MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Grafiche Reggiori srl

Historical Profile

From printing to business

The history of Arti Grafiche Reggiori dates back to 1903 when, Luigi Filippo Reggiori opened a commercial lithographic workshop at the Roma Hotel Building (later the Baratelli building) on Via Labiena in Laveno. The entrepreneur was a native of Mombello, where he was born to Giovanni and Orsola Parlatini on 15 October 1878, and gained important experience as a compositor/typesetter by working for “Corriere della Sera”.

In 1900, he married Piera Bellorini at the family home in Mombello and the couple went on to have three children: Fedora, Giampiero and Teresio (born 1917).

Around 1910, the printing company was absorbed by the Besozzo paper mill, which produced paperboard, including the imitation leather used as a substitute for real leather in shoe soles.

In 1927, Luigi Filippo found himself with the finances necessary to build his own home on Via al Motto in Laveno. In 1937, likely as a result of the economic crisis of 1929, the paper mill was incorporated by the Beniamino Donzelli C.B.D. corporation paper mill.

In 1932, Luigi Filippo re-opened his print shop at the Baratelli Building with the help of his son Teresio (Fedora was employed as a teacher and Giampiero was employed as an engineer for Ceramiche di Laveno), who began working as a manual typesetter and also produced simple graphics. In 1934 the printing business was expanded to include the sale of stationery products.

During these years, Teresio acquired a strong passion for photography. He created a small workshop for himself at home, where he developed photographic plates bearing images of the towns on Lake Maggiore and other nearby lakes.

In 1940, Teresio succeeded his father as company manager and opened a new company for the business of stationery and wholesale paper and print sales.

The print shop at the Baratelli Building was rented out to entrepreneurs from Milan and Teresio moved to a nearby warehouse situated on a side street off via Labiena.

In September of 1945 Teresio married Maria Ferrato (known as Mara), who immediately joined her husband’s business and took charge of its administration. The couple had two children: Alvaro (born in 1947) and Donatella (born in 1954).


The economic boom and the success of postcards

The economic boom following World War II sustained the development of tourism in the northern Italian lakes region and Teresio seized the opportunity to transform his passion into a business enterprise.

Upon his father's death in 1949, Teresio sold the print shop to the local company Rossetti (currently known as Grafica Lavenese) and opened his new company “Fotostampa Reggiori Teresio” in 1951, while also retaining his wholesale paper and stationery business.

Teresio began marketing black and white tourism postcards that were printed by third-party print shops on cardboard treated with light-sensitive silver salts (silver bromide). Using his large personal archive of glass plate photographs, he was able to arrive at a total of 15,000 pieces by the late 1950s.

Teresio also left his home on via al Motto in the early 1950s in favour of a new location closer to where he worked on via Labiena. In 1954 he began constructing a new building at no. 12 via Roma, which would house both the family residence as well as the family business when it was completed in 1960.

During the mid-1950s, consumers began to develop a taste for colour images, and this would have a significant influence on the postcard market. The process was initially carried out by manually colouring the black and white images using aniline dyes, which were applied to the postcards with a paintbrush while shielding the various colour areas with zinc masks.

The company grew during this period in order to meet this new market demand: in fact, six workers were hired to manually colour the postcards.

At the end of the 1950s, the more widespread use of colour film (slides) in photo cameras opened up new technological scenarios. In particular, it led to the production of photolithographic films for the preparation of offset matrices using a six colour selection process (magenta, cyan, yellow, black, pink and light blue).

This allowed for colour postcards to be printed upon the normal one-side coated cardboard produced by ordinary paper mills.

Furthermore, the decline of black and white was both a cause and effect of Tensi di Milano’s move abroad, a company that had historically specialized in the production of light sensitive cardboard; this also quickened the transition to colour prints.

Reggiori adapted to the new situation: firstly, the production of hand-coloured postcards was ceased and the company went back to only employing family members; Teresio returned to photographing the tourist routes using the new colour film (thus giving rise to yet another photo archive that is still being continuously updated to this day); the new colour postcards were printed in Milan and the company only continued to perform the packaging by hand. While printing processes required large quantities in order to keep the prices down, retailers only purchased limited numbers of postcards at a time; for this reason, the company was required to store its products. The postcard business eventually led Reggiori to start a publishing business, with the creation of tourism guides that were printed externally, but bound at the factory.


