Archive for Thursday, June 26, 2003

Pressing matters

Printing business puts Blue Collar on shirts, etc.

June 26, 2003

One of Eudora's newer proprietary ventures is an underground business. Literally in the fact that it's housed in the basement of the Quilting Bits and Pieces and Grand Central building downtown; figuratively in the fact that many locals, including curious law enforcement officers, weren't aware it was there.

But having gone largely unnoticed hasn't been a problem for the company, which relies on word-of-mouth advertising to bring more traffic to its business of printing T-shirts and other materials. Co-owners Sean Ingram and Burton Parker said news of their business, which has made promotional items for area bands like Appleseed Cast and The Get Up Kids, spreads from music group to music group. And because area bands tour with out-of-area acts, one band tells another about Blue Collar Press.

"That band tells another," Ingram said. "It's worked."

The Web site for both businesses is www.bluecollarpress.net. Until launching the site, Parker, who also designs Web sites for clients, said the business had spread by word of mouth.

"It had been for a really long time, but we're already getting some bites from (the Web site), so we've been kidding ourselves," he said.

Although T-shirts make up the bulk of the business, Ingram said the company could print on "anything flat," whether that meant posters, record covers or pins, like they did for Zero Skateboards.

But unlike the sights and sounds a customer might expect to come from a print shop, Blue Collar Press is relatively quiet. That's because the printing is still done by hand.

"I'm still romantic about this company," Ingram said.

Even if the company had to rely on automated presses some time in the future, Ingram said he was proud of how the hands-on process could teach other employees the art of printing.

"What I teach is a trade," he said. "As soon as I have a (automated) press, I'm hiring monkeys."

Ingram said he began by teaching employees how to screen white paint on a black T-shirt -- the most difficult order. Once workers can do that, he said, they were set.

In trade publications, Ingram said he'd read about others who wished they were still working with their brush rather than a machine.

"Where it is right now, it's fun to come to work," Ingram said.

The other component of the underground business -- whose round-the-clock hours have drawn curiosity from people wanting to know why there's late-night light in the basement -- is Blue Collar Distro, which sells merchandise for area bands, including Coalesce and The New Amsterdams.

Parker and Ingram work with clients on their designs, too. So long as clients print the design at Blue Collar, the owners consider help with designs a complimentary part of their services, which they began offering in 2000. They began by working out of an unused part of what was then the Red House recording studio building, now BlackLodge. The often-creepy setting, Ingram said, was less than ideal.

So Ingram and Parker jumped at the opportunity when they saw space for rent at 736 Main St. The upstairs storefront, now Grand Central, wasn't what they were looking for, and they asked property owner Bill DeArmond about the basement. Even though Parker and Ingram said DeArmond was skeptical the business owners would be interested, he rented it to them anyway. With the collaborate efforts of DeArmond, the owners, friends and family, the building's basement has become home to the Blue Collar Press, originally named The Bear Press.

But the new digs have their creepy elements, too, like a separate room accessed through a now-covered door in the north wall.

"I think it's a root cellar," Parker said.

"We call it the gateway to hell," Ingram said with a laugh.

But the local proprietors aren't afraid to share their underground space with prospective clients. The business can be reached at 542-1373 or by e-mail at sean@bluecollarpress.net.

Moreover, Ingram said he and Parker were more than welcome to satisfy the curiosity of Eudorans wondering what the guys with tattoos were doing in the basement at 3 a.m.

"Come down," Ingram said. "I'll show you what's down here."

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