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Rebuilding A Piece Of Southeast Nebraska History, Fairbury NebraskaEnd Of The Year Is End Of An Era

Layton's Print Shop, a business that's been a fixture on Fairbury's downtown square for more than 40 years, will close this week. Owners George and Caroline Layton said the day has come for them to retire. He is 75; she is 73. The "job shop" that has printed everything from envelopes to teacher handbooks has been sold to Fairbury's McBattas Packaging and Printing.

"I've been contemplating retirement for 10-15 years," George Layton said, adding that the decision to close the shop was made in the last month.

"It's too much work for one person to do, and not enough for two," he said.

A Lifetime Of Printing

Layton has been in the printing business since 1957 when he was a junior in high school, he said. For two years he worked for the Fairbury Daily News in the afternoons after spending the mornings at school.

He spent four years in the Navy where he continued the craft. While on the USS Lexington Layton said he helped print the "plan of the day" and visitor pamphlets.

He returned to Fairbury after his military service and began working for Holloway Publishing, which was a "job shop."

"My take home pay was $42 a week," he said.

In 1968 he got the opportunity to purchase the business for $12,000.

"There was only one order for $17 that whole very first week," Layton said of buying the business. "I thought, ‘Why did I buy this? At least I was making $42 a week before.'"

Business soon turned around, he said, and he and his wife made the printing business their life.

He said the couple never took a full week of vacation for more than 13 years; they had only two weeks of vacation until their son, Scott, joined the business 25 years ago.

Layton and his wife kept the business where it was before they purchased it – in the basement of Rose Hinmann's grocery store, which they paid $40 a month to rent. But a downpour of rain could put seven inches of rain in the back of the basement, Layton said, so the couple purchased a building on the west side of the courthouse square, which is the current location of the business. The building had been a grocery store during Layton's childhood days, he said.

An appliance store occupied the building before the Layton's moved their print shop there; the couple kept the oversized front door.

Changing Times

The printing business has changed significantly since the Layton's bought the business, they said. Before computers all of the type was set by hand; an obituary could take 30 minutes to set.

A four-person fatality accident in Jefferson County decades ago kept her husband busy all night, Caroline Layton said.

Layton said he has purchased five presses since he purchased the business. Some of the equipment needs to be replaced or updated again, he said, but he had been holding off in case he retired.

He said his son Scott, who will make a career change when the business closes, has been doing most of the press work and making deliveries.

Layton sets up the numbering and perforating and does the photographing with the old-style dark room and metal plate equipment. His wife does the bookkeeping, ordering and runs some of the presses.

Make all of that past tense. The last day of business for Layton's Print Shop was Wednesday. Although Layton said he planned to handle most orders until the final day of business on Dec. 31, several orders had already been handed over to McBattas Packaging and Printing because Layton's Print Shop was out of supplies to fulfill the order.

Fred Arnold, owner and president of McBattas Packaging and Printing, said he hopes to maintain the quality and affordable prices that Layton's Print Shop customers have received for decades and added that he hoped to add a downtown location so that customers don't have to drive to the Industrial Park to pick up their orders.

Beginning Jan. 1, or a few days later if the couple decides to take a couple days off, the Layton's will begin to clean and organize the print shop building. The couple said they plan to sell some equipment and the building at an auction this spring.

"When I came in here as a child when this was the Bi-Lo Grocery Store I never dreamed I'd be in it one day running a business," Layton said.

 
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