The second industrial interlude

By this time the conditions were ripe for a new company transformation, and it would be closely bound to Alvaro’s personal affairs.

After obtaining his diploma in scientific studies in 1967, he enrolled at the Polytechnic of Milan.

His passion for drawing, however, led him to become involved in the family business and, following in the footsteps of his father, he began to create graphic designs for brochures and illustrations for tourism guides. He thus decided to leave school in favour of a permanent career at the company, initially coordinating the packing/binding stage, and later managing the entire business.

Alvaro aimed to renovate the entire production cycle – from the preparation of matrices, to the printing, packaging and sale of the final product – thus restoring the company’s original industrial character. To this end, the current production facility, located in the town of Cittiglio, was built in 1972.

In 1975 he married Lia Zampini who, according to the family tradition, went to work for the family business and took charge of its administration.

Towards the end of the 1970s, the production facility’s warehouses were expanded to meet the increased storage requirements (there were over a million pieces of postcards alone). The company had even hired as many as eight employees.

In 1992, the sole proprietorship was transformed into a limited liability company in order to separate the family’s personal assets from those of the business.

At the outset of the 1990s, the introduction of information technology changed the ways of arranging the texts, elaborating (digitizing) the images and preparing the media for the digital printing process.

The editorial production processes were shortened and organizations became “lighter” in order to cut down on fixed costs, which had increased exponentially following the energy crisis of 1973. What’s more, the speed of technological innovation in the field of machinery resulted in costs that smaller businesses, like that of Reggiori, could not possibly sustain.

Towards the end of the 1990s, the company initiated a new organizational transformation: the printing processes would be outsourced once again, while the company itself would focus upon the editorial design of postcards and tourism guides.

The images in the traditional formats (film or glass plates) were scanned whenever they were required for use, thus resulting in a process by which the old archives would gradually be converted into the new electronic format. In this manner, the company was able to enhance its document base, which also represented the foundations of the business itself.


The business of producing tourism guides was also able to take advantage of the important technical and cartographical assets that Reggiori had acquired back in the 70s and had updated over time based on the changes in the industry, initially with traditional graphic tools, and later with computers.

Within just a few years, the staff was reduced to include only the family members themselves (Alvaro, Donatella and Teresio).

After Alvaro’s divorce from his first wife in 1991, Donatella took charge the company’s administration up until nearly 2005.


The family enterprise

2003 was a year full of important events for both the company and the family.

In fact, the company celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in Laveno with a photography exhibit entitled “Greetings from Lake Maggiore”, which later even travelled to other local townships. The initiative focused upon the original black and white photographs, providing the local community with an important visual heritage of its own past and documenting the impact of the changes that had taken place over the second half of the twentieth century.

For the family, on the other hand, it was the year in which Alvaro’s mother Mara passed away, as well as that in which Alvaro himself was married to Cristina Ferrari.

Just two years later, Alvaro’s brother-in-law, Ettore Ferrari, left his job as a screen printer to join the family business. By visiting clients with Teresio, who by this time had already turned eighty years old, Ettore was able to take hold of the network of business relationships and soon began handling them directly; in 2010 he was granted a minority stake in the company and became an official partner.

The 2003 exhibition, combined with the interest that the local population had shown in the photographic archives, convinced the company to create a permanent in-house exhibit for the purpose of displaying the photographs, the vintage machinery and the various products that had been produced during the course of the company’s first 100 years.

While the company image had undergone various transformations over the years, the centennial celebration provided an opportunity to bring back the company logo that had been designed by Teresio during the early 1950s.

Today the company is going through a difficult period due to the extended nature of the current economic crisis. In the past, the local economy had undergone a number of sector-specific crises that made things difficult for certain industries, but the economic viability of other industries had always compensated for the situation. The current crisis, on the other hand, is affecting all sectors equally, and is draining the financial resources of companies that, like Reggiori, play a secondary role in the production processes.

For the time being, the issue of succession is premature: although Alvaro has two daughters, the first has chosen a teaching career, while second is still too young to make a career choice.

Unlike his father and grandfather who never held public offices, Alvaro has had an intense political career, above all on the municipal and provincial levels, having been elected mayor of Laveno Mombello in the elections of 1996, 2000 and 2010, and having served as a councilman for the province of Varese from 1997 to 2002. Since 1998, he has even been a member of the Territorial Hunting Management Committee as a representative of the same province.