Staying Power: Family business CJK prints for Bengals, Reds & national customers

CINCINNATI - What does it take for a family business to survive and thrive for 25 years or more? Our new Monday feature shares the secrets to success of local businesses with staying power.

The CJ Krehbiel Company (CJK)

  • What: Specializes in the printing and binding of four-color, multi-page, bound documents such as books, catalogs, manuals and magazines. 
  • Where: 3962 Virginia Avenue (Fairfax), Cincinnati
  • Founded: Thanksgiving Day, 1872 by CJ Krehbiel, a type compositor from Cleveland, Ohio
  • Number of employees: 110


The Civil War was over and President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and funeral were in the history books. It was not long after that C.J. Krehbiel (above right) relocated with his family from northern Ohio to Cincinnati.

Krehbiel thought it would be advantageous to put his compositor training to good use by starting his own company.

Meet the Bosses: 

Fourth-generation family members Rob Krehbiel (CEO), brother John Krehbiel (CFO) , and cousin Tuck Krehbiel, (COO).

"Because the nature of our particular business is very family-oriented, it's a little bit different focus having our family history and background."

Q&A with Rob, John and Tuck Krehbiel

1. Who are your customers?

Generally, our largest customers are publishers. They tend to be book publishers, although they can be in the magazine field, too.There is a good deal of history in the family from the educational publishing side, but it's equally as much now in the trade book and religious-book side of things.

As we move forward, we're looking towards catalogs. We do a lot of business-to-business catalogs and we're also looking at just general commercial print outside of that publishing marketplace."

2. What's great about doing business in this region?

Well, our largest customer is right here in Cincinnati, so there's lots of ease in servicing accounts that are nearby. We can see them weekly or daily. As often as needed. The Midwest is also a good shipping and mailing hub.

3. What's challenging about doing business in the Cincinnati area?

Some of our outside sales reps--those more than a hundred miles or so from Cincinnati--are faced with regional competition. We have to differentiate ourselves from our competitors to bring people in from the New York or East Coast markets. Or the southern markets, where we have a rep down in Florida.

The key is to play off our differences and our strengths and to make our name known. It's certainly easy in Cincinnati to say "Hey, we print the Bengals programs," or "Hey, we run the Reds Media guide," but to somebody in New York City, that's not real meaningful. So it's a matter of finding something that's recognizable about us and playing off that strength.

4. What has proven to be the key to your business's longevity?

We adapt to new trends and transform the business where we have to. We're in a period right at the moment where electronic media is certainly having a big impact on our client base, so we have to be able to offer some things outside of the just the usual offerings of four-color-ink printing, which is our hallmark that we specialize in.

As an example, we established a partnership with a local digital company so that, for those clients who, say, want two advance copies (of a printing job) to show off on QVC, then the rest of the 15,000 copies can follow after the show has aired. We have to have a partnership with someone who can produce those digitally."

5. Fill in the blank: "I bet you didn't know...." about CJK

That we're 140 years old. And, interestingly, if you've been to the (Horseshoe) casino (downtown) -- if you stand at their front door -- that's basically where our original factory was (at the intersections of Broadway, Reading Road and the now-defunct Hunt Street).

Connect with CJK

  • Website
  • Phone: (513) 271-6035 (800) 598-7808 & email:

Photos courtesy of CJK

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