When Gene Klein began working summers in his dad’s blue print shop, little did he know that one day he would be running one of the leading output fulfillment providers in the country. For 48 years, the San Mateo, CA-based BarkerBlue Digital Imaging has been on the cutting edge of technology, has paved new roads in planroom technology and has led the sustainable movement in the industry. For their years of service and dedication, they have been selected by Wide-Format Imaging as the “Reprographic Shop of the Year” for 2009.
“When I started working for my dad back in the mid-70s, I really thought it was going to be a summer gig while I went to college. I never thought it was going to be my career. As I continued to learn the business from him, we found out that we really enjoyed working together,” said Gene Klein, CEO and owner at BarkerBlue Digital Imaging.
While BarkerBlue’s roots are steeped deep in traditional reprographic service offerings, the shop has proven to be a major catalyst for change in the industry. Klein, a past chairman of the board of the ReproMAX network and current board member, has consistently pushed the envelope of the reprographic business, from pin-graphics to laser-plotting to color on-demand print to adopting online planroom technology.
The San Francisco Bay Area business was founded in 1961 by Jerry Barker. “The original name of the company was Barker Blueprint. It was a 3,000 square foot blue print business located in Burlingame, CA. At the time, Barker Blueprint was a small mom and pop blue print shop but their big customer for many years was the San Francisco International Airport. It was a small profitable company that had vast potential,” said Klein. “My dad (Gene Sr.) was looking for a business to invest in and he purchased the shop from Jerry in 1976. Around that time, I was an undergraduate at Stanford and would work at the shop during the summer. After graduation, I was planning on going to law school but my dad asked me to try working full-time in the business for the year and see if I liked it. In 1979, he kicked out his tenant in our building to double our space to 6,000 square feet. He then ordered an Acti camera and vacuum frames to move into the photo business. During that year the business really took off and needless to say I didn’t go to law school. I really enjoyed working side-by-side with him and learning the business. It’s now 30 years later and the rest is history,” said Klein.
Cutting Edge Technology
Klein has continued to maintain many of the business acumens first set by his dad when he was running the company. “My dad always wanted to purchase the latest equipment and be on the cutting edge of technology and I have carried on that tradition. “We have always tried to stay ahead of the curve with regard to digital imaging and document management technology. I believe in having the latest solutions to run our business and that has helped us stay on top,” he commented.
Staying Ahead in the Market
In 1983, they purchased the Shacoh 360 Screen wide-format electrostatic engineering copier. “This knocked out some of our existing photo business, but I was beginning to realize that you have to cannibalize your own business before somebody else does. The fact that the Shacoh could do 36 inches wide when the width limit at the time (with the Xerox 2080) was 24 inches gave us an edge in that marketplace. In 1987, we purchased a Versatech 8836 plotter, which was our first official foray into the electronic world. It could produce 20 E-size plots an hour, which by today’s standards is slow but at the time was much faster than the pen plotters in the offices of our customers. We also started purchasing computers. At that point we were in the reprographic business, blueprint business, and the plotting business. Then in 1988, we got into color copier market when we purchased a number of Canon copiers that set the stage for us to move into the graphic arts and then display graphic markets,” he explained.