Brodowski was born in Hudson, New York. He collected stamps as a
boy and exchanged those stamps with collectors all over the world.
Although he had friends in town who also collected stamps, there
were bully types, too, who thought stamp collecting was for “sissies.”
Johnny was inventive. When he got new stamps, he’d head over
to his buddy’s house, but first he’d conceal the stamps
by stuffing them down inside his shirt.
When it was revealed that Franklin Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector,
the trade was elevated in status, after all the President of the
United States was certainly no sissy.
Still a teenager, Johnny started his own business, importing and
wholesaling stamps. His natural curiosity for stamps lead to an
interest in printing. At fifteen he acquired a small Multigraph
printer (similar to the one shown here)
and began printing small jobs for his stamp collecting friends.
Then came World War II.
4th Division Sergeant Johnny Brodowski landed on Utah Beach on D-Day,
1944. He was in charge of a squad of fifteen men, a machine gun
unit. As we talk fifty-nine years later Johnny repeatedly refers
to these men as, “My boys.” When his squad came under
severe artillery attack in the Hershkin Forest, although wounded
himself, he told the medics, “Take care of my boys first,
then come back for me and don’t forget.” They forgot.
Darkness fell, using his machine gun and a stick as short makeshift
crutches, Johnny eventually dragged himself to a ridge overlooking
his company’s position. He hollered down to them. Wary it
might be a trap; they sent a squad to circle around. They discovered
the seriously wounded G.I. and carried him to safety.
Johnny recuperated at a hospital in England, then was sent back
to head up his squad. He returned home in October of 1945 proud,
“I never lost one of my boys.”
Stateside, Johnny got married just before his discharge was final
then returned to Hudson. He took a job in the print shop at the
Match Factory and enthusiastically devoured all aspects of the printing
business. Johnny and his wife had a small apartment so when he bought
a printing press the only place to put it was in the kitchen, the
type drawers wound up in the dining room. The inventive, entrepreneurial
side of Johnny set to work and in the evenings he developed a mail
order business printing envelopes and forms for stamp collectors
and dealers. Soon he moved to the 2:30 to 11:00 shift so he had
more time to devote to his business.
Johnny leans back in his chair and brings his fists together under
his chin, elbows out. He takes a deep breath and smiles, reliving
a pivotal moment; the day he told his wife he was quitting his job
to create his own business. His co-workers told him he was crazy
to risk giving up such a good regular job, but Johnny had a passion,
a dream. “I figured I better do something and do it right,”
Johnny and his wife bought a house, then a trustworthy Original
Heidelberg printing press and put it in the basement. There were
six other print shops in town at the time. When
he bought the Heidelberg the other printers said, “What are
you a Nazi sympathizer?” Johnny just shakes his head, “It
was hard to believe they could say that after I risked my life over
Johnny worked hard printing in his cold basement. He shoveled snow
and did any other odd job that paid the bills but his business grew.
Soon he moved into a storefront on Columbia Street. He bought more
equipment and began bringing in business from outside the area,
“I became a printer’s printer.”
I ask Johnny what year he started and he shakes his head, “I
don’t know. I don’t think too much about the past. The
past is the past you can’t change it and the future, we can’t
control that, nope, I prefer to live right now. That’s all
we really have.”
In the sixties Davis printing was selling out and Mr. Davis offered
the place to Johnny. He bought it and moved Johnny’s Ideal
Printing to Warren Street where is remains today.
Johnny’s is very much a family business, refreshing in this
world of conglomerates, corporate takeovers and big box operations.
Johnny’s son Tom has worked in the print shop since he was
eight years old and has become the bridge into the computer age.
Betty, Paul, Willie, Tony, Joanne and many others now gone worked
there for more years than anyone can remember. Why? It’s a
good place to work.
Like his squad of G.I.’s, Johnny respects his employees, “I
take risk, but I couldn’t do it without my people.”
Johnny is a responsible man; faith and character his guides. He
could easily have retired years ago, but his work is his love, his
I ask Johnny if he has any advice on the endurance of business success.
He smiles and says, “Three words, make a decision.”
We’ll talk next time From The Road.