By JOE JAROSZ
May 7, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Speculation has surrounded the origin of the name for Theresa “Terry” Cunningham’s business, ADCO Litho Plate, Inc., for years.
She would get asked if ADCO is short for advertising company or if the name was selected to be at the beginning of the phonebook. Although those are good guesses, neither are true. The name is actually an acronym.
The name came about one evening in 1967, when her father started the business. Terry, along with her father, mother and sister were sitting around the dinner table, trying to come up with a name for the commercial printing company the family would soon operate.
Finally, Terry said her father turned to his wife and said “A damned confused outfit.”
“Not a lot of people know that,” Terry said. “Dad had a good sense of humor to him.”
In 1971, at the age of 18, Terry, with help from her mother, took over the business, located at 6043 Truman Road, from her father after he had a massive coronary. She had just graduated high school and her sister didn’t want to operate the business. She had worked for the business in the summers and after school, but didn’t consider working full-time. After her father had the heart attack, Terry assumed the family would close the doors for good on the business.
“Dad said that wasn’t an option because he’d have to file for bankruptcy,” Terry said.
The business excels in commercial printing, with services from booklets and brochures to menus and logo design. She didn’t go to school for business management or anything relating to the business. Everything she learned, she learned on the job from her father or by working with her employees.
“I learned a lot over the years and have educated myself,” Terry said adding there isn’t a typically “normal” day for her anymore. When she’s busy, she’ll work a 10 hour day, focusing on pre-made orders. On occasion, people and business come in at the last minute to place printing orders.
One trait she inherited from her father was customer service. Although the family didn’t live in the Northeast area, their biggest clients, Montgomery Ward and Sears, did. The building ADCO operates out of was stationed right in the middle of the two companies, as well as near several highways, making it easy for Terry, and her father before her, to move around the city to visit with various clients.
The company’s business flyer reads, “we treat our customers with honesty, integrity and respect – values that we have honored since we opened our doors.”
Currently, Terry lives in Lee’s Summit, in a home built about 10 years ago for her then handicapped mother. Even though she grew up in the Center School District area and doesn’t live in the area, doesn’t mean Terry isn’t a Northeast resident. Since her business turns 48 years old this fall, she’s spent a majority of her 60 years on Truman Road.
“I love the neighborhood. There’s nice new businesses popping up and it’s getting some new life,” Terry said. “That’s a good thing for Truman Road.”
Being in the same location for over 40 years, she’s seen the neighborhood go through some changes. But, she believes the changes along Independence Avenue and along Truman Road, especially since both are Community Improvement Districts, are improving the area.
“Every little bit helps,” Terry said.
As a member of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Terry volunteers both her time and creativity. When she volunteers her time, you can find her at the Beads, Beans and Beer fundraiser or cleaning up along The Avenue or Truman Road. If she’s volunteering her creativity, she’s likely helping with pamphlets and flyers for chamber events.
“There are so many wonderful things offered in the Northeast,” Terry said. “Kansas City, in general, has a lot to offer. There’s a lot of friendly people in the midwest and that’s a good thing. It makes this a friendly, inviting city.”