Virtual Press Clips: Print Firms in the News
“Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms.
By Patrick Henry
Published: September 8, 2009
“Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms.” So believed Charles and Herbert Hatch, who in 1879 opened what continues to be one of the oldest working letterpress shops in America: Hatch Show Print of Nashville, TN. The shop—now owned and operated by Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame—is famous for hand-composed, hand-pulled prints promoting concerts and entertainment events of many other kinds. Lettering and embellishments come from a collection of thousands of wood blocks and metal types. Printing is done on an array of hand-operated machines including four Van der Cook proofing presses. Part museum and part museum shop, Hatch Show Print produces about 600 posters per year in runs that typically range from 100 to 250 prints. The shop’s story is told in this video at YouTube, and stills of its type collection can be seen here. The Smithsonian Institution has created a traveling exhibition, American Letterpress, comprising 120 Hatch posters and related typesetting artifacts. (Editor’s note: thanks to Examiner.com, an online news network that bills itself as “the insider source for everything local,” for piquing our interest with this article about the poster art of Hatch Show Print.) Although the span currently getting all of the media attention is the crack-prone San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, a bridge construction project in Westfield, MA, is making life complicated for residents and businesses in that city as well. One of the businesses is Westfield Printing, whose manager, Jacqueline M. Lively, talked about the project’s impact in an article in The Republican (Springfield, MA). “It has definitely affected our walk-in business,” the story quotes her as saying. According to the story, the area in front of the shop on Elm Street has been part of a construction zone since August 18, and the project is expected to stretch into next year. “You don’t always see how (the work) can disrupt business until it moves into your front yard," Lively says, adding that her customers now have to “negotiate” their way around the activity. Still, Westfield Printing may be luckier than another small business on Elm Street, Threadz by Design. Its owner, Dorothy A. Santaniello, told the paper that the bridge project “has all but eliminated our walk-in traffic.” How to be sure that graphic design will be printable? Hire the same person to be both the graphic designer and the printer. You can do that in Bartow, FL, by paying a visit to Envision Print & Design, a newly opened business whose owner, Doris Dionne, is the subject of a profile in the town’s newspaper, The Polk County Democrat. The story says that Dionne has worked in design and production for 26 years, including the last 16 as the proprietor of a graphic design agency to which she has added printing, binding, and copying services. Besides producing billboards, trade show displays, brochures, calendars, menus, and other kinds of commercial work, Dionne also offers to “rebuild” jobs for which customers have retained the original artwork. The common denominator is artwork that won’t cause headaches on press. As the company’s web site puts it, “Great printing can be ruined with poor design. Image is everything.” The recession continues to keep the pressure on small graphics businesses of all kinds, and tales of struggle for survival are abundant everywhere in the country. Gibsonville, NC, has been the setting for the tale of one such struggle, that of sign and display printer Custom Made, Inc. A story in The Times-News of Burlington, NC, reports that the last two years have been particularly challenging for owner Diane Heath, who started the business in 1991. The story says that although the company is modestly profitable now, Heath was forced to make hard decisions about cutting expenses “to the absolute bone” and reducing headcount (by three employees). Like many small businesses, Custom Made also came close to exhausting its line of credit—a problem that was partially solved by obtaining a “bridge loan” from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The overall experience, which according to the story brought Heath to the brink of closing her doors, has left her hesitant about the future. The story says she is “wrestling” with the decision whether to secure the more financing for the technology upgrades that her business requires. Gray Zeitz, proprietor of Larkspur Press, doesn’t have a computer, doesn’t do e-mail, and doesn’t have a cell phone. His Monterey, KY, workshop for handmade books has a web site, but Zeitz says he’s seen it only twice. What he does see to is the exquisite detail of the books that he hand-composes and prints, one letterpress page at a time, for the mostly Kentuckian circle of authors whose printer he has been for the last 35 years. A long feature in Chevy Chaser Magazine (Lexington, KY) tells the story of Larkspur Press and of Zeitz’s lifelong dedication to craftsmanship and the arts of the book. His focus on local authors, both new and established, enables the shop to keep up a steady production of handmade editions that the story says are no more expensive than books printed the mass-market way. Larkspur Press doesn’t advertise, but its works are well represented at regional bookstores and book fairs. Zeitz also hosts an annual open house and conducts workshops. A sidebar to the story profiles local artist John Lackey, who creates cover art and other illustrations for Larkspur Press. Finally, as a post-Labor Day observation, we note that the Print & Copy Center of Verona, PA, has earned a place on the 2009 American Rights At Work Labor Day list of businesses that work well with unions. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the 11-employee business includes three workers represented by the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, commonly known in the industry as GCIU. The sponsor of the list, American Rights at Work, says that the firms on it “walk the walk when it comes to respecting their own workers’ rights. Every business profiled in this year's report has spoken out on the need for meaningful labor law reform.” According to the Gazette, owner James O’Malley grew up in a union household with a police officer for a father and firefighters for uncles. This prepared him for the eventual ownership of a unionized business: “For me, it was a natural," he is quoted as saying. One benefit of having been a union shop for more than 12 years, says the story, is to the ability to affix the union label to all printed jobs.