For a business that makes and sells trophies — the embodiment of accomplishments, victories, public recognition and even participation — surviving the economic downturn was no small feat.

Some youth and adult sports leagues eliminated trophies to cut expenses, some tournaments disappeared, and some organizations switched from larger trophies to less expensive medals, said Mike Reeves, 39, the owner of Crown Trophy of Mays Landing, an independently owned franchise.

“Overall, a lot of them cut back years ago,” said Reeves, a Mays Landing resident who just bought an existing Crown Trophy franchise in Cherry Hill in December.

Reeves, who owns the business with his stepson, Dennis Bakker Jr., 22, sees the second location as a way to boost sales.

“It works for us because we have the obvious advantage of inventory, production and shared resource we could combine and save money on. That’s why it kind of worked for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, 2012 represented a significant turnaround since the recession — it was the first time since 2008 sales did not decline, he said.

“We almost did identical to the year before. In my eyes, that’s a good sign. … We managed to maintain our customers,” he said.

As in many other industries where the prolonged sluggish economy brought long-lasting effects, the Atlantic County trophy company had to adapt to less business following years of increases.

This meant longer hours for Reeves and the mostly family staff that works there.

“(Before the recession,) the big thing is we grew a staff. We had up to five people at one point, and the recession kind of took away those jobs. We run lean and mean like we used to with just the family,” he said.

Reeves first bought an independent trophy business, Award Trophies & Engraving in 2001, after working for years as a parts manager at an area car dealership.

“We took over where they left off, but we opened longer hours,” he said. “They were only operating at night, things like that. We were operating during the day and night, doing whatever we could to be aggressive to gain customers.”

The approach worked, Reeves said, although he worked full time at the dealership for several years as the trophy business grew.

Reeves said he joined the Crown Trophy franchise in 2004 as he was looking for ways to grow the business, particularly over the Internet.

“We started to grow. The only problem is we realized right away we needed some type of website or catalog for this type of business. … We were having a hard time marketing to someone in Cape May, for example,” he said.

Crown Trophy has 150 locations in more 40 states, the Hawthorne, N.Y.-based company says.

The trophy and awards-making business involves more than sports leagues. Reeves said his clients include churches and corporations.

Even budget-conscious companies feeling the economy’s effects have been aware of the recognition that awards provide.

“We even hear sometimes from the companies that is more important that someone get recognized with an award, which would surprise people, but they want to be recognized,” he said. “Sometime it’s worth it more than the 50-cent raise.”

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