Meet Your Merchant: daRosa’s is almost 80

Meet Your Merchant: daRosa’s is almost 80

daRosa's, another multi-generation Oak Bluffs business, anchors the end of Circuit Ave.

Next year, daRosa’s and Martha’s Vineyard Printing Company will celebrate 80 years in business. In 1935, Antonio daRosa bought out the Martha’s Vineyard Herald Printing Company (in the location where Reliable Market is today). After five years, he bought the current daRosa’s building on Circuit Avenue and began selling office supplies alongside the printing business. He also provided fine art supplies for the growing community of professional artists on the Vineyard. When Antonio daRosa’s three children were old enough, they began helping out: collating, stapling, and running errands. At age 12, Dennis daRosa, the current owner of the business, was setting type and running the printing press.

Antonio daRosa founded the family business in 1935.

Antonio daRosa founded the family business in 1935. — Photo courtesy of daRosa's

Mr. daRosa said the changing technology of printing presses has largely molded the family business. In the 1950s, the daRosas bought their first automatic press, which they still use today for certain types of work that cannot be done digitally. “It was our bread and butter,” Mr. daRosa said. “It printed 40 sheets a minute, which was fast for that time and place.” One of the press’s main uses was printing the Vineyard town reports, which daRosa’s still does.

The next investment was an offset press, which produced 9,000 sheets an hour. Mr. daRosa said that, as a teenager, “my brothers and I ran those as fast as we could, to get out early at night.”

Other, modern ways of creating images through photography and typewriters continued to help expedite the process. But it was the introduction of the IBM computer that launched daRosa’s into the modern era.

After Antonio daRosa’s death in 1969, Dennis daRosa returned from school, his brother returned from the military, and his sister set aside her real estate career to “circle the wagons” and run the company.

The original daRosa's store front.

The original daRosa’s store front. — Photo Courtesy of daRosa's

In 1978, daRosa’s became one of the first businesses on the Island to use computers. They paid almost $80,000 for the first computer, which they needed because they could no longer manually handle billing. To offset the cost, they began offering the computer system to other Island businesses, to help with their accounting and payroll.

As soon as IBM started to retail PCs, daRosa’s became a distributor. Soon, they were selling Eagle and Acer brands, along with copiers and other modern office hardware.

“We were a small dealer, but we were in the right place at the right time,” said Mr. daRosa of the technological revolution, which helped daRosa’s expand with the Vineyard in the 1970s and 80s.

Today, Mr. daRosa says the tradition of selling products and helping customers use them continues.

darosas-1950s.jpg“Taking on the family business has been rewarding for us all,” Mr. daRosa said. “Our dad was renowned as a worker and a man that loved to talk to our customers. He was a one man band until he could afford to hire us, and we always came back to work during summers and holidays. Between the family and the people working for us, it’s a good team. Our reputation of being loyal to local businesses and customers keeps us viable, by impressing upon our customers that we care.”

The daRosa’s business embraced a third generation when Dennis’s son, Phillip, launched a sound studio, The Print Shop, in the back of the family store in 2011.

“We now have a budding sound studio,” Dennis daRosa said. “Maybe we’ll have the next Motown.”

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