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Cukjatis to retire, close ad agency

By: WAYNE HEILMAN
January 10, 2013
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photo - John and Mary Cukjati  Photo by COURTESY THE CUKJATIS
John and Mary Cukjati Photo by COURTESY THE CUKJATIS 

Cukjati Design + Technology + Strategy, one of the largest advertising and marketing agencies in the Colorado Springs area, will shut down April 1 after nearly 24 years when owners John and Mary Cukjati retire.

The couple had prepared to turn over ownership of the agency to managing partner Ryan Schaul, but he said he declined to acquire the company because he “wasn’t in the right position in my life to take on the uncertainties of owning a small business in a still relatively up and down economy.” Instead, he and Konstance Smith, Cukjati Design’s associate creative director, will continue to handle some clients independently after the agency shuts down.

John and Mary Cukjati, who are both 65, plan to spend more time with family, including at least four months of each year in Nelson, a small city in southeast British Columbia, where their daughter and son-in-law are starting a vodka and gin distillery. They will help design labels for the startup business.

“We have been planning on this for a year and a half. That is why we promoted Ryan to managing partner. When he decided not to accept ownership of the agency, we decided to close it down instead,” Mary Cukjati said. “I am proud of the creative (work) we have done and the integrity we have maintained in this industry. I also am very proud that we have donated $60,000 to $70,000 of graphic design annually to nonprofits, which adds up to more than $1 million over our 24-year history.”

Cukjati Design employs five people and generated billings last year totaling $1.2 million from 15 to 20 clients, which include the Air Force Academy Athletics Department, Alliance Development Fund of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and American Leprosy Missions in Greenville, S.C. Mary Cukjati started the agency in 1989 — while John was still serving as a lieutenant colonel at Air Force Space Command — after she had been laid off as art director for a local unit of Digital Equipment Corp.; she immediately won Digital as a client.

John Cukjati joined the agency after he retired from the Air Force in 1993 and Cukjati Design grew large enough to buy a downtown office building in the late 1990s for its then 13 employees, Mary Cukjati said. The agency peaked at $3 million in billings in 2000, but Mary Cukjati said the recession that followed the collapse of the technology industry cut the size of the agency in half.

The Colorado Springs Airport, Memorial Health System and Central Bancorp have been among the agency’s clients over the years, including a $500,000 campaign Cukjati put together for the opening of Memorial Hospital North.

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman
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