Jamestown Rubber Stamp Company’s humble beginnings occurred not far from Brooklyn Square. In fact, its founder, Tony Raffa, grew up on Derby Street, a stone’s throw from the Square. From the time he was able to work, Tony wanted to be a self-employed business man. His first venture in that direction was to sell houseware items by mail order, but when that didn’t pan out, he decided to go into the chicken business, which didn’t last long. Finally, however, he found a satisfying and lucrative business to be in, and that was the start of the well-known and successful Jamestown Rubber Stamp Company.
After an initial attempt to make rubber stamps and other marking devices from a less-than-professional kit of instructions, Tony did some research, purchased some really professional equipment so that he could make marketable rubber stamps, and set up his infant business in his garage on Prospect Street. He was well on his way.
One of Tony’s first contracts to make and sell rubber stamps came from the management of the Brooklyn Square Loblaw’s super market where Tony had been working. However, when they began to send their request for products Tony’s way, he realized that his garage was not a practical place to continue his growing business. The former location of Jamestown Paint and Glass at 12 S. Main Street was vacant, and with rent at $75 a month, Tony took the plunge and set up shop in Brooklyn Square. (Tony and Evie Raffa)
Some time after Tony had settled into his rubber stamp business as well as a newly started printing business, the owner of the building urged Tony to buy the Brooklyn Square site, crediting his rent payments as part of his down payment on the building. Short by a couple thousand dollars, Tony was approached by Fr. Pasquale Colagioia, pastor of St. James parish where Tony was an active member of the congregation, who encouraged him to purchase the building and loaned him the remaining money for the down payment. It was a handshake deal, and after several years of successful sales, the money was repaid with interest.
With a permanent location in the heart of the city, Jamestown Rubber Stamp Company’s success story has spanned over five decades and is still flourishing today as a third generation business. Founded in 1956, JRSC, as it has come to be called, operated in Brooklyn Square until 1970, when urban renewal claimed that section of the city. Tony then purchased the building located next to the Lucille Ball Little Theater on E. Second Street and moved his business to that location until, in 2008, he decided to relocate to the company’s present site at 1611 Foote Avenue.
This move to larger quarters enabled Tony to completely modernize his business. He gave up offset printing and moved into the digital age, which meant that his business became completely computerized, thus adding that advance in progress to its name—JRSC Digital. Tony’s grandson, Nick Bradish, made this change to a 21st century business possible with his knowledge of computer science. But Tony and his late wife Evelyn still ran the business along with their daughter Sarah, some young computer experts, and Mark Summers as sales manager and staff. Even with Tony’s retirement, the business has remained in capable hands. (JRSC Digital)
In addition to growing and managing his own business, Tony has remained active in local and county politics as well as maintaining his close connection with St. James parish. In fact, in 2003, Tony, who was the president of the Lost Neighborhood committee, presided over the first Lost Neighborhood Reunion held at St. James church, and in October of that year, he and other former neighbors gathered at the site of his old neighborhood, namely Derby Street, for the dedication of the Lost Neighborhood historical marker. For a man who never gave up on himself and his business dreams, that moment made everything come full circle. (My debt to much of the information in this article goes to Jim Auria, who interviewed his old friend Tony Raffa.)