100-year-old co. starts next generation of ownership

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On March 29, 2002, Colorado Springs’ oldest business (founded in 1883), Gowdy-Printcraft Press, acquired its third owners in 120 years. The company’s purchasers bring a wealth of print industry background, state-of-the-art equipment upgrades and a fresh entrepreneurial perspective to the operation located in two facilities on Sierra Madre in lower downtown.

President and principal owner, Jim Grammer, along with co-owner, Don Hess, expect to build on the company’s long-standing reputation by offering the Pikes Peak region’s first full-service design-printing-mailing services operation. Grammer’s career includes more than twenty-five years in the marketing and sales of graphic products. Hess has owned his own four-color short-run printing company in Colorado Springs. Together, the two men have more than fifty years combined in the printing industry, and they look forward to meeting the changing needs of the region’s commercial printing market.

“The greatest asset that we have,” says Hess, “is quality employees – many of whom have worked here for more than fifteen or twenty years.” Hess and Grammer agree that during pre-sale negotiations, it was the experience and professionalism of the staff that stood out. “Some of our pressmen have been in the business for more than thirty years,” says Grammer.

As soon as due diligence was completed, the two buyers, with input from long-time Gowdy employee and newly-named production manager, Karl Becker and plant manager, Dan Bernheim, added high-speed color presses and bindery equipment to the firm’s already diverse equipment capabilities. In July 2002, the company’s large web newspaper press underwent complete renovation and upgrading to further enhance quality, speed and cost-efficiencies for customers.

Gowdy-Princraft’s new directions and enhanced expertise will enable the company to provide “turnkey” or “a la carte” services from concept through production to mailbox. Tex Stuart, the firm’s new director of marketing, has over 30 years experience in advertising, publishing, broadcast and direct mail. Stuart has won local, regional and international awards for clients including Southern Living magazine and AT&T. Gowdy has also added three new local account service representatives, Frank Alvarado, Diane Webb, and J.R. Hadley, who bring considerable experience to the southern Colorado market.

Known for its many military publications including the Ft. Carson Mountaineer (which Gowdy has published since 1942); the U.S. Air Force Academy Spirit (since 1956), the Schreiver Air Force Base Satellite Flyer; and two monthly retired enlisted and retired officer’s association newspapers, Gowdy also will soon announce several additional special interest newspapers to utilize the company’s upgraded web press and help advertisers reach vertical markets. One example is the new 2002 Ft. Carson Newcomers Guide and Telephone Directory provided to each new family or soldier stationed on post. In all cases, Gowdy assigns an “editor” who helps compile stories and information at each installation, sells advertising for each paper or directory, and serves as a liason on all printing and delivery.

Other large commercial printing customers over the years have included U.S.A. Hockey, Pikes Peak Community College, and The Broadmoor Hotel. “We publish a number of local college and university weeklies newspapers as well,” says Stuart, noting that Gowdy prints the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Scribe, the Pikes Peak Community College Newsletter and the Colorado College Catalyst. “Fortunately, we have downtime this summer while the school papers are not publishing to overhaul and clean our big presses.”

The company’s first major new direction will be Peak Response, its direct mail division with complete personalized laser printing, ink-jet and inserting equipment along with list and creative services to target the message and the market. “Many charities are looking for better ways to reach their donor base, and we will be able to help create, address and mail pieces three or four times a year. Best of all, it will be cost-effective,” he said.

Prior to its recent purchase, Gowdy-Printcraft enjoyed a rich family ownership legacy. Founded by Leland Gowdy almost 120 years ago, in 1938, the business was purchased by then Linotype operator, Fred Bernheim. That same year, the company merged with Printcraft Press, then owned by E.R. Chandler and Allan Dorsey, and took on the name it is known by today, Gowdy-Printcraft Press. As the company grew, Fred Bernheim was joined in the business by his sons, John and Dan Bernheim, and daughter, Phyllis Allen. Each played key roles in the company’s continued growth throughout the last century and into the millennium.

The Bernheims ran the business until Grammer and Hess approached them earlier this year. “A vendor contacted me upon finding out that Gowdy might be for sale,” said Hess, noting that negotiations began in early 2002. Dan Bernheim continues to work for the operation while his brother and sister left to pursue other ventures. John Bernheim says that his family will also retain ownership of the company’s two production facilities totaling approximately 17,000 square feet in downtown Colorado Springs.

Continuity in customer service and production, in addition to addressing equipment issues, tops the chief executive officer’s list of priorities. “We’re just completing phase one which includes almost $1million in new equipment and an office facelift,” said Grammer. The next phase will include customer education and increased marketing to support the company’s increased production capacity. “We very much want to communicate with and keep our existing accounts,” says Grammer, “but there are also a number of new target markets on our horizon.”

The printing business has been changing rapidly, thanks to technology, say the owners, and the firm will be constantly exploring new graphics processes. “A few years ago,” Don Hess points out, “a four-color short run was cost prohibitive, but not with today’s technology.”

Customer education about Gowdy’s increased capabilities is a high priority for the management team. “We are really working on our image – and need to let the community know that we’re offering something that Colorado Springs has never had before,” Grammer says. To accomplish this, the firm is already preparing for an open house later this fall – and plans to show off its recently-acquired six-color Heidelberg press that handles pages up to 40 inches wide, as well as the mail processing center. Gowdy-Printcraft Press will continue to be a large volume shipper, sending out hundreds of boxes of printed material all over the United States each month.

Both Grammer and Hess expect to grow regional business, while remaining headquartered in Colorado Springs. Even though a local enterprise, Gowdy’s management keeps an eye on international finance – and the recent switch to the euro in Europe did impact the bottom line. “We’ve seen newsprint prices increase dramatically since it’s been in use,” says Becker, “but it’s still cheaper to buy our paper overseas and have it shipped in than to buy domestically.”

So, with variable data printing (direct mail printing and processing), hundreds of thousands of dollars in new printing presses, and a motivated management team that lives for the precise and deadline-driven world of printing, Gowdy-Printcraft Press is poised for the next generation of faster, turnkey printing services – offered at a competitive price.