CAMBRIDGE — After more than half a century, Smith’s Printing will soon close its doors.
The walls of the printing business owner’s office are lined with a mix of awards, accolades, golfing posters and calendars. When you ask Clifford Collison what his favorite wall decoration is, he won’t turn to the large plaques he received for service to local organizations and fraternal orders, or pictures of him as a young man working on a print job; he will go to a small bulletin board at the rear of his office and point to some of the “Thank You” cards he’s received from customers over the years.
He may take down a couple and with a small tear in his eye tell the story about how the simple card he received for donating flyers to help search for a missing woman or printing the program for a young boy’s funeral touched his heart.
“I’ve made a lot of memories and a lot of great and lasting friends,” Mr. Collison said.
Though a final date hasn’t been selected yet, in a few weeks Mr. Collison will retire and close his Maryland Avenue printing business.
The shop was started by Vivian “Pip” Smith and his wife Hilda in 1955 on Dunn’s Court in the City of Cambridge.
“I came to work for him in April of 1959,” said Mr. Collison.
The business moved to its current location shortly after Mr. Collison coming on board.
Mr. Smith passed away in 1988.
After Mr. Smith’s passing, Mr. Collison managed the printing business for Mrs. Smith for two years before purchasing the business.
Mr. Collison has been in the printing business since he left high school.
“In 1959, according to our high school guidance counselor, there were two businesses that came to the school looking for employees. One was a paint store. I told him, ‘that don’t sound too interesting.’ He said the other is a print shop. I told him, ‘I’ll try that one.’ Basically that was it,” Mr. Collison said smiling.
When asked why he didn’t change the name of the business that he purchased in 1990, Mr. Collison said he wanted to honor his good friend that taught him the printing business.
Through the years, Smith’s Printing has made countless pages of business stationary, church bulletins, event programs and much more.
Mr. Collison said he is closing Smith’s Printing in order to retire. He chose to retire now, not only because he has been working in the printing business for 54 years, but because changing technology is allowing people and businesses to print items themselves and the economic climate in and around the City of Cambridge.
“At one time there were five print shops in Cambridge,” he said. “Most of the customers we started with and had the longest are no longer in business.”
When he decided to close down Smith’s Printing he originally thought he would close for good at the end of February. After he started telling his longtime customers, orders started pouring in. Many businesses and organizations are stocking up on the materials that Mr. Collison and his employees — his brother Eddie Collison and Danny Cox — created for them.
“It’s been a good problem to have,” Mr. Collison said.
Now he’s planning to close at the end of March or beginning of April.
“Though the last day I leave here, I’ll probably be back in here the next day looking for something to do,” he said laughing.
Mr. Collison said he plans to play golf in his retirement and keep in touch with the many friends he made during his many years in business.
Many of those friends and loyal customers have organized a reception for Mr. Collison and Smith’s Printing from 3-5 p.m. on March 24 at the Cambridge Yacht Club in Cambridge.
“This has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I will miss everyone, but it’s time,” Mr. Collison said.