2005-05-09 at 10:10:00 am #9337
Lawrence business owners say cartridge-refill services in
demand (May 2005)
It’s been 15 years since
John Ross opened Laser Logic in the basement of his Lawrence home,
refilling toner cartridges for a handful of businesses.Today, he’s still at it.
Only now, Laser Logic’s client list of 1,500 extends throughout Kansas and
beyond — including California, Florida and upstate New York — as customers
continue to search for value and service in what has become a commodity-driven
“Back when I started, (other) people were drilling holes
into cartridges and pouring toner into them,” said Ross, who has seven employees
at 2214 Yale Road. “Those days are gone now.”
With refilled cartridges offering the same or improved print
counts for about half the price of a new one, today’s market for recycling them
is more crowded and competitive.
Small businesses have been joined by Office Depot and other
big-box stores that now offer cartridge-refill services.
However, printer companies make it hard for refill
operations because they continually introduce new models, and they tweak inkjet
cartridges and laser toner containers. After-market parts manufacturers struggle
to keep up, jockeying with printer companies that are working to thwart such
refill-enabling rollers, ribbons and other pieces.
Printer companies would prefer to sell their cartridges for
$50 or more, rather than allow someone to refill an exhausted one for half the
“You’ve got planned obsolescence,” Ross said, disassembling
a cartridge to inspect its drum unit, wiper blade, clips, springs and other
mechanisms for signs of wear. “It’s kind of like a ‘Mission Impossible’: At the
end of this tape, the toner cartridge will self-destruct.”
John Ross, owner
of Laser Logic, displays the inner workings of a printer cartridge. Ross says
that his company has grown during its 15 years of business.
More local options
When Terry Kelly and his wife, Gloria, were looking for a
franchise opportunity, they settled on another entry in the recharging
evolution: Cartridge World.
The Kellys bought into the concept and, in February, opened
their Lawrence store along South Iowa Street. The shop sells new cartridges for
printers, but its mainstay is the refilling and recycling service that goes on
behind the front counter at 2540 Iowa.
“We can refill most cartridges eight to 10 times,” Terry
Kelly said. “People are really starting to catch on.”
The chain, barely 2 years old, has nearly 300 shops in the
United States, plus an additional 500 or so internationally, he said. All of the
shops focus on extending the lives of printer cartridges.
Room for expansion?
In Lawrence — with Kansas University and Haskell Indian
Nations University — the Kellys didn’t expect much trouble finding business.
Now they’re already looking to expand.
“This town is conceivably, by the end of this year, worth
another store,” Terry Kelly said. “I would say about 90 to 95 percent of the
public out there has a printer of some kind. It’s beyond comprehension —
everybody has to buy cartridges, eventually.”