‘It wasn’t my cup of tea’ – Chicago Tribune

Sixty years ago, two business owners wanted to open a liquor store at the corner of Calumet Avenue and Glendale Boulevard in Valparaiso. City officials didn’t like the idea. It is never opened.

Instead, Don Boyce and Jerry Connors opened a printing business, naming it Boy-Conn Printers after their merged last names. They opened their doors in 1963, with no established business accounts and no idea they’d still be in operation in 2022, and beyond.

“So it turns out that their Plan B was a printing business, and here we are 60 years later and still at it,” said Mark Connors, grandson of Jerry Connors, who died in 1969. Every day we just keep stacking and stacking and before you know it, we have a little pyramid built here.”

In 1970, Mark’s father, Gary Connors, was abruptly promoted to co-owner, replacing his late father.

“I was just a worker ant at the time,” Gary said. “But I kept going and here we are today.”

I asked Gary, who’s now 84, if he thought he would still be at the helm of Boy-Conn after all these years in business.

“Absolutely not,” he replied without hesitation. “It wasn’t my cup of tea, let me tell you.”

In a 1971 newspaper story hanging on Boy-Conn’s wall of fame, Gary is quoted as saying, “With the addition of two machines, Boy-Conn has become the most modern and up-to-date printing plant in the area.”

That crowded wall is adorned with old newspaper stories, samples of vintage work through the decades, and plaques of public recognition, including a 50th anniversary honor from the Indiana governor’s office.

“There’s some vintage stuff here,” Mark Connors said, showing me around in between customers. “Life goes so fast that these kind of business milestones get lost in the shuffle.”

“It’s amazing and we’ve been lucky to be able to make an impact and help people,” Mark said. “We realize how far we’ve come since those early days. The Northwest Indiana community has been very good to us.”

In return, Boy-Conn has been very good to our community, donating printing projects on a weekly basis to nonprofit organizations, families in need, or raffle tickets for community functions.

“We’re always glad to do it. It’s just part of what makes us Valparaiso and Northwest Indiana and the region,” Mark said.

Today, the third-generation operation offers every imaginable printing product in an expanding digital world — labels, folders, business cards, envelopes, booklets, fliers, tickets, posters — you name it, they print it.

“We do work for large and small companies and we love the fact that no matter what size the company, business owners still get excited about the prospect of reaching their customers,” the company website states. (For more information, visit https://boyconn.com or www.facebook.com/boyconn2/, or call 219-462-2665.)

I contacted Boy-Conn for a few customized signs and banners for my upcoming wedding. As soon as I walked through the door, it all came back to me. Back in the early 1990s, I was a loyal Boy-Conn customer, though I spent barely any money there. Once a week, I took my crudely drawn political cartoons to Boy-Conn to print extra copies, which I personally delivered to local newspapers for possible publication.

Thankfully, I sold dozens of cartoons, usually at $25 a pop. This is how I wedged my foot into the newspaper business, with those cartoons appearing on the opinion pages of local newspapers, including the Post-Tribune. I later was asked if I was interested in writing freelance stories. I shrugged and said, “Sure.” I’ve been writing newspaper stories and columns ever since.

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Boy-Conn has become a memorable connection in my unexpected journalism career. Gary Connors doesn’t remember me bothering him on a weekly basis with those cartoon copies, but I do. Back then, I had no idea I’d still be in this business in 2022 and beyond.

When I visited Boy-Conn last week to pick up my order of signs and banners, Gary’s son reintroduced us after 30 years. Gary was in the back office, just like the old days, along with his wife, Susan. She’s the soul of the business, according to her sons, Mark and Mike Connors, who take care of Boy-Conn’s daily operations.

“Our mother still does the daily bookkeeping,” Mike said.

Sure enough, their mother popped out from the back office just long enough to pose for a photo and a video for this column. (Watch the video on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/JerDavich/.)

When I joked with the family about the original booze-oriented business plan for Boy-Conn, Mark had the perfect reply.

“We may have some in the back. But it’s not for sale,” he said with a smile.


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