@Work: Ink Drop

Sept. 14, 2008 — Like many people from up north, Wayne and Kathie Fraederich, owners of Ink Drop printer refills, had been coming to the Caribbean to escape the ice and snow. For nearly two decades, they journeyed from Wisconsin to bask in the Caribbean sunshine sometimes as often as four times a year.
"On the 23rd hour of the sixth day God created the Caribbean saying, 'I need to make one place that's perfect'," Kathie Fraederich mused. "He made hurricanes to keep us on our toes, though."
The couple made the decision to move to the islands about six years ago when the unexpected death of Kathie Fraederich's cousin lit a fire under them.
"Life is too short to wait until retirement to move to the Caribbean," Kathie Fraederich said. She said her cousin, who died of a heart attack, was a couple of years younger than her and seemingly in perfect health.
"Death makes you start to think about living life the way it should be," she said.
From that sad start, the couple began to make a new life for themselves. Wayne Fraederich started looking on the Internet for a job, finding one in the Source classified section. He landed a job as a music teacher at Alfredo Andrews Elementary School.
It was a perfect fit for him because his passion and talents lie in music. For more than 20 years, he played the French horn in the National Guard Military Band, playing all over the world. He now plays in the Santa Cruz Brass Band.
Kathie Fraederich, a chemical dependency counselor, made one phone call and got a job at the Village V.I. Partners in Recovery.
But neither of their jobs was perfect. Wayne Fraederich said it was the hardest he had worked in 20 years, and the job's funding ran out after two years. Kathie Fraederich said officials take a different approach in the Virgin Islands working with addiction than her training dictated. She said it was difficult working at the Village and there was a funding glitch so she only spent 2-1/2 years there.
Three years ago, some acquaintances introduced them to the business of refilling printer ink and toner cartridges, and they soon opened Ink Drop in Peter's Rest.
"It seemed so smart to contribute to recycling, and it put us in control of our own lives," Wayne Fraederich said. "It's fun and it makes sense. Refilling ink isn't strenuous or brain surgery — anyone can catch on."
After the first couple of weeks of working together, they realized they had to set up boundaries.
"There is a division where we don't talk about personal stuff here," Kathie Fraederich said. "It makes life simpler."
"I can pinch hit on filling the cartridges," Kathie Fraederich said. "I'm not as adept at filling as Wayne is and the technology can change rapidly." She said she takes care of the books and the creative end of the business with the design of ads, flyers and posters.
Wayne Fraederich said the process of refilling is no more complicated than refilling a gas tank. He cleans nozzles and spot checks the cartridge making sure the contacts and nozzles are in good shape. He does a bathing and flushing for proper ink flow than refills the cartridge.
"We fill up the cartridge with as much ink as it will hold — more than the manufacturer always does," Wayne Fraederich said. He held up an open cartridge with the sponge inside, not even half full of ink.
At first the concept of refilling cartridges was strange to people, Kathie Fraederich said, but they are starting to catch on. She said the couple had expected to be farther along in their business plan by now, but they are continuing to grow and would like to expand.
"Our original customers have become loyal customers," Wayne Fraederich said.
The Fraederichs encourage people to come in and talk to them and do research before buying a printer.
"In many cases the replacement cartridges cost more than the printer," Wayne Fraederich said.
Kathie Fraederich does more in the way of recycling in her little cottage industry, Tropical Twists, designing and sewing purses, eyeglass cases and book covers from denim that is thrown out by the Closet to Closet resale shop. She said they fill up the landfill with piles of jeans that have holes in the knees, but the backside is intact.
"With this enterprise we actively contribute to recycling," Wayne Fraederich said.
To save gas for customers, they have two drop-off locations: in Frederiksted at Turtles Deli and Cruzan Creations in Gallows Bay. The main location is the little red-and-yellow building next to Closet to Closet at 15 Peter's Rest.
Ink Drop hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and V.I. holidays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about the business recycling services call 778-3767.
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