S&L Office Supplies
In 2012, this Waveland business nearly gave up the ghost; then new owner Chris Cochran infused it with vision, experience and fresh vitality.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
But one local businessman had a different reaction. He’d been keeping an eye on S&L, believing it had untapped potential. He didn’t know much about the office supply trade, but he’d had years of experience as a successful businessman.
By April, Chris Cochran had become the new owner of S&L Office Supplies.
For the first year, Cochran held a steady course, getting acclimated. He made small changes, like updating the logo. At first, “sole proprietor” was a literal description; he had no employees.
Year two, he moved the business to a higher-profile location near the Bay-Waveland line on Highway 90, and the growth began. Now S&L has four employees and is thriving.
Cochran says that S&L is just starting to tap its true potential. Right now, most customers come from within a ten-mile radius. In the future, the current location will serve as a hub, with daily deliveries extending that reach to thirty miles, covering Picayune, Slidell and Gulfport. His advantage over Internet suppliers and big boxes? Competitive pricing paired with a knowledgeable staff.
“It surprises people to know that they can deal locally and they don’t have to pay extra,” Cochran said. “Plus, the level of knowledge and service you get from people who actually know you is so much different than buying things online.”
The business had also expanded in scope: the previous owner had mentioned that people frequently asked for printing services. Cochran purchased the equipment and for the past several years has offered quality printing of brochures, posters, cards and invitations. The printing operations are expanding as rapidly as the office supply side of the business.
A key reason for the blossoming print business is the expertise Cochran brings to any project. After graduating college with a degree in advertising and marketing, he worked several agency jobs before opening his own computer graphics and print management company in Birmingham, Alabama.
From the mid-’80s to 2000, Cochran rode the technology wave. The print business was moving from typesetting and color separations to layout and design options provided by computer programs like Pagemaker, Photoshop and Quark. Eventually, rapidly changing technology made many of those processes obsolete. Cochran sold off the company at a good profit. He’d had a good run in the print business, but it was time to move on.
It was also time to move. Cochran’s nine-year-old son came to live with him full time in 2003. The pair would often travel to the coast to visit Cochran’s own father, Shelby, who had retired and purchased a cottage in Bay St. Louis in the late ’90s.
“I thought the beach and the small town atmosphere would be a perfect place for a single father to raise his son,” said Cochran. “We bought a house on State Street and moved into it in July 2005.”
The little family hadn’t even unpacked when Katrina hit. Afterward, Cochran acted as a contractor to build a new house for his father, then accepted a job with MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency). For the next four years, he headed up the maintenance department of the Katrina cottage program. During this period, he met and married his wife, Elizabeth, who had moved to the area from Louisiana.
“Despite Katrina, moving to the Bay turned out to be the perfect decision for me and my son,” Cochran said. “It’s been a great place for us both.
“When I sold my last business, I never thought I’d go back into printing. But here I am again, really enjoying it. I think the universe has the ability to put you just where you belong, whether you expect it or not.”
Cochran thinks of printing as an art form, so it makes sense that he’d find so much satisfaction in the work. His years of experience in layout, design and color save customers time, money, and needless frustration.
As an example, he explains that often people bring in designs that will be mailed, only to find that no standard envelope will fit the piece. Cochran advises that they select the envelope size first and then design the piece with those dimensions in mind. He also frequently helps offices print in-house more affordably, advising them on toners and ink products that will help save them money.
While S&L’s customer service is helping grow the business, Cochran stays busy with the community service. He’s currently serving on the boards of the Hancock Chamber and the Bay St. Louis Rotary, where he’s been Sergeant-at-Arms for the past two years.
Last year, he launched a program to recycle plastic printer ink and toner cartridges. Called Carts4Kids, it raises money to benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Even though the program is new, Cochran raised enough to donate more than $3,000 to the children’s charity.
“More than being in business in the Bay, I love being a part of the community,” he says. “The business is a platform for me to be involved, rather than the other way around. I missed out on that when I lived in Atlanta and Birmingham. It’s hard to find your place in big cities.
Recycle Your Printer Ink Cartridges for Charity!