Note: This article appears in the February 2020 issue of A&E magazine. To ensure that you can access this and other industry-focused pieces, be sure to subscribe today!
Reaching the 50-year milestone in business is no small accomplishment. In fact, it’s worthy of some serious recognition. Sometimes the irony is that the business receiving the recognition also happens to specialize in awards products.
Such is the case with Engraved Products, which originally opened its doors in 1970. As the shop has moved through a few decades, various owners, and a couple different locations, its ability to stand the test of time proves that when a group of people is passionate about their industry, they can achieve landmark accomplishments.
When a business has operated for 50 years, there’s bound to be a story behind it. Originally opened in a spot on Federal Road in Brookfield, Connecticut, the shop has moved a few times in its many years in operation. According to Graves Kiely, current owner, it first moved to Watertown in 2013, then to its current spot in Danbury in April 2019, which also happens to be when Kiely took over ownership from Afrim Pocesta.
Afrim Pocesta, one of the previous owners of Engraved Products, still works at the business as a corporate sales representative. (All images courtesy Engraved Products)
The original owner, Karl Hafner, started the business in his basement with a Model H mechanical engraver to support his family after he was laid off from a company that eventually went out of business. Hafner got into industrial engraving and engraving service medals. He mentions that the Bicentennial of 1976 was a big year, as that is when his business as an engraver of silver medals and objects took off.
While it has bounced around a couple times, the business has kept its original name. “Engraved Products has a great, longstanding reputation not only as a fine engraving shop, but also as a solid, community-focused company specializing in awards, plaques, and trophies,” Kiely believes, a fact that strongly influenced his decision to purchase the business.
But to truly get a sense of why he dove into the awards and recognition industry, you need to go a little deeper. Kiely was first introduced to it when his woodworking shop moved next door to Innovative Etching in 2014. “(As I) watched (them) create everything from engraved bottles for wedding gifts to large sandcarved religious glass panels for a cathedral, I became fascinated with the fine artistry and versatility of sandcarving,” he notes. In 2016, he purchased the engraving business and hired Stephen Schaffer, the Innovative Etching owner, to continue running the operational side of things.
The move created an eagerness in Kiely, who started looking for ways to expand. After attending a trade show in 2019, he got the extra focus, returned to Connecticut, and found out Engraved Products was looking to sell. With all the pieces falling into place, Kiely negotiated a quick purchase and moved that business to Danbury, where he’s currently merging the two businesses.
“The merger with Innovative Etching will bring a new capacity to the company that it has never had before,” Kiely notes. “The combined strengths of both shops will bring true virtuosity and versatility to Engraved Products.”
Steve Schaffer installing his Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired glass thermal pane front door panel in Wilton, Connecticut. “With the expertise of master engraver Stephen Schaffer of Innovative Etching, Engraved Products will be able to offer art and architectural glass engraving for residential and commercial projects of all kinds,” states Engraved Products owner Graves Kiely.
Built on a Solid Foundation
In the same manner that five decades of business will enact change, it also sees success from consistency and things that are done well. While Engraved Products might have moved locations and changed owners, its tried-and-true products and service are a major component of success.
According to Kiely, the original focus was diamond engraving individual items. The company now offers laser engraving and sandcarving in addition to diamond engraving. The staff of just six full-time employees and a few others decorates anything from crystal and glass awards to trophies, medals, and promotional products such as tumblers.
Those employees are a crucial aspect to the business, especially those who have been around for an extended amount of time. Ian Rodriquez-Torrent joined the team at Engraved Products in 2011 and appreciates the quality service the company offers. “I enjoy the variety of items that come through, and the unique requests of customers to create something impressive for their occasion,” he states.
Ian Rodriguez-Torrent joined the team in August 2011 and continues to provide excellent skills and customer service.
Creating something impressive over the years has always been at the forefront of Engraved Products’ strategy. Whether it’s working within their community or zooming out to larger clients, customer service is key for this team. “We strive for excellence in every aspect of the business,” Kiely emphasizes. “(My favorite part of being in the awards and recognition industry is) being part of the positive, celebratory life of our community.”
Engraved Products hasn’t just seen local customers over the years, though. The company has worked with corporate clients such as Duracell and GE in the past. “PepsiCo is one of our current direct customers. We engrave and distribute awards for them worldwide,” Kiely adds.
Large customers like these keep the shop on its toes, too. “These are demanding clients. They expect a high level of quality in service, communication, and, of course, execution,” explains Kiely. It’s a good thing those are all attributes Engraved Products has done and continues to do well.
But that high-level client isn’t just all work and no fun – these orders are among some of Kiely’s favorite. “One of my favorite projects was an engraved recognition gift for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee,” he states. “It was a profound moment – being able to present the gift to her knowing it was from our shop and knowing what it meant to her.”
Engraved Products offers expertise in a variety of technologies such as sandcarving and laser engraving.
With so much history and current success, it’s hard to think what might be in the future. But Kiely assures that there is plenty of room for continued growth and advancement.
Like many of today’s businesses across a variety of industries, the company will continue to utilize the internet. “Engraved Products will be developing its online presence with an online store that features engravable items to be launched (sometime) in 2020,” Kiely states of future goals. He recognizes that the internet provides a great opportunity for growth specifically in the personalized gifts arena.
And if you’re wondering whether or not they will have a party to celebrate 50 years, Kiely notes that something is in the works for 2020. It is, after all, a milestone worthy of recognition both internally and externally.