So, this is probably the strangest encounter with another printer I have ever come across in my 25 years in business...
I recently purchased a home in the Santa Cruz area and have a full time dedicated letterpress studio where Ive been working for the past year or so. My husband and I just found out we were pregnant and wanted to move the studio closer to our new home in the mountains. It would just be less driving and more space to work in the detached garage and save us some $$.
Part of our move involves meeting the neighbors and frequenting the small main street shops to get a feel for the place. My husband stopped in on a local paper and printing establishment where he could have a few things notarized. The shop owner was very nice to my husband who asked if they did any letterpress printing? The owner said no and that he out sources his letterpress projects but isn't to happy with the cost or quality. My husband mentions that we run a shop in town and if he would be at all interested in a local printer. The owner sounded very pleased and excited by the thought of collaborating and asked to have me stop in sometime and talk more about the details.
My husband comes home and was super excited saying he has a lead that would be a great opportunity. So I go down to the shop and ask for the owner. This is where the story gets weird.
As i walk in the owner is sitting in the back.. its a simple print shop, copy machines, fax machines, laser printers...kind of a copy shop really. I introduce myself and he invites me to the back and says in a sharp tone, "Come here and sit down...I have something to say to you".
It was as if I was in trouble, like a kid in the principles office. He then spends about 20 mins berating me about how I cant just come up to his town and start stealing his clients and taking the food out of his children's mouth. He goes on to say that he is the president of the chamber of commerce and he will never let us ever open up shop even in our own garage. Im shaking by now and tearing up.. I respond with whimpered tones... (mostly because his bullish like behavior was very intimidating and caught me off guard and I was 5 weeks pregnant at the time) ... I tried to explain to him that we are just artists and this was a hobby. I also mentioned that I saw his company as a resource for paper and die cutting and wanted to collaborate, that the letterpress community is one of education and preservation of an antique craft, and that Im not a threat to his business because he doesn't even own a letterpress.
Then he says.. well we are going to buy a press in the future and I don't want you snatching up all the clients in the area. I was really confused at this point and felt like I just wanted to leave. There were other customers in the store waiting for service and I saw my way out. I got up and left immediately.
So much crazy..there was no possible way to convince him that I was an ally not a threat. At this point I'm shaking and crying in the car. It felt like a set up. It took everything I had to keep my husband from going down there and god knows what he would have said.
So in the end... after some long discussions with colleagues, family and friends... we concluded that we will just do what we want with our letterpress shop and not be intimidated by others. But the real point I want to get across is that we are all working for the same goal. To preserve a craft, restore presses and explore the antique printing process. To share with each other our techniques and ideas are not threats to ones business but builds the industry and upholds an institution and way of life as artists and makers.
Be kind to your fellow printers.
So sorry you had this experience. But your story is very well written. He may have been put off by the fact you are a woman! But go on with your shop at home. The rewards will be worth it! And odds are he will never get a press anyways. And good luck with the little one!
Such an unhappy experience! You're right that letterpress is about community and sharing what we know--the bonus is that there is plenty of work for everyone. Your love of the craft and care for your customers will speak volumes.
He doesn't understand, like we do, that there's room for all of us in the pool. Your work and his work are different and will appeal to different people. I also venture to guess that his interactions with his clients might not be all that pleasant either, considering how he was with you. Please keep up your excitement for printing, and keep doing what you do!
And congratulations on the little one!
Funny how he didn't take this on with your husband. Quite the bully.
I would follow up and see if he actually is the president of the chamber of commerce. Santa Cruz is a small enough community. I guarantee that others have had run-ins with this guy. Also, although this was your first encounter, I am pretty confident the rest of the Santa Cruz community will be very welcoming and excited to have a local letterpress shop.
Glad to hear you will be moving forward with your letterpress enterprise. Wishing you much success.