The Ethical Expert-Jack Grabber
Jack Graber's professional integrity, technical know-how and commitment to cataloging have left an indelible impression.
"I've never heard anyone say a bad word about Jack Graber—and I've known him for more than 20 years," attests Michael Carton, director of catalog production for Bloomingdale's By Mail, New York City. "First and foremost, Jack is a consummate professional. Not only is he knowledgeable about all aspects of print and management, but he's a great mentor and trainer. Any person with a production-related problem can look to him for help."
Indeed, Graber has earned a reputation as a catalog industry innovator, educator and ambassador. On the job, he is regarded as a principled, solid performer. He has to be: As production dir-ector for Roaman's, a division of New York City-based Brylane, Graber is directly responsible for the production, print and paper purchasing, prepress purchasing and quality control, and binding and mail distribution for the specialty apparel cataloger—with monthly print runs in the millions.
The road to Roaman's began soon after Graber graduated from Hunter College, New York City. He had received a degree in mass communications; however, a job offer from a small trade shop in the city convinced the graduate to give print a chance. "There, I began to see what was involved in putting together a catalog," Graber recalls. "Color separation and printing processes really piqued my interest."
After a quick detour to serve in the National Guard Reserve, Graber returned to his career path and joined a dedicated catalog agency, Allied Graphic Arts (AGA), New York City. "My job became very satisfying in terms of being able to solve problems and knowing that I was playing a part in bringing together an entire catalog," he remarks. In 24 years with AGA—from 1972 to 1996—Graber was promoted from an assistant to a production manager to production director to director of manufacturing.
He enjoyed working in an agency environment because the job afforded him the opportunity to work on many different types of catalogs. The primary disadvantage for Graber, who was eager to learn as much as possible about the industry, was the lack of in-house equipment to study and master.
But Graber proved resourceful, claiming to have "picked up a lot" on trips to printing plants. "I wasn't just going for a press OK; I wanted to check out the supplier's equipment and capabilities," he remembers. "I also studied on my own via books and became quite proficient in the areas of printing and color seps. I made the extra effort because I always liked what I did."
Putting theory into practice
AGA reaped many rewards from Graber's educational en-deavors. "Jack was instrumental in the company's transition to a direct-to-plate workflow," reveals Gay Gunderson, who heads up quality control for AGA. "He fostered the idea, investigated the technology and was very enthusiastic throughout the whole project. He was one of the leaders in the digital arena here."
Gunderson is quick to add that Graber's value extends far beyond his technical savvy. "He is very hardworking and one of the most morally responsible business people I've ever worked with," she stresses. "He always considers the best interests of all parties, especially clients' interests."
One client—Brylane—obviously agreed. In 1996, after deciding to bring purchasing and production in house at its Roaman's division, the cataloger tapped Graber as the man for the job and made him an offer. Graber accepted. "Starting up an internal operation was a challenge, especially since Roaman's has no stores and depends on catalogs as its primary sales vehicle," he notes. "But I saw it as an exciting opportunity."
Recently, Graber helped guide the installation of the first desktop publishing systems at Roaman's. "We used to have an agency writing copy and producing page files, which we'd send to the printer, and then monitor color proofs and blueprints," he recounts. "Now we've purchased high-end Macs and FPO scanners, are writing our own copy and instituted telecommunications with (Pewaukee, WI-based) Quad/Graphics for OPI." As for CTP: "All I did was call up Quad and say 'I want to go CTP.' I ran a job, saw the results and that was that. I went CTP."
Despite the demands of his day job, Graber consistently supports and participates in industry organizations. He speaks at Gravure Association of America conventions, participates on industry panels and has author-ed articles for trade publications. "I enjoy teaching others about what I do and helping them attain a higher level of understanding," he declares.
"Time after time, Jack shows that he knows the industry inside and out—and he's always willing to share his knowledge," asserts Jack McCarthy, vice president of sales for Horizon Paper, New York City. "Yet, Jack is low key; he doesn't try to grab the spotlight. I'm glad he's getting the recognition that he deserves."
"I'm happy to say that I'm satisfied with the way my career has progressed," says Graber, who shares all of his successes with his wife, Ruth, and their two children: Evan and Melanie. "Having been on both sides of the catalog equation—as a supplier and a customer—I've developed a good perspective on the industry."