Walking into University Trophies & Awards, Inc. can be overwhelming with hundreds of products to choose from, but owner Shawn Fitzpatrick loves helping customers find the right item. Since it originally opened in 1970, the family-owned business has operated with the customer always in mind.
“If it weren’t for the customer, I wouldn’t be here,” Shawn said.
About a year and a half ago, University Trophies & Awards, Inc. was forced to move out of its old 1,100 square-foot location to its new home on Lakewood Boulevard and Willow Street. With the transition, the business made significant changes, positively impacting the family-owned shop.
“As my parents got older and did not want to work as much, I transitioned over [to be in charge],” Shawn said. “It wasn’t until the move when the business became mine.”
With memories as a two-year-old baby in a crib at the back of the trophy shop, Shawn describes the business as a part of his life. When he came back from the Navy about 25 years ago, his mom asked him to help out and since then, he never stopped helping.
“We always joked and said the last thing I wanted to do is work for my parents,” he said. “As much as I wanted to find my own path, this was what I knew and 25 years later, here I am.”
The current location is 2,300 square feet, which allows them to have a showroom twice the size of the old one. The shop can now display leather and plastic products that could not be shown before.
Along with the transition, Shawn saw the importance of having a more dominant online presence with an up-to-date website and social media accounts. Shawn also expanded the business to ship orders across the country.
“My dad was just a local type of thing, whereas I am able to get our name out and ship things out of state,” he said.
All materials for items such as trophies, plaques, awards, and more are ordered from a warehouse, and the engraving and assembly are done in-house.
“The shop runs itself,” he said. “I am just here guiding it.”
But it is the customers that have kept Shawn excited to come into work each day.
“Ninety-five percent of what they are doing is recognition for someone else’s achievements,” he said. “Providing a quality product for customers who love it and others in tears, makes it worth it.”
Shawn also shared a story about how a woman broke into tears while picking up an item that held significant meaning.
“A retired police officer in Long Beach passed away over a month ago and his family wanted to give away a token at his service,” he said. “We created these little keychains with a police badge, his name and everything so they can give them out.”
When the woman picked the finished products up, she fell in love with them and the sentiment they held.
Above all, Shawn and the team strive to provide quality products and customer service. At times, Shawn may see something he does not like in the finished product, recommend changes, and redo it without any additional cost.
“It is the brand’s name that is going out there,” he said. “ When someone looks at the bottom of the back, they see the sticker. We take pride in what we do.”
For more information on University Trophies & Awards, Inc. and its products, call (562)429-0415 or visit their website at www.universitytrophies.com.