Jack Gimpel credits DAAP for his business ingenuity
It is often said that many DAAP graduates use their skills in arenas apart from traditional design, architecture, art and planning positions. A prime example is University of Cincinnati alumnus Jack Gimpel of the Class of 1965.
Armed with an industrial design degree and business acumen gleaned from his DAAP co-ops, Gimpel embarked on a 40-year career involving sales, inventions and a long-time business ownership constantly on the forefront of innovation.
He’s the guy who always says, “I have a friend who can help you with that,” because, as the saying goes, Gimpel has never met a stranger.
Because he’s been a salesperson above all else, clients have enjoyed Gimpel’s friendliness coupled with an unwavering penchant for creativity. Sitting still is difficult for him to this day. His mind is fixed on making processes more efficient, whether he’s volunteering for a nonprofit or taking his company, Aero Fulfillment Services, to new heights.
“DAAP is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Gimpel says cheerfully. “It gave me the curiosity to wonder. That started when I worked for the Access Corp. in national sales. I designed systems for clients that were doing things manually like inventory, car service records and real estate. The system held 2,000 randomly filed IBM cards in a selector and would retrieve a random-filed record in three seconds. My territory covered the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.”
This was the mainframe era before PCs. Gimpel worked on the cusp of the electronic information revolution, always dreaming of a better, more efficient way to accomplish a task.
When attending a conference, Gimpel would share stories of the success he was experiencing with the retrieval system. He dreamed of the next step until his friend asked him if he had heard of the PC. Gimpel realized a new era had begun and immediately sought his next professional position, looking for a company that had embraced the early stages of the digital revolution.
“I had various opportunities and was most interested in printing. I secured a sales position with the Hennegan Company, one of the top five printers in the United States.”
Gimpel believes sales is much more than just a pitch. He says, “You have to love people and possess a problem-solving capability that, for me, stems from DAAP. I would form a friendship and be the best technician and problem-solving salesperson I could possibly be. The friendships with my clients enabled me to advise graphic designers to produce designs that would best work in the printing world.”
These traits have always served him well. Gimpel originally launched his career with Eli Lilly in 1965 as the sales representative for cosmetics and pharmaceutical packaging. His design skills came in handy; Lilly appreciated his flair for how products could be creatively packaged, printed and branded. Yet perhaps his greatest acclaim came from his award-winning 27 years with Hennegan. As national account representative, he was known as the go-to guy for creative ideas on standing displays, annual reports, and the burgeoning use of computers to gather data, assist with design and transform the printing process. Among his many Fortune 500 clients were Lotus Software, Norwegian Cruise Line and Apple Computer.
Customers often asked Gimpel where his creativity came from. Aside from the influence of DAAP, it runs in his family. Gimpel’s father worked as art director for a greeting card company in Joliet, Ill. Gibson purchased the company and hired Gimpel's father as Gibson’s art director. The Gimpel family transferred to Cincinnati but unfortunately for Jack, the move occurred during his junior year of high school, a terrible time for any teenager to start over. He ended up at Purcell High School (now Purcell Marian) during some momentous years when a young man named Roger Staubach was leading the football team to victory. Meanwhile, Gimpel’s classmates rallied around the new kid like brothers. While a majority of them went on to business programs, Gimpel seemed directionless. A friend of his mother served as a career counselor to returning Korean War veterans. After four sessions with Gimpel in the family’s basement, the counselor concluded that the forward-thinking young man had an aptitude toward the mechanical and artistic. He suggested Gimpel apply to the industrial design program at UC.
Perhaps Gimpel’s greatest a-ha moment came in 1986 while working with client U.S. Shoe. “One day I had an idea about fulfillment which involves warehousing, picking, packing and shipping advertising materials, products and direct marketing materials,” he recalls. “My idea was validated at a conference in Chicago when I shared my ideas with my U.S. Shoe printing customer and he thought they could use my fulfillment services. He set up a meeting with U.S. Shoe leadership for a Friday presentation. By Monday I was looking for a building to house my new fulfillment business with U.S. Shoe as the first client.”
Of course Gimpel “knew a guy” who would loan the money to launch the company. He leased a building and hired five employees. Gimpel had a friend who could run the operation while Gimpel remained at Hennegan, spending off hours at the growing business. Aero Fulfillment Services Corporation was born — one of the first full-service, computerized operations of its kind.
Aero is somewhat of a metaphor reflecting Gimpel’s DAAP senior thesis, “Music in Motion.” A slide projector delivered light through a shutter attached to a vibrating speaker. The light followed the frequency of the music to a pegboard of various sized motorized disks with each disk bearing its own size and design. When the shutter vibrated, it threw a strobe optic light onto the colorful disks, introducing wheels full of light as if they were joyously dancing to the accompanying music.
From the very beginning in 1986, Aero was on the move and hasn’t stopped. As always, Gimpel remained one step ahead of technology — and the competition. In 1996, Aero expanded to a 125,000-square-foot headquarters in Mason, Ohio, as Gimpel retired from Hennegan and now served as the Aero’s on-site president. Growth took on a rapid pace: The company opened a 110,000-square-foot facility in Baltimore; added 100,000 square feet in Lebanon, Ohio; and consolidated all facilities in West Chester, Ohio, with a whopping 375,000 square feet, plus an additional 125,000-square-foot corporate headquarters. Aero then boasted a total of 500,000 square feet in the Cincinnati area.
Aero’s innovations also were not going unnoticed. In 1990 and 1995 Aero won the coveted Crescendo Award from Ernst & Young as one of the fastest growing companies in the region, and EY and the Cincinnati Chamber recognized Aero as a 1994 finalist and 2002 winner as Entrepreneur of the year. Other awards followed.
Gimpel, whose given name is Jon, asked his son John to obtain outside work experience upon college graduation before joining the family business. John assumed leadership of Aero when Gimpel retired eight years ago, at which point the annual company revenue was listed as $25 million with over 300 employees.
Retirement simply redirected Gimpel’s creativity toward other endeavors, including serving on several non-profit boards and joining his beloved wife, Mary, in assisting with several large non-profit fundraising events. In fact, Mary was recognized for her devotion to others as a 2013 Enquirer Woman of the Year.
Together, the couple has pledged $10,000 toward a DAAP Scholarship. Gimpel chaired the 50-year DAAP alumni reunion as a way to give back to the alma mater that provided his professional foundation.
Gimpel’s penchant for creativity remains high. His latest project is called You’ve Got Mail.
“Think of it as a device in the mailbox that emits a signal to your home server then to your cell phone indicating when the postal carrier has been there. When that happens, a voice and/or picture says, ‘You’ve got mail.’ Hey, maybe I can get Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to be my spokespeople.”
And there he goes again, using his DAAP-given creative problem solving and ingenuity to be ahead of the curve.