Back in the old days, before the rise of desktop publishing and online based printing services, Prima Printing ran its business right on Laurel Street.
Then in the late nineties, things began to change for the cottage printing industry. Technological advances made life easier for printers.
“When things could be saved as a PDF, that was the biggest thing that helped us,” said Paula Ebejer-Moffitt, who worked at Prima Printing as an employee before taking over the business.
PDF stands for “portable document format.” No matter the text, layout or graphics, the document is saved and can be viewed – without funky alterations – regardless of computer type or operating system.
“To be able to bridge the two worlds between PC’s and Macs? That was a really big deal,” said Ebejer-Moffitt, who recalls that fax machines were an especially lousy way to proof documents because they distort font and image sizes.
All the technological advances improved the workflow process so much that, eventually, most customers no longer had any need to actually visit Prima Printing’s storefront at 751 Laurel.
Ebejer-Moffitt took a big step in August of 2009. “So much of my business was being conducted by phone and over email,” she said.
She moved her business into her home, converting the garage into office space. For Ebejer-Moffitt, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Her twin sons were about to start kindergarten at Brittan Acres and she needed more flexibility.
But with all those tech advances came a downside.
It made the business unpredictable. Easy desktop publishing and fast, cheap online printing services like Vista began competing for the same customers who’d traditionally turned to printers and print brokers like Paula.
The landscape is dotted with signs of the recently departed. “Hatcher (Press) leaving was a shock. It was one of biggest trade presses around,” she said of the San Carlos company which shuttered in 2009.
Ebejer-Moffitt says her business has survived because Prima is one of the few companies that does everything: big and small print jobs, hats, shirts, business cards and lots of brochures.
She’s also a print broker, meaning she doesn’t have the added expense of running an on-site printing press. Prima works with about four printers and about 24 specialty vendors for novelty and non-paper jobs.
“Some printing press companies have become brokers, so now they’re my competition, too,” Ebejer-Moffitt said.
Ebejer-Moffitt says she’s managed to survive the industry shakeout because she offers old-fashioned customer service in an age of impersonal 1-800 numbers and anonymous contact forms.
She also finds herself in the unique position of closing the gap between the online and paper world, explaining: “I get people who have a beautiful website and want to convey that on a business card or their brochure and we need to bridge that. While you can’t duplicate it, you can blend them.”
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