Elkins-Swyers Co. Inc. after moving into its current facility in the 1960s. (Courtesy of Elkins-Swyers)
Elkins-Swyers Co., Inc. wasn’t born out of a traditional business model. Instead of grand plans, it was a couple of shoeshiners — working on the square — who decided opening a printing business would be a good idea.
They had the notion on good authority. While shining those shoes, men would ponder about where they should get business cards, recipes and the like printed. They eventually found a place: The shoeshiners opened Elkins-Swyers, which became a resource for anything folks needed in an office, including guns.
A drawing of Elkins-Swyers building, which was built in 1926 on McDaniel Street.
The business has moved locations several times. In 1926, it constructed its own building on McDaniel Street. In addition to its showroom, the facility was to include a writing parlor to entice local ladies to stop by.
“The portion of the room will be tastefully furnished with wicker furniture and writing desks, with stationery furnished for the convenience of women patrons,” reported the Springfield Leader on March 28, 1926. “In this woman’s department will be all articles which are of interest to women, such as score pads, tallies, programs, invitations and cards to suit every occasion.”
The business later moved to Pershing Street, where it stayed until relocating to its current facility on Olive Street. Over the years, it became a resource for many local businesses: Menus and promotional materials for the likes of the Kentwood Arms Hotel, Heer’s Garden Tea Room, and the Cat & the Fiddle decorate its walls. In the print shop, blocks used to print such advertisements are still found alongside vintage linotype machines.
Blocks used to print ads for Levy-Wolf, a former Springfield department store, remain.
While Elkins-Swyers can still print such things today (and supplies many county-related materials, including marriage and liquor licenses), its focus has changed. Nowadays, the business largely deals with election materials: They print ballots (and sell voting equipment) to 30 counties in the state of Missouri.
Even though its a more recent change than some Springfield businesses, Elkins-Swyers is also an inter-generational operation. The Nibert family purchased it in the 1980s, and it’s been passed down since. Also, random fun fact: $15,000 was donated by the wife of Monroe Swyers, one of the company’s founders, to purchase the “Tumbler” sculpture on Park Central Square.
Want to learn more?
For more information, connect with Elkins-Swyers via their website.