In 1955, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, the Korean War had just ended and the Vietnam conflict was on the horizon, and the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series in seven games. Jim Colter had just graduated from high school and was planning to explore the burgeoning Aviation industry as an occupation. But a change of heart put him to work in the printing industry, a 59-year odyssey that ended April 30 when he retired from Colter & Peterson.
As Chairman of the Board, Jim managed various aspects of C & P (www.papercutters.com) but concentrated on the parts and service end of the business. Bruce Peterson focused on sales and operations and it's been that way since the two companies merged in 1991. Together with Jeff Marr, Eric Peterson and Donald Shields, they built Colter & Peterson to become North America's largest independent distributor of paper cutters and paper handling equipment with five offices stretching from coast-to-coast.
"When I think back about all the years, I really enjoyed meeting with people and creating relationships with them. When I first started in the business, there were over 4,000 binderies and printers working in New York City alone. You could go door-to-door and there would be three or four machines broken in any shop that needed to be worked on and fixed," recalled Mr. Colter.
He began working for his father's company - Roy Colter Cutting Services – only after thinking twice about the Aviation industry.
"The jet aircraft industry was just starting to grow dramatically so I went to aviation trade school. We lived in Queens at the time (and still does) so I attended one of the last graduation classes at a campus in Manhattan," he remarked.
His mechanical aptitude was a natural fit for the printing industry back in the days before computers replaced electro-mechanical devices. C&P's top paper cutting products today employ cutting edge electronics on the widely acclaimed Prism® and Saber® brand lines.
"I did a lot of interesting work on a variety of paper cutters, especially with Lawson and Seybold. I liked taking a machine apart and putting it back together and having it work the correct way.
"One time there was a brand new 70" Lawson at a New Jersey company called Fairlawn Bindery. They've been out of business for years now but when I stopped by, I found the cutter soaked in oil because the fittings were not put in right. I pulled it apart, cleaned up everything and put it back together the right way, and they were using the cutter the next morning. There were a lot of stories like that, and when you explained to the customer what happened and what was needed to be done, they were grateful for it. I found a lot of satisfaction with that side of the business."
Many customers and his co-workers have long been impressed with Jim's professionalism.
"I could not have asked for a better partner for the past twenty-three years," said Bruce Peterson. "We have not been just partners, but have also been good friends. Jim is the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back and offer to help with any problem. All of us at C&P wish him well in his retirement."
After the companies merged in 1991 and moved across the river to their current base in Paterson, New Jersey in 1995, Jim continued living in Queens and made the 33 mile commute each way for the next 19 years.
"It was a steady grind that I enjoyed each and every day. When we were a small company, people would call with a problem and I would stop by on the way home. If I got a call late at night, I'd make a point to stop by first thing in the morning."
While he never left Queens, Jim's adult kids haven't moved far away. He and Dorothy, his wife of 57 years, raised three girls and a pair of boys. They now have five grandchildren with active schedules that will keep them busy in their retirement years.
"Four of my five kids live nearby and the other lives in upstate New York," reflected Jim. "The grandkids range in age from 10 to 20. One is in college, a couple are in high school, and they all are involved in sports or activities. You name it, from mixed martial arts and volleyball to soccer and track and field, they have a lot of events taking place that will keep Dorothy and myself busy."