A history worth repeating
In 1933, Armand and Virginia Govin established a modest rubber stamp company that they ran out of their home in Tampa, Florida.
Four generations later, MarkMaster has become the largest custom marking and identification manufacturer in the world.
Armand Govin was born in 1911 in Tampa, Florida. He was the son of two Cuban immigrants, Sabino, a cigar maker by trade, and Ana Govin who moved to America from Cuba in the early 1900’s to take part and flourish in the booming cigar industry. This industrial spirit was passed down to their son and still lives on today, four generations later.
Armand was a born sales man, crafting kites as a child and selling them to neighborhood children. At age 15 he went to work at the Franklin Stamp and Stationery Company where he learned the stamp and marking trade.
At 18 he moved to New York and became the principle mold maker for one of the largest stamp manufacturers in the country.
Three years later, after the death of his father, Armand moved back to Tampa where he met and married Virginia Jeronimo. Together they started a stamp making business out of their home, and in 1933 Govin’s Rubber Stamps was established. Setting up a shop in their living room and front porch, Armand made clay molds and a few signs to advertise the business which featured a mascot they named “the little stamp man.” He placed the signs on his 1928 Model A Coupe and went looking for business while Virginia did the bookkeeping and managed the shop during the day.
Their son Ronald (Ron) was born in 1940. From an early age he worked for the family business after school and in the summer time. The family grew and so did their business. In the early 50’s Armand began to offer other marking products, such as engraved signs and award ribbons. As the business expanded it took over room after room of their home and even the backyard and attic.
They purchased the surrounding homes and kept building until it no longer resembled a house. They lived here until 1960 when, after successfully adding a few office supplies to the product line, the business took over and the family moved to another home.
Armand, now Chairman of the Board, was on the verge of retirement and he and Virginia were well established and respected members of the business community. They were both very comfortable with the rubber stamp manufacturing image they had created. Their well known and highly recognizable mascot, “the little rubber stamp man,” had helped Govin’s become synonymous with rubber stamps.
But Ron had less traditional ideas. He began adding more office supplies to the line and looked for opportunities to expand the Tampa market and beyond. He understood that if Govin’s was ever to be thought of as more than just rubber stamps, the image would have to change, and so would his approach.
He decided to retire the mascot and became aggressive, utilizing direct mail pieces to reeducate the public about all of the products that Govin’s now offered. Thanks in large part to the integrity that Armand and Virginia had instilled in the company’s reputation, the new image was well received. By the late 1960’s Ron had successfully transformed Govin’s from a small, family owned rubber stamp maker to that of a well respected and full-blown office supply dealer.
In 1984 the office supply market started to become unstable due to the large increase of mass supply companies popping up across the nation. In 1986 Govin’s was the largest office supply dealer in the Tampa area, but recognizing the change in the market, the family decided to reinvent themselves by going back to their roots and focus solely on marking products. While they cut ties with office supplies completely, they took with them all of the strategies and values they had learned and applied them to the marking products industry. The new mission wasn’t to simply sell stamps; it was to listen to their customer’s needs and to create innovative services, including the ability to purchase everything from one vendor. These services truly reinvented the industry and set the stage for unimaginable possibilities. This was a new beginning for the company, but the name Govin’s tied them to their past.
On April 1st, 1986, the transformation from office supplies to marking products was complete when the name Govin’s was changed to MarkMaster.
MarkMaster: January, 2000
The 21st century has been one of constant progression, growth and technical advancement.
At the dawn of the new millennium, MarkMaster moved into a new office and manufacturing facility with over 23,000 square feet. This allowed MarkMaster to continue its rapid growth with space to spare.
In 2000, MarkMaster began to use the e-procurement system buying approach which better recognized customer needs, and also moved from fax and paper orders to a predominately online ordering system.
In 2001, MarkMaster purchased the most technologically advanced digital printers and marking machines available, offering remarkable efficiency and the highest quality product in the market.
In 2006, in response to a customer’s request, the company went global and partnered with the Jones Clifton LMT, an affiliate in the U.K. This allowed MarkMaster to provide products on an international level, an initiative that has expanded greatly as the company continues to reach across the globe.
In 2007, Kevin became the CEO of MarkMaster and Ron became the Chairman of the Board. In the same year, they expanded the plant to 34,000 square feet in order to accommodate the flourishing company.
On March 6th, 2008 – MarkMaster celebrated 75 years in the marking and identification business. The Govin’s held a gala in celebration of their achievement and were honored to have more than 100 clients, vendors and friends in attendance. Mark’s daughter, Katie, was the keynote speaker and Ron ended the evening by saying “Let’s make it 75 more.”
Today, MarkMaster serves over 80 Fortune 500 Companies and currently has 17 major product lines and services and has grown to be one of the largest producers of custom marking products in the world. While the processes for manufacturing the product has changed from the clay molds of the 1930s to the laser production of today, the company’s integrity and reputation as well as the industrial spirit of its leaders has been constant.
Looking back on Armand and Virginia’s aspirations to create a long-lasting family business, it is clear that their dreams have become a reality. Robert, Britt, Katie, and Caleb have continued the tradition their great-grandfather started by working for the family business after school and in the summer time. Katie and Robert are currently working for MarkMaster full-time in key roles. These are the fourth generation of Govin’s involved in the little rubber stamp business that was founded over 75 years ago.
Virginia and Armand Govin. Founders of Govin’s Rubber Stamps.