Business

Print Express/Brennan Printing prints a lot of cookbooks

Independence company also handles commercial printing

Megan Mesch, a graphic designer, binds a cookbook with a spiral coil at Print Express/Brennan Printing in Independence on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. The independent custom press prints spiral-bound cookbooks, as well as brochures, pamphlets, and wedding invitations. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Megan Mesch, a graphic designer, binds a cookbook with a spiral coil at Print Express/Brennan Printing in Independence on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. The independent custom press prints spiral-bound cookbooks, as well as brochures, pamphlets, and wedding invitations. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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INDEPENDENCE — As Americans prepare their holiday meals, many will use recipes found in cookbooks produced by a commercial printer in Eastern Iowa.

Sheri Hartkemeyer, owner of Print Express/Brennan Printing, in Independence, said cookbooks account for roughly 50 percent of her business.

That remaining percentage is standard commercial printing, such as business cards, stationery, post cards, covers and wedding items.

Hartkemeyer, who had worked for 20 years selling commercial printing in Cedar Rapids, bought Print Express from Janet Short in 2003.

Three years later, she acquired Miller Printing and expanded beyond quick printing to handle commercial projects for businesses — necessitating a move to a larger building.

“In 2010, we merged Brennan Printing with Print Express and that’s when I started getting into printing cookbooks,” Hartkemeyer recalled.

“In March, we received a call from G&R Publishing of Waverly that it was going to dissolve its custom cookbook division. We were able to absorb that and expand our capabilities for custom cookbooks.

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“We are able to offer cookbooks with full color printed dividers, additional options for pre-designed dividers and covers, UV coated covers or laminated covers, and wire coil binding in addition to our standard plastic coil binding.”

Hartkemeyer said Brennan Printing has been renamed Cookbook Specialists. Customers who printed with Brennan Printing or G&R Publishing custom cookbooks are able to place reorders with Cookbook Specialists, which maintains all of the records and customer files from both companies.

Hartkemeyer said the Cookbook Specialists website, cookbookspecialists.com, allows customers to type in their own recipes, or scan their recipes with the company’s free app, choose their covers and dividers, and price their project.

They also can send their recipes and have them typed into the company’s computer system by one of the employees of Cookbook Specialists.

“We print cookbooks for companies as well as organizations that use them as fundraisers,” Hartkemeyer said.

She cited as an example an order of 2,000 cookbooks for the Clay County Fair, the largest county fair in the state, held each September in Spencer.

“It has all of the Clay County Fair’s blue ribbon recipes for the last 100 years of the fair,” Hartkemeyer said. “We also print cookbooks for restaurants that sell them to customers.

“A lot of the cookbooks and commercial printing come into our system as pdf files, which are ready for printing. All of our employees are able to multitask, which really helps with a staff.of six full-time employees and two part-time men who come in at night.

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“While some of our designers are able to work from home, the production work performed here in Independence is very labor intensive. As we continue to grow, I can see us needing to add people for production.”

Although the majority of the company’s cookbook business comes from the continental United States, Print Express has handled cookbook orders from as far away as Hawaii and the United Kingdom. On the morning that The Gazette interviewed Hartkemeyer for this story, she received a call from the Johnson & Johnson company in Indonesia about printing of a cookbook.

“We also have worked with Procter & Gamble and Oral B in the United States on a cookbook,” she said.

Print Express’s commercial printing customers are primarily regional. Hartkemeyer said the company’s location off Highway 20 in Independence has been a positive in terms of getting product shipped to customers and receiving paper and other printing supplies.

Hartkemeyer, who lives in Keystone and commutes to Independence, typically works a 16-hour week “just trying to keep up with the business.”

“I just married my husband a year ago and our children are grown and gone,” she said. “He sells Pioneer seed, so he is really busy as well.

“I try to work from home sometimes, but a lot of the production has to be done here. We pride ourselves on never missing a deadline. We will do what it takes to get the work done on time.”

George Lake, director of Buchanan County Economic Development, said Print Express plays a vital role in the community.

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“The strength of a community depends on the diversity of its small businesses,” Lake said.

“Print Express provides a service that assists other businesses and keeps dollars within our communities and county.”

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