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Paper, ink and determination

Maurice Woods had a special pair of shoes he would wear when he visited potential customers in Jasper.

He wanted them to know that his fledgling printshop in Holland was hungry for business so during those meetings, he’d cross one leg over his knee to expose the hole worn in the shoe’s sole.

That fledgling print shop is now in its third generation of leadership and celebrating 50 years in business.

Maurice ended up in Indiana from the Harrodsburg, Kentucky tobacco farm he grew up on through a series of seemingly spontaneous decisions. He left the farm as soon as he could to head to an accounting school in Louisville. After graduating, he took a job with a firm in the city.

“They took him up in an elevator and into this big room where all he saw were people at desks with adding machines,” Sharon Springston, his daughter, said. “He took one look and said, ‘not for me.’”

The outdoorsman knew that being encompassed in the cubicle confines would be a spiritual death sentence. He left and never looked back. Fumbling around with various jobs over the next couple of years, he eventually found his calling in paper and ink. After being taken on as an apprentice pressman with Pinaire Lithographing, a Louisville printing company, he fell in love with the trade.

Family photos of Maurice, Emma Lou, and Sharon.

With that love came expertise that was noticed by a small printing outfit in Holland. Maurice had been sent over to help repair a press operated by Shamrock Printing and the owner, Don Reeves, was so impressed with his talents, he offered him a job as the foreman in the company.

After some thought, he decided to take the job, uprooting the family from the metropolitan life they were accustomed to for the rural life he missed. “Dad loved it,” Sharon said about moving to Dubois County. “My mother (Emma Lou) did not like it, she loved the city.”

Emma Lou didn’t drive, a requirement for country living. In the city, she and Sharon could hop on a bus to go to Bacon’s — a once-popular department store. Holland didn’t offer those conveniences. Until she eventually learned how to drive, she had to rely on help from people she met to get to a store or wait for Maurice to be available.

Sharon was in the third grade at the time of the move and it was a big change for her as well. “We had a brand new school in Louisville and the school in Holland was heated with a coal stove and was old,” she remembered.

The day they moved, Sharon had chickenpox. “So I spent the first three weeks here sick; mother was not happy,” she said.

When she finally made it to the small school, Sharon, who was tall for her age, immediately stood out. “When I walked in, everyone went…,” she explained swiveling her head. “I remember that vividly because there was one boy in the class, he was the tallest and he had to look up at me.”

Maurice, however, hit the ground running at Shamrock Printing. The company was heavily involved in printing desktop calendar pads for Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). ASI was a national group and as a contract printer for them, Shamrock had a fairly well-established system for the work.

But Woods saw another area they could expand into.

“Maurice got to know people in the communities and saw the potential for the local commercial work,” said Sharon’s husband David Springston, who has also served as president of the company.

Maurice prodded Reeves to invest more into the local commercial work and he agreed. Unfortunately, Reeves’ focus was still on the national orders. “Anytime ASI stuff came in, anything that was commercial was just sitting there,” David said.

In effect, Maurice was bringing this business in and promising local accounts they would get it done. When the ASI work pushed it off the schedule, Maurice looked bad. He eventually ended up leaving Shamrock Printing.

Maurice worked for another printer out of Oakland City for a while. Finally, when the pay he was promised there didn’t work out, he decided to make a big jump. “He just threw his hands up and said, ‘That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to start my own,’” Sharon said. “Mom just looked at him like he was nuts.”

Maurice was nearly 40 when he established Woods Printing in Holland in 1971. He sought out local commercial work like invoices, forms, envelopes, and other paperwork he could print on the used A.B. Dick printing press he purchased and put in his basement. This was before the now ubiquitous copy machine made its way into offices.

Sharon was just finishing high school and beginning college as her dad was establishing Woods. David and she had been dating for a few years and she would ride with David’s father to Evansville where she was going to school. “He worked at Central and I needed to go to Ivy Tech downtown so we rode together to save money,” she explained. “I remember this vividly. Mom said, ‘Money’s tight. Your dad gets up every morning and throws up.’”

Maurice networked and sought out partnerships with other print shops in the area to ensure he could offer his clients whatever they needed. He didn’t have a machine that could perforate papers so he partnered with an Evansville shop that could. Through that relationship, he was also able to offer rubber stamps. When the Evansville company closed years later, the owner’s son came to work at Woods and he still works there currently.

He built strong customer relationships with the Holland Dairy, Dolly Madison Industries and the auto dealerships. It was those meetings with Alvin Ruxer and others in Jasper when he would wear his special shoes.

“My mother would get so mad when he would wear those shoes,” Sharon laughed.

But it worked, whether they saw his hunger or admired his bootstrapping mentality, Maurice won them over as customers and built Woods Printing.

Eventually, he had to move from the basement to the back of a nearby barbershop, Fred’s Barbershop, that was next to Boom’s Cafe. “Dad and Fred (Abshire) were good friends,” Sharon said.

The print shop took up the 20-by-20 space in the back of the shop. Some orders required more room to complete though. “I remember there were these long benches along two walls in the barbershop and we were printing schematics for Kimball Electronics at the time,” Sharon said. “Me and another girl would put them in piles on these benches and collate them. We had to finish before Fred opened the barbershop.”

Jim “Heavy” Hildenbrand prep cutting sheets for a job on a press. He still works for Woods today.
On left, Rick Iglehart operating the AB Dick printing press. This press is still in use at Woods for envelope and letterhead jobs. 

Maurice hired Steve Curtice as his first pressman. “Dad could then go out and make calls (on customers),” Sharon said.

The business continued to grow and it wasn’t too long before Maurice moved into the first portion of a building at 601 W. Main Street in Holland that through multiple additions has become the company’s current home.

