On August 1st 2020, University Trophies "celebrated their 50th anniversary in business online during a global pandemic."
Lol. Try traveling back in time and saying that sentence to Bob and Joan Fitzpatrick on August 1st 1970, when they emptied their savings account with three small children and took a gamble on themselves and a business. They opened a small trophy shop in the back half of a barber shop at Spring and Clark and could at that point only dream of the steady success their family business would experience.
Bob was the Athletic Director and coach at St. Joseph Elementary School and had contacts with lots of different coaches around the area. Those connections were good enough to start. He would work in the back making trophies and Joan would run the business in the front. The shop started with around 200 square feet in the back of the barber shop, and when the barber went out of business they took over the whole space with 900 square feet.
Eventually they moved into an even larger space at Spring and Clark and stayed there until their son Shawn took over the business.
In 2016 the property was sold and Shawn moved the shop to an even larger location with a beautiful showroom at 4221 E. Willow and Lakewood Blvd.
University Trophies supply almost every trophy, award, and plaque you see in Long Beach these days. They are a fabric of the community woven into schools, sports, business, and non-profit organizations throughout the city. You don't host an end-of-year banquet without contacting University Trophies first. However, Shawn is proud of how much he's grown the small business to offer more to his customers since taking over from his parents around the year 2000.
In fact, part of the success of their "50 year anniversary" was Bob and Joan recognizing the right time to hand off the business so it could grow.
Says Shawn, " After getting out of the Navy I was working different odd jobs and then my parents asked me to help them during the busy (award) season. Being a bit older then, I was actually enjoying their company and learning both sides of the business from my parents."
When new technologies like "laser engraving machines run from desktop computers" entered the industry, Bob and Joan decided it was time to step out of the business and let the younger more adaptable generation take the reigns.
It proved to be a great choice. Shawn carried his parents' successes into the 21st century adding his own touch. Running a small business is not easy and 50 years is quite the achievement. It had no doubt taken lots of handwork and good decision making for 5 decades.
We asked Shawn the key differences between 1970 and 2020 with his family shop and he cited the growth beyond just trophies.
"In 1970 the orders we did were mostly for sports trophies from leagues and schools. In 2020 we do soooo much more than trophies. Acrylic and crystal awards, full color sublimation on plaques and lots of other items. We do gifts for any occasion, custom medals with full color print, Yeti and hydroflask engraving, labels for solar companies and the industrial industry, belts, rings, trophies for Fantasy Football, a full line of corporate awards and much more!"
If I, John Grossi, can insert myself into the article- I myself have a beautiful hydroflask with my name and "Long Beach 908" engraved in it that I drink out of every day!
Yes, the business has adapted and grown through lots of ups and downs, but their dedication to their customers and to Long Beach has persevered. 50 years is quite the achievement. Shawn knew the landmark was coming last year and began planning a community party worthy of his community support. A taco cart, ribbon cutting, music, the works. He was planning to do it big for a thank the entire community with a bash in the parking lot. And then Covid...
So, this massive landmark went mostly un-celebrated. They posted on Instagram and Facebook and may do a celebration down the line, but for now it's back to work. Like most local shops during COVID, business is down a bit, but Shawn is working hard to offer relevant services and remain safe and positive for a bright future.
"Some customers are still deciding to host small graduations and virtual awards ceremonies which we are able to provide orders for," says Shawn. "With the events being virtual we have been shipping the awards directly to the recipients."
"I learned from my parents that if I provide a quality product on time, spelled correctly and at a fair price, I will be successful. I know times are tough for so many people and I am blessed to have, who I think, are the best customers."
And with that you see why the Fitzpatrick family has been so successful for so long here in the LBC.
We'd like to say "Happy 50 years in Business University Trophies!" and we hope we spelled it correctly. We'd get you a trophy but, well... you know the end of the joke :)