Longtime engraving business says goodbye

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 1, 2016

 Lang performs engraving services during his last week as co-owner of Engraving Specialist in Royal Oak. The business will close its doors after more than 40 years.

Lang performs engraving services during his last week as co-owner of Engraving Specialist in Royal Oak. The business will close its doors after more than 40 years.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROYAL OAK — Visiting Engraving Specialist in the business’s  modified Washington Street house was like walking into an era when customer service included a long conversation about how the family was doing.

This level of kinship has come to a close, as partners Dick Lang and Kent Randall have decided to retire after more than four decades of helping clients with myriad engraving needs.

The gentlemen said they were closing their doors permanently May 31, saying goodbye to their longtime clients and daily routines like only lifelong friends and business partners could.

For a large majority of the business’s run, it provided fine hand engraving for the best of the best.

Before freestyle engraver and former partner Marc Milosevich retired years ago and left the state, the business boasted a client base including Tiffany’s, the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Red Wings.

But soon the specialty service turned to computerized engraving and etching, with the exception of the work Lang does on non-flat surfaces.

Times further changed with 9/11, as households, businesses and school districts began looking at bottom lines in the red.

“Engraving became a luxury,” Lang said. “It hasn’t been a big moneymaker anymore.”

Lang explained that all clients along with their files were transferred to a trusted company in Madison Heights, which will be taking over for the gentlemen come June 1.

But what will be truly missed come June 1 is more than just a vintage service.

Walking into the business was more like walking into a buddy’s house with the wood paneling, lack of pomp and circumstance, and the store mascot: Abby, a 12-year-old Samoyed.

“We don’t have the fanciest of stores, but we’ve always done good work and I think people appreciate that,” Randall said.

Lang and Randall have been close friends for about 50 years. They met when they were 16 and spend their time together during the work day, on the golf course and with their families.

“It’s been good. We’ve been friends,” Lang said. “It hasn’t been like going to a regular job. We go out to dinner together with our wives, we go to ballgames, play golf. We’re not related, but it’s kind of like a family affair.”

They greeted longtime customers with 10-minute chats and were known to not charge soldiers or to stay late into the night without a rush fee to make sure a last-minute order was completed.

“That’s the way we’ve been and that’s the way the customers treat us,” Lang said.

Customers even came into the old house near Royal Oak Middle School to talk about how they took piano lessons there when it was a home.

“We’ve had some great customers,” Randall said.

Lang said they received retirement cards from out-of-state customers and had customers drive in from outside of Royal Oak just to say goodbye.

Judy Donlin, with the Ferndale Musical Boosters, is one of the clients who will miss Engraving Specialist.

Donlin rushed in last week to have one final plaque engraved for the boosters before the business closed for good.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” she said, adding that she was so sad to receive the letter stating that they were retiring.

Lang plans on eventually putting the place up for sale after cleaning it out.

Both men look forward to some rest and relaxation in their retirements.

Lang’s plans include eating, drinking and golfing. He also has five children and nine grandchildren spread out across the state, so he plans on keeping busy.

“My wife has been retired for two years, and she goes, ‘How did I ever have time to go to work?’” he said.

Randall said his wife will retire at the end of June.

“I’m going to relax, play golf, spend time with my wife and dog, and do things we couldn’t do before,” Randall said. “When I’m retired, I’m assuming you can just pick the nice day and go.”

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