“Maurice really hit it off with the managers that handled the piano and organ work at Kimball,” David explained pointing out what helped the business grow in those early years.

Schematics and paperwork were a big part of that, but Woods also began printing the pieces used to create advertisements for other publishers. Those pieces would get sent to advertising agencies who would then use them to create advertisements in various sizes and layouts for different publications — something that only requires an email address and an editable electronic file these days to accomplish.

He brought in modern equipment and began offering better print quality — still black and white but with halftones that allowed for more detail to stand out in the prints. “That was something he really hung his hat on,” David said.

Maurice preferred black and white and resisted moving to color until the second generation of the family came aboard.

David had been an engineer with Kimball Electronics for many years but as their organ business began to falter to overseas companies, he could see the writing on the wall. Maurice had been asking him to come work at Woods for several years and the time seemed right for David to finally make the transition. “I made the decision to give it a try and, you know, it came with the trepidation of working with my father-in-law,” David said. “It worked out. We worked well together for many years and made strides in the company.”

While slightly behind the curve of modernization, they began to move toward digital with the addition of computers and typesetting software. Woods continued to thrive since desktop printing was still some time away.

Then, local companies began to move from black and white catalogs to full-color. David started telling Maurice they needed to consider adding color printing but he wasn’t convinced. “He would say, ‘I don’t have all the black and white printing in this county yet. And I’m not going to get involved in the headaches that are in color process printing,’” said David who left out some of the colorful expletives that generally held Maurice’s sentiments about color printing together.

Maurice’s son-in-law David Springston took over leading the Holland company in 1982.

At that time, David was the one meeting with customers and hearing their needs though. “He became less obstinate after a time,” he said about Maurice.

Woods Printing attempted to outsource the color printing but eventually found themselves competing with those outsourced companies for the work. In the 90s, they moved to 4-color printing. Admittedly, maybe ten years later than necessary, it modernized the print shop and allowed them to persevere through leaner seasons in which other small to medium print shops faltered.

With Maurice somewhat retired — he didn’t stop coming into the shop until the last five years of his life (he passed in 2010 and Emma Lou passed away in 2020) — and David at the helm for several years, the company maintained those important relationships and continued operating with the mindset of treating all customers the same no matter how big the job. They grew and added onto the building to accommodate that growth even expanding their workforce to 25 employees.

Eventually, David and Sharon began to consider a succession plan for the important Holland company.

David and Sharon Springston.

“I saw my dad’s vision,” Sharon said who had always been there to fill in for any needs at the company. “Those years when he was starting, he was so passionate and loved it so much. It’s in me and I think our children know how much the printing business meant to my dad and our family.”

In 2011, they reached out to their daughter, Devin Craig and her husband, Brian — coincidentally, Brian’s mom worked as Don Reeves’ secretary at Shamrock Printing — as well as their son, Derek and his wife, Brittany. Derek had built a life and had a business in Colorado. The Craigs were living in Indianapolis where Devin was a choir teacher and Brian worked in healthcare where he felt stagnate.

They both saw how important the company was to their family and the community.

“We talked about it and decided this is something we want to take on,” Devin explained. “For me, the thought of this company that I grew up in going to someone that wasn’t in our family didn’t sit well.”

They also saw it as an opportunity to return to their roots and begin to expand their family in the community they grew up in and loved.

Brian came down and began to learn the business from his father-in-law while Devin finished the school year in Indianapolis before moving back to Holland.

Brian filled in wherever was necessary and basically learned the business from the ground up on the run. “It was really a baptism by fire,” Brian said. “Anytime there was a problem, I would tag along and just listen and learn.”

In 2016, Devin, who had been teaching in the Southeast Dubois County School Corporation since moving back, came aboard full-time as well. The couple leads the company as CEO and president.

Since coming aboard, they have been developing the next stage for the company. A new division, Offset Promotions, has been formed and an office established on Fourth Street in Huntingburg. It has allowed an expansion into advertising specialties, mailer programs, and facilitated a move towards providing more digital services for clients.

The backbone is still that paper product. The catalogs you see when you peruse cabinet options at The Home Depot or the sticker that tells you how to operate your new recliner from Best Home Furnishings or the poster for the next community celebration.

Brian Craig and press operator Jose Negrete check the alignment of the colors in a print job running through the company’s most advanced printer, the HP 10,000. Woods printing will be featured in an upcoming video about HP’s printing capabilities.
Devin Craig sorts the t-shirts the company completed for Southridge High School. Devin leads Offset Promotions, a recent addition to Woods Printing created to handle special advertising and promotional merchandise as well as set companies up with a digital presence.

Right before Covid-19 hit, they invested in the equipment necessary for the company to remain competitive and grow into new markets. An HP digital printing press able to accommodate more printing options for their customers in a broader range of sizes and formats now fills a 20-by-60 foot section of their building in Holland. It is probably one of the biggest investments the company has made into its future viability.

“It is huge for our company,” said Brian. “The future of print is in variable, short-run print and these presses allow us to be extremely competitive, at the highest quality.” 

Brian and Devin are overseeing the next iteration of Woods Printing. With a foundation built on paper, ink and strong relationships, they traversed the harsh reality of Covid-19 over the past year and came out with a clear vision of what the future holds for the company that began in its founder’s basement.

This story is part of a series called Entrepreneurs and Innovators designed to highlight the stories of some of Dubois County’s businesses and the people behind them. We hope it inspires the next wave of entrepreneurs and innovators in this area. If you are ready to take your idea to the next stage, there are many resources and mentors to help you. You can start by contacting the Jasper Chamber of Commerce at 812-482-6866 or chamber@jasperin.org and they can provide assistance and also put you in touch with their partners at Dubois Strong and the Indiana Small Business Development Center.