by Joshua Jerome
Tucked away on a side street in downtown Barre resides a 27-year-old unusual entrepreneurial business, L. Brown & Sons Printing. I sat down with Larry Brown recently to discuss printing and the history of the family business. Larry and his wife, Diane, moved to East Montpelier from the Boston area to homeschool their three children. Larry had worked in the printing industry, and once settled into their new home, wanted to use his expertise to start his own company. Working with technical experts through the Chamber of Commerce, Larry crafted a business plan and with the help of Northfield Savings Bank, started L. Brown & Sons Printing with one printer out of his garage.
Larry would go door to door during the day selling his services to businesses in the area, print all night and then deliver to the customer the next day. He started with one client and then a second, a third and so on. He continued to offer high quality customer service and stayed knowledgeable of new printing technology, and after six years an opportunity to expand presented itself when Modern Printing, located in L. Brown’s current location on Jefferson Street, went out of business. In 1994, Larry moved the company into the 22,000-square-foot building in Barre.
Over time, Larry invested in upgrading all of the plumbing and sprinkler system as well as the electrical system. It now has some of the most efficient lighting systems in the marketplace. The bottom level was renovated to have concrete reinforced with steel beams in order to provide a platform for their largest press; a press that is 90,000 pounds and 55 feet long and is one of only a very few in the whole country.
They are the largest on-demand book printer in the state of Vermont. They produce full service commercial printing and a full service mailing operation as well as business cards, magazines and print the Vermont Life calendars. They ship thousands of books all over the world from Africa to Estonia. And through all of the growth of the company, Larry has been a committed public servant, spending 20 years as a captain in the Barre City Fire Department and as the current East Montpelier deputy chief and chaplain. Altogether he has spent 40 years serving the public in the fire and ambulance services
I asked Larry to name his favorite book that he has published and he said “I don’t have enough time to read all of them, but I have an autographed copy of each in my library.” He went on to tell me a story of a client who had reached out to him, looking to have 20 books created that contained his family history and genealogy. He called Larry and explained to him that no other printer would print just 20 books and that he was at Rowan Court, a respite-care and rehab facility in Barre and could not physically deliver the disc. Larry said “I’ll be up to get it from you.” Larry went to get the disc on a Monday and the gentleman told Larry he wanted to surprise his daughters who were coming to visit him later in the week.
With that in mind, Larry’s crew began designing and laying out the material for the book and within three hours, the book was designed. It was printed on Tuesday and Larry delivered the box of books on Wednesday. As Larry set the box down and gave the man one of the books, he thanked Larry for his service and said “now I can rest.”
About a week later, two women stopped down at the office and wanted to talk to Larry. It was the two daughters of the man from the previous week. They went on to tell him that their father passed away Friday morning, just a few hours before they got into town. Left in the room was the box of books along with a note from their father telling his daughters how Larry helped him print the books and didn’t charge him for it. They were there to thank him for what he had done.
As Larry told me the story, I could feel my eyes start to well up and it took all I had not to cry. I want to say “thank you,” Larry, for taking the time to talk to me and all the things you have done for Barre, the state of Vermont and the world.
The writer is executive director the Barre Partnership.