And we hope to continue it for another 100 years.”
Tom Carter’s story:
“We had a small garage owner that we couldn’t turn. They wouldn’t buy our tickets. Our sales manager visited them regularly, but to no avail. When he retired, I went there and pulled into the garage, parked and went to the office. The owner smiled and we talked. I walked out with an order. She later told me that the previous salesman had always parked on the street. She didn’t want to do business with someone who didn’t do business with her. All that and she validated my ticket, too.”
Roy Carter’s story:
“Tom and I were staying at a resort hotel in Colorado. We spoke to the manager and found that they reprinted their room cards four times a year (to make the graphics seasonal). Their current vendor required that they order 5,000 (cards). They threw most of them away. We asked how many they actually used. They told us, and we had a new customer.”