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Oxford Owned: Oxford Copy Shop

The Oxford Copy Shop and its manager, Matt Rupel.
The Oxford Copy Shop and its manager, Matt Rupel.

There is a certain rhythm to the way that Matt Rupel compiles a coursepack.

"I can come here and say I need AMS 248," he said, fingers punching instructions into the touch panel of the behemoth printer in the Oxford Copy Shop's front room.

The inkjet whirs to life and starts spitting out pages -- it can crank out 100 black-and-white copies a minute. "Then I can just grab it from there," he said. He picks up a bright yellow cover page and lays it over the pile of still-warm copies. He knocks the pages twice against the counter, squaring the stack.

"Then I come over here and bind it with thermal tape," he said.

He feeds the edges into a machine that heats the black tape and adheres it to the paper.

A minute later, the coursepack is done. Any Miami student would recognize the block-lettered title and leathery binding that is so prone to being picked apart in the throes of midterm anxiety.

"It varies every semester, but this time we probably did about 5,000 coursepacks," said Matt Rupel, 28, the store's manager.

The Oxford Copy Shop has occupied its 10 South Poplar Street location since 1984, when Matt's mother, Rhonda, and his father, J.C., founded the company.

"She typed resumes, term papers and theses for the university," said Matt. "And then she met my dad and they decided to open a typing and print shop."

With the Rupels at the helm, the Oxford Copy Shop weathered broad changes through its 33 years of operation to arrive at its current domination of the Miami coursepack market.

The boom of personal computing into the 90's diminished the need for professional typing, so eventually the shop dropped that half of its services.

As personal computing blossoms into a digital society, day-to-day life, especially at a university, is increasingly paperless -- an obvious threat to an industry built around printing.

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"You wonder how much printing will be done in 10, 15, 20 years from now," said Matt. "You just have to find ways to adapt and do more things and different things."

Other than the Oxford Copy Shop, there is currently one other print shop in Oxford: Letterman Printing, which is also owned by the Rupel family and does a lot of the larger printing that doesn't fit in the small South Poplar Street storefront. The Rupels also own Lebowski Tees, an Oxford tee-shirt printing company.

"Twenty, 30 years ago, there was Paust, there was Copynation, there was us, and there was Miami," said Matt, of the handful of now-defunct copy shops in Oxford. "So we have gone from four to one."

The pressure put on local printers by the decreasing demand for copies has offered at least one boon to the Oxford Copy Shop -- the closure of Miami's in-house print shop a year ago has brought some extra business to the Rupel operation.

"We've seen a little boost from Miami closing their print center," said Matt Rupel, "But other than that, stable with a slight downward trend -- and that's just the nature of printing in general."

Connie Sparks and Cathi Current, 41, two of the four full-time employees at the Oxford Copy Shop, have each worked there for 23 years.

"We've seen the transition here from the old fashioned way up to digital," said Sparks, who declined to offer her age. "I'm about to retire," she laughed.

While black and white printing has declined in recent years, color printing has been growing, and the copy shop is looking to diversify into other kinds of printing, said Matt. Still, he admits, a large chunk of the shop's business comes in the first few days of the semester, as students line up out the door to pick up their crisp new coursepacks.

"You don't know what you might print," said Sparks. "You're making copies, as Cathi always says -- you don't know what kind of copies, but you're making copies"