PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 19,  No.  1

Jan. 12 - 25, 2006

     
 

Signs of Success
Business Bright at Mex Printing

By HEATHER HADDON

It’s hard to walk a Bronx block without seeing a bright poster announcing the next bachata or reggaeton concert. The signs seem exotic — emblazoned with tough looking men and sexy women — but many originate from a modest printing plant in Bedford Park.

“We do stuff for everywhere that Hispanics go,” said Sergio Camacho, the younger half of the father-son team behind Mex Printing. Within the white Jerome Avenue storefront, a handful of employees churn out posters, cards, T-shirts and other materials at a rapid pace.

“UPS now comes here every day,” Camacho said proudly.

Mex Printing’s success comes from years of experience, and a niche market fueled by the migration of Latinos to the U.S. Business cards printed by the company have similar imagery — tacos, Mexican flags and mariachi bands — but list addresses as diverse as Poughkeepsie, Delaware and North Carolina.

“It’s spread by word of mouth,” said Camacho, 27, about Mex Printing’s clientele up and down the eastern seaboard.

That wasn’t the case when the elder Camacho, Juan, immigrated to the Bronx in 1981. Far fewer Mexicans lived here then, and Camacho’s new environs felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable. “When you first get here, you feel strange,” said Camacho, 57. “But you get used to it. You have to adapt.”

Camacho was born in Puebla, as were many Mexicans living in New York, and grew up in Mexico City with his six siblings. While his father stuffed sausage for a living, Camacho got his hands dirty in the printing trade, first by cleaning the machines and then operating them. He worked at a large plant that churned out chocolate wrappers and cookie boxes before setting his eyes on America in 1978.

“I wanted a better life for my children,” said Camacho, a jocular man quick to grin.
Camacho struggled to immigrate (in one instance he wandered through the desert for days before being sent back), but eventually joined his older brother in the Bronx. He found work at a Manhattan printing plant, and his skills quickly garnered him a promotion.

“[The owner] saw how hard I worked,” he said.

Camacho opened Mex Printing at its original location on Webster Avenue in 1990 with one machine donated by his former boss. It was one of the first Hispanic presses in the city, according to Camacho, and he soon started creating fliers for parties at Orchard Beach and other local Bronx events.

Still, things were a struggle. “There was not that much to eat,” recalled Camacho, who also worked part-time jobs.

Language barriers also were a challenge for the family. “I remember the first day of school, everyone was speaking English, so I ran away,” said Sergio Camacho, with a chuckle. “Mom found me and dragged me back.”

Camacho’s older son was recruited to help after school, and eventually Sergio followed. “I used to hate it, but it was good experience,” he said. “We grew up in the business.”

As their client load increased, Mex Printing moved to its larger Bedford Park location in 1997. Orders are now taken in the small reception space by Nylsa, Sergio’s wife, which are then designed on computers or photographed by a camera the size of an oven. Workers man several presses in the back room, which is filled with ink bottles, bright white paper and Virgin of Guadeloupe imagery. On one particular day, 50,000 menus for a Mexican-owned pizzeria slid between the rollers before they were cut and boxed.

The office’s walls are lined with glossy event posters that range from small acts — like Phlo, a hip-hop artist posing in front of Tracey Towers — to Dominican star Juan Luis Guerra and ranchero singer Vincente Fernandez. Mex Printing also caters to local businesses like Bedford Café and small nail salons.

Alvaro Acevedo, a restaurateur on 180th Street, is loyal to Mex Printing for one main reason: “They’re on time,” he said, picking up fliers for a dance party.

Their timeliness has become a selling point since Web-based printing has made the market more competitive. “It’s a struggle,” said Juan Camacho. Yet, he vows, “I’m not retiring until I die.”

He’s confident enough about the future to purchase another press (they cost at least $150,000), and dream about opening a bigger Bronx plant. Still, Camacho feels loyal to Bedford Park. “The community has been very supportive,” he said.

The Camachos rarely have time to attend the events they advertise, but they are happy enough with success. “I’m proud of my children,” said Camacho, as his wife walked in the door with homemade tacitos. “[My son] knows how to run the business.”

The younger Camacho, who just saved enough to buy a house in Soundview, is also proud. “We came from Mexico, we worked hard,” he said. “We’re doing well, thank God.”


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