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  1. Business

Ink Refill Center in Spring Hill saves money, benefits environment

Ink Refill Center office manager William O’Brien prepares to refill ink cartridges for customer orders on Wednesday. The company finds it can refill cartridges for its customers better and cheaper than bigger stores.
Published May 17, 2013

SPRING HILL

The Ink Refill Center, tucked into a small strip at Deltona and Forest Oaks boulevards, offers savings in the pocketbook, in customers' time and in its footprint on the environment.

Refills of ink and toner cartridges for printers, copiers and fax machines are available for savings of up to 50 percent of what one would pay for new cartridges, and their quality is assured as good as new.

The shop also sells manufacturers' original cartridges at a couple dollars less than what buyers would pay at many namebrand stores.

Said Bill Joyner, who bought the 5-year-old retail shop last June: "With the recession, everyone, whether civilian or government, everybody was looking to save money. When (customers) could save 50 percent, that's what lit my fire. It's a business that made sense."

The 47-year-old owner, who commutes from his home in Zephyrhills, said 98 percent of his business is from ink refills. Customers are divided about half and half between personal and business enterprises.

Generally, the ink itself accounts for slightly less than half the cost of a cartridge purchased new.

Joyner said he had stood in line at office supply stores, hearing people grouse about the exorbitant cost of new ink cartridges. At his shop, he said, "When customers come in, it just thrills me that we can sell them something they pay more for (at big-box chains)."

The shop's business consultant, Beth Lake, confirmed a common complaint of business machine owners: A manufacturer sells a printer, copier or fax machine cheaply, then makes bigger profits on the inks that feed them.

There's no waiting for a refill at Joyner's business. Customers hand over their empties in exchange for those already refilled, turned in by previous customers.

If the shop runs short of any cartridge, vendors are called on for new ones.

Just about any cartridge can be refilled at the shop, whether manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Epsom, Brother, Xerox or another company.

The refilling process requires 28 steps, including quality control tests, from the electronics indicated by the little gold dots on the cartridge, to machine washing and drying of the cartridge, to the final fill and check, enabling the shop to offer customers a 100 percent guarantee of its products.

Robert Berry, the business' operations and quality control manager, noted that some refill operations "buy a refill kit online and make a mess of it." They end up giving the refill business a bad name, he said. The Ink Refill Center has nearly $100,000 worth of machinery, he said, plus technology training for its five employees.

As for the benefit to the environment, Berry held up an 8-ounce beverage bottle and said: "A cartridge takes two to three times more plastic than this drink bottle. This is a green company. People don't know how many cartridges we are keeping out of landfills."

Cartridges deemed to be unusable or that have been filled three times go to recyclers.

The center offers pickup and delivery for its business customers. It also sells paper, envelopes, air dusters and cleaning wipes for office machines.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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