Dodds turn over 140-year-old business to Hayes

Neal and Lynn Dodd flank new Dodd Printing & Stationery owner Matt Hayes. Hayes and his wife, Betsy, purchased the 140-year-old company early last week. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC.

FORT MADISON – A local family that has been printing and selling office supplies for four generations, has turned over the reigns to an outsider – in name only.

Neal and Lynn Dodd last week announced the sale of their Fort Madison business to Matt and Betsy Hayes of Denmark. Matt currently does pre-press work for the Dodds and anyone spending time with Matt and the Dodds can see the relationship is special and the move is a good fit for the 140-year-old business.

“I’ve been calling it generation five,” said Neal Dodd.

Matt comes from a printing and graphic design background after graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in graphic design.

He worked for the Shopper Spree in Burlington for three years before transferring to the Daily Democrat in Fort Madison for about seven years.

He also did an internship for the Dodds right out of college.

“He was scary ahead of the other interns we had and I always remembered that,” Neal said. “When we had an opportunity open up, man, I only made one call.”

That call turned into quick conversations about Hayes possibly taking over the business at one point as Neal’s children weren’t interested in taking over the business.

“I don’t think he knew how hand picked he was,” Neal said with a laugh.

Hayes said he remembers having those conversations.

“When we first got together we did visit on the subject that this might be a possibility of taking over somewhere down the line and I was thinking 10 to 15 years down the line,” Hayes said. “We were on a job and Neal said the kids weren’t interested so I told him to think of me before he sold it.”

Hayes said the conversation was kept very close to the chest until the announcement was made last week. He said he doesn’t plan on changing much and the name will stay the same.

“The customers for the Dodds are crazy loyal and there is no reason to mess with that,” he said. “It’s the same place except with me opening the doors instead of Neal. I think it’s very cool that this is something that’s been in his family for four generations and that he would trust someone outside his family with this transition.”

He said the company will be upgrading their digital printing capabilities very shortly that will allow them to do work that they have to contract out now. Hayes said that will allow them to open up some new avenues with customers and possibly help save them some money.

Dodd said it was that type of thing that helped him make his decision to retire and sell the business.

“Digital stuff you lease. You don’t buy because it has such a short lifespan and at 63 I didn’t want to sign that lease. So that’s what kind of ramped up the conversation because I didn’t just want to let it slide into the abyss,” he said.

“We’re in a small town and sometimes you can’t sell a business turn key like this. A lot of times they get sold in pieces and the business disappears and we just didn’t want to see that happen.”

Hayes said he’s not use to being the front man and that has made the decision to buy the company a bit harrowing at times.

“I’ve been a shift leader at the other jobs or a department manager at best. This is front and center and kind of outside my comfort zone,” he said. “But I’ll look back at this six months from now and realize this was the only decision for me to make. I didn’t want to regret not taking that step.”

Neal said Hayes is more ready to run the business than he may think.

“He’s a self starter. The biggest thing is he saw more than what was just in front of him. So many people see just a few things and Matt was able to see a big picture. You have to wear so many hats, and I thought he was the kind of guy that could get that done,” Dodd said. “He’s a little irreverent and I think that’s really good. I think people will react well to that.”

The Dodds plan on sticking around full-time to help Matt and Betsy with the transition and then move to part-time status as the transition takes over. Neal said he looks forward to offering some guidance as well as seeing any changes the Hayes try to implement.

“I was fortunate in that my dad was the kind of guy that gave me a chance to do things in the store that I knew just made him go home and kick the dog. I’m really looking forward to hopefully being that type of person for them.”

Hayes said it’s that entrenched experience along with a great staff, that gives him piece of mind moving forward.

“I’m in a very unique position of owning a business that’s already been around. It’s like buying a business that’s already 140 years old – and that’s really what this is,” he said.

“We have a really good staff here with a good mind of how things work.  I feel like I’m trying to give people the reins to do what they know how to do – things that I don’t know. And it’s a blessing to have these two here full-time now and, eventually, part-time.

Store hours will remain the same and the company still does a majority of its work via the Internet at

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