Locally Owned & Operated in the Bitterroot Valley Since 1970
The County’s Oldest & Most Complete Printing Facility
Professional Impressions was created in 1970, in a roadside travel complex south of Darby on Highway 93 that some will remember as Travelers Village. But, the background was set long before that. Larry, the owner and co-founder, was born into the printing business. His grandfather published a small town paper in the thirties and forties, and later his father became involved in the business, adding commercial printing, and eventually becoming highly successful printing forms for the medical community in southern California.
Like many kids, Larry wanted “to be like dad,” and at one point started his own little business, using an old press and some supplies from the big shop. He called it the One Press Print Shop and had a great time making cards and other items for his friends. He soon outgrew the facility and began to work in earnest for the big shop, evenings, weekends, and summers while he was still in school. When Bob sold the shop in 1964, Larry was only thirteen but by then, had already completed much of his printer’s apprenticeship.
Bob then founded and ran a small non-profit magazine until 1968. Again Larry became involved in the production. In 1969 the family moved to the Bitterroot Valley and built a small truck and tourist stop just south of Conner—Travelers Village. It contained a restaurant, store, garage, gas station, motel, and camp-ground—and, guess what else? To provide cash receipts, bookkeeping forms, menus, and such for the truck stop, they once again organized a small print shop, comprised of equipment left over from the many years of family association with printing. It was named Ye Olde Printe Shoppe. Soon the word was out that, “They have a printing press up there!”
Bob wanted to stay retired from the commercial end of it, but did do several jobs for the locals in his spare time. Meanwhile, Larry had entered college in Missoula, and was adding to his printing knowledge working there at The Advertiser. He perfected his skills in the offset pressroom and bindery in that shop, while employed for almost three years.
In 1974 Bob survived a heart attack and decided to really retire. He offered Travellers Village as a business venture to his three children. They accepted, but after a year they decided that the truck stop business was not for them, so they sold Travellers Village. By now Ye Olde Printe Shoppe was about four years old and was regularly producing quite a number of jobs. Larry was offered a full-time job to work for Miles Romney at The Western News, in Hamilton. This was one of the last remaining letterpress (printing from cast metal type) weekly papers in the country, and enabled him to learn a great deal more about this process. This was unusual for someone his age because by this time most of the old-time letterpress printers had retired or passed on. He remembers this time with much affection and appreciation.
In 1976 Miles died, leaving the future of The Western News uncertain. When The Ravalli Republic purchased it, Larry went to work for the new owners. He was trained there and became accomplished at running the web offset newspaper press. He later was promoted to floorman of their commercial printing facility.
But, let’s not forget about Ye Olde Printe Shoppe. The little printery which had been moved from the Travellers Village complex to Larry’s garage on his property just next door, continued to produce jobs while Larry continued to work at The Ravalli Republic. But soon it became evident that there was a real need for a serious professional printer in this valley, so Larry left The Ravalli Republic and took the plunge, with his dad as an advisor. They renamed it Professional Impressions, because of its double meaning: first, the professional quality work makes an “impression” on the customer, and second, in printer’s terminology, an “impression” is made when raised letterpress type prints onto paper.
About a year later, The Ravalli Republic offered its commercial printing facility for sale, wanting to concentrate solely on their paper. Professional Impressions was the obvious buyer—equipment, accounts, and all. We added a large section onto the garage for a pressroom and our growth increased steadily.
Larry’s wife, Mary, joined the ranks in 1982, bringing to Professional Impressions her rare combination of experience in typesetting and graphic design, fine arts and artistic talents, along with an education and discipline in the fields of composition, grammar, usage, and punctuation. She began working in the commercial art trade in high school as a part-time assistant for an author/illustrator of children’s books. In 1975, after her four-plus years of college training which included majoring in commercial and fine arts and minoring in English, she left her three-year position as assistant manager of the advertising/marketing department of a major savings and loan to move “out West.” Her training and creativity combination form a graphic design ability that is generally (and of course, subjectively) considered by many customers and professionals around the county to be “the best there is.” Professional Impressions has garnered two national awards (a first and a second place) in two different contests for design excellence for printed jobs submitted by two separate clients.
Mary has worked virtually full-time, either as a typesetting/graphic design employee or free-lance graphic designer since 1972 when every line was drawn with a technical (excruciatingly temperamental) ink pen and every piece of cold (not metal) type was pasted in place and positioned by hand with a triangle and T-square. Even a minor mistake or change meant a major do-over. She has seen the advent of IBM strike-on typesetting which used a one-time carbon ribbon with everything having to be keyboarded twice, and blind keypunch machines (no screen, only coded paper tape and human memory) on phototypesetters which exposed film using a strobe lamp flashed through a film master and a series of lenses. Every font change was a time-consuming, mechanical/hand operation. Every line of type required extensive keyboard codes to designate font, size, leading, secondary leading, line lengths, type of paragraph set-up, tabs, indents, and hyphenation—real endurance training considering these are all now done with a simple mouse click. Everything on the monochrome screen was displayed in DOS letters and symbols. Those machines used punched paper tapes, then 8″ floppy disks, then cassette tapes for memory—the hard disk drives had not yet been developed! In fact, one machine we owned deployed electronic “hard” memory—it weighed 125 pounds and boasted a total memory capacity of 16K! (That is 1/88 of a 3½” high density floppy disk.)
Her strong interest in typography¬—its form, history, and standard applications—recently led her to “do battle” with a national magazine chain which was consistently making a certain typographical error in their publications. The outcome eventually lead to her being offered the opportunity to informally lecture journalism students at the UofM regarding the importance of stan-dard, professionally accepted (“correct”) typographical usage.
Now, Professional Impressions is by far the oldest established and best equipped facility in the valley. We have produced over 35,000 jobs since our beginning in 1970. We have an undisputed reputation for producing the highest quality work at a competitive price. We have grown from two printing presses to ten. We brought the first Heidelberg press (the Cadillac of real presses, not just a duplicator) to this valley—now we have four of them. We installed the first and only large format sheet-fed press in the valley. We are looking forward to the near future plans of including direct-to-plate technology, and have added several brand new computers.
We have been the leaders in the valley in typesetting equipment for four revolutions in this facet of the industry—all the way from hot lead type to strike-on-paper type to “ticker tape” storage to digitally output film. We had the first and only electronic graphics camera here, the first high resolution scanner, the first digital film imager, and the list goes on. Our typesetting and design complex now has eight desktop computer stations, three proof printers, thousands of dollars worth of software, and IBM and Macintosh operating systems. And it is upgraded, it seems, every week.
In our modern bindery and finishing department we have six automatic folding machines. We boast five paper cutters, two collators, two booklet stitchers, and an automated booklet maker. We also have the valley’s only raised printing (thermography) machine and the only “perfect” bookbinder.
We have the only complete and fully functional letterpress facility still running in this part of the state, including four presses, three typecasters, and literally tons of related tools, type, and equipment, including equipment for high speed numbering, scoring, die cutting, and perforating.
We often produce jobs as contract work for local and national printers, design shops, and advertising agencies when special or unusual operations are required. These companies realize that sometimes nothing short of our quality will do.
We are delighted to be the publishers of Tidbits of the Bitterroot Valley, and to celebrate over five successful years. Our branch office in Hamilton serves as a convenience for our printing customers and a home office for Tidbits which continues to be a great success and lots of fun.
We’re proud of our history and excited about our future.