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COLORGRAPHIC PRINTING FIRM'S NEW OWNER CLOSES OPERATIONS

A Lancaster printing company closed its doors this week, leaving the Jewish Review, the Western New York Catholic and other area publications looking for a new printer. Colorgraphic Web Offset Printing shut down because it was drowning in red ink, its owner said.

"The company is losing money. I don't really see how we can turn that around," said Gulam Jaffer, owner of West Star Printing Ltd. in Toronto. His company bought Colorgraphic six weeks ago from Johnson Newspaper Corp. of Watertown.

The printers union, which represents 25 of Colorgraphic's approximately 50 workers, was taken aback by the rapid downturn in the company's fortunes.

"Everybody was optimistic" after the buyout, said Eugene Opatkiewicz, president of the Graphic Communications International Union Local 27. Workers received a $1 raise, sparking hopes that new printing tasks would reverse a slow erosion of jobs.

Instead, workers were told on Monday that the plant on Walden Avenue is closing, following a brief layoff last week, Opatkiewicz said.

Jaffer said it's impossible to shift work to West Star's Toronto plant, and that that was never his plan.

"These are two different companies -- the work we do (in Toronto) is different," he said.

That will mean a deadline scramble for area publications, some of which had little advance warning of the shutdown.

"I am on alert for a back-up printer, let me put it that way," said Rick Franusiak, managing editor of the Western New York Catholic. The 70,000-circulation monthly paper goes to press next week, he said.

The Challenger, an East Side weekly paper, switched to a different printer last week after being warned of problems at Colorgraphic, editor Alnisa Banks said. The 10,000 circulation paper was lucky to find an alternative printer "at the drop of a hat," she said.

Colorgraphic uses "web" presses designed to print on rolls of paper instead of single sheets. Few other printers in the area are similarly equipped to handle small newspapers. Those that do are getting calls from Colorgraphic's customers.

"We'll be able to accommodate every one of them," said Mark Korzelius, general manager of Buffalo Newspress. The Buffalo printing operation, with about 220 workers, is several times the size of Colorgraphic, he said.

Jaffer said he bought Colorgraphic unaware of its financial problems, and accused the seller of withholding information.

John B. Johnson, CEO of Johnson Newspaper Corp., said Jaffer received two years of financial performance for Colorgraphic. The printing company had "great potential," but was outside of Johnson Newspaper's core business, he said. Johnson Newspaper publishes daily newspapers including the Batavia Daily News and the Watertown Daily Times.

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