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College Pt. man marks 75th anniversary of Maspeth print co.

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Maspeth Press may print brochures, business cards and banners for such high-profile clients as the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, but Fred Strobel, owner and operator of the Grand Avenue shop, still works the front desk, making 20-cent photocopies for longtime customers and friends in the neighborhood.

"Maspeth is a unique community," Strobel said. "It's big, but it is still a small town."

Even though Strobel could have sold the Grand Avenue property years ago, set himself up in some anonymous industrial area and continued to do business with big clients via e-mail, phone and fax, he prefers to keep the storefront on what is essentially the main street of that "small town."

And tradition is a big reason why.

The 56-year-old College Point resident is the third Fred Strobel to run Maspeth Press in its 75-year history. His grandparents, Fred and Rose Strobel, founded the business in 1928 after moving from Hempstead, L.I., and settled in an apartment right above the shop. Fred Jr. took over in 1950, eventually handing off the business to Fred Strobel III in 1979.

His first decisions at that time were to renovate the storefront to make it more appealing and to pursue more large corporate and governmental clients.

Today, Maspeth Press handles myriad types of printing jobs, including business cards, wedding and party invitations, brochures, business forms, pennysavers and banners.

Businesses and organizations make up most of his clientele. In addition to the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens and the recently reorganized Board of Education (it is now the Department of Education), Strobel prints luggage tags and brochures for a charter airline operating out of JFK Airport.

"Basically, we're trying to do a little of everything," he said.

The business's 75th anniversary is not the only one Strobel is celebrating this year. He is also president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, which was founded 50 years ago. The group, consisting of about 100 local business owners, raises funds for neighborhood improvement and provides a forum in which merchants and professionals can express concerns.

Projects include holiday lighting for Grand Avenue, seasonal banners and care of neighborhood green areas such as the grassy triangle south of 64th Street. Strobel said he was particularly proud of the effort - recently completed with the help of state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) - to replace some of the neighborhood's outdoor lighting fixtures with antique-style lampposts.

He said the Chamber of Commerce was looking for new members.

New faces might also be in store for the Maspeth Press. Despite 75 years of tradition, the business is unlikely to see a fourth Strobel at the helm. Strobel's two sons, Fred and Ken, a human resources director and physician's assistant, respectively, are happy in their chosen fields and not interested in taking over the business.

"A lot of people have said, 'Do you feel bad that this is the end of the road?'" Strobel said.

But he said he was thrilled to see his sons successful and happy and rarely thought about what might happen to the business, which he believes is the oldest continuously family-run enterprise in Maspeth.

And until he decides to close down, sell or pass along the business, Strobel is content meeting new customers, each different from the next and each with widely varying needs.

His favorite part?

"The ability to say, 'Yes, I can do that.'"

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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