North Bay Business Journal

Tuesday, March 23, 2004, 3:00 am

Napa printer acquires $1.2 million new label system


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    NAPA — Ben Franklin Press will be shifting to much larger quarters in south Napa this spring to make room for equipment to print pressure-sensitive labels, which are increasingly adhering to the wine business.

    The 20-year-old commercial printer has acquired a Sanjo PO3 waterless five-color offset press with hot-stamping, embossing, die-cutting, and coating attachments to print the labels. However, the printer’s 8,500sf building at 1343 Main Street isn’t big enough for the 65-foot-long apparatus, according to co-owner, president, and general manager Dennis Franklin Patterson. Ben Franklin Press, which has won two Benny awards for wine label quality from Printing Industries of America, already has three offset sheet-fed presses and three letterpresses at its present site in Napa’s historic downtown district.

    The printer plans to relocate in June to 480 Technology Way in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park where it has signed a seven-year lease with Basin Street Properties. The nearly 17,000sf space has room for a couple of more presses, according to Mr. Patterson.

    The new press for pressure-sensitive labels was brought on line at the new location in late February and is expected to boost this year’s revenues by more than 20%, Mr. Patterson estimates. The projected increase follows 20% growth to $2 million last year, the printer’s best.

    However, revenues slumped in 2001 and 2002, because an increasing number of Ben Franklin Press’ some 200 small- to medium-size winery clients were opting for pressure-sensitive labels, according to Mr. Patterson. To recapture business, he and his wife, co-owner Teri Ann Faychild, had to outsource such printing.

    “In the last five years, there has been a migration to pressure-sensitive labels because of easier application on bottling lines,” he says.

    One of the first clients to use the new press, and to return to the printer because of it, was Havens Wine Cellar of Yountville. Marketing director Kathryn Havens, also an independent designer of labels for 25 brands, brought much of her label jobs to Ben Franklin Press until pressure-sensitive labels started becoming more popular 10 years ago. Now, half her clients use pressure-sensitive labels, so she’s had to use printers in Oregon and the South Bay.

    Convenience, speed of application, and less bottling line downtime because of label glue are primary drivers for the increasing adoption of pressure-sensitive labels, according to Ms. Havens. More options in paper and increasing use of waterless printing have broadened pressure-sensitive label appeal, she adds.

    As more pressure-sensitive label jobs roll into Ben Franklin Press, the printer’s workforce of 20 could grow soon.

    New technologies too

    The pressure-sensitive printing system, which costs $1.2 million new, also will employ the computer-to-plate technology the printer installed in 2002. One of the latest innovations in commercial printing short of nascent direct-to-press systems, commonly called digital printing, computer-to-plate devices put a computerized layout directly on a plate, bypassing film. Big advantages of computer-to-plate are improved image quality and the ability to make quick changes at the press.

    With its CTP hardware, Ben Franklin Press now offers stochastic screening, also known as frequency modulation or scatter tone. Instead of a grid of dots of varying size to render shades in photographs and artwork, stochastic screening uses varying numbers of tiny dots to simulate the continuous tone of grains in photographic prints.

    Mike Moffett of Coldwell Banker Commercial Brokers of the Valley represented Ben Franklin Press in the lease deal, and Glen Dowling and Matt Bracco of Cushman & Wakefield represent Basin Street.

    For more information about Ben Franklin Press, call 707-253-8250 or visit www.benfranklinpress.com.

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