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 user 2005-05-09 at 10:12:00 am Views: 37
  • #9336

    Commodity-driven market

    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.”