LACONIA – John Bethell knew he wanted a few things for his life after his career in the Navy. He knew he wanted to start a printing house and he knew he wanted to be part of a booming city center.

It was then that Warren Thompson, his business partner and another Navy veteran, sent him a listing for the U-Frame We Frame company on Canal Street in Laconia. Bethell reviewed the business listing and Google searched for the city.

“It looked like it was perfect,” Bethell said.

The two Navy bought the frame store that was owned by Kevin Rines and, in recent years, operated by his daughter Sara, and renamed it Piedmont Print and Frame, and opened in March.

As the name suggests, Bethell and Thompson aren’t just taking over the executive business, they’re adding a new service downtown: old-fashioned typography.

“I wanted to be part of a downtown that was coming back,” Bethell said, and what better way to do that than with a business that is also rebounding.

Letterpress printing, once the standard way to get multiple copies of printed materials, involves the use of a printing press that presses an inked surface or typeface into the paper, imparting not only pigment but also color. printing on paper.

Bethell said letterpress printing fell into disuse when more modern printing techniques were established, which could make many more copies for less. However, whenever decisions are made in the name of quantity, quality is often sacrificed. As such, there are times when letterpress printing still has an edge – such as making formal invitations or personal business cards – over more modern products.

“There’s something in craftsmanship,” Bethell mused, looking at the three presses in their store, each made of cast iron and over 100 years old. They press the type on paper with a force of more than two tons. To honor these machines, they use thick, high-quality paper and ink that they blend in-house according to customer specifications.

Using typography involves creativity, as well as the precision that was instilled in Bethell and Thompson during their military service.

“You work with the artistic side of your brain and the scientific side of your brain,” Bethell said.

However, since the opening of Piedmont, they have had little time to work on their typographies, as the framing business has not weakened.

“It’s been pretty crazy, we’ve been on it all the time,” said Thompson, who takes care of the assembly side of the company frame.

When writing their business plan, conventional wisdom called them to identify their smallest viable market and aim to grow their business in that market. This advice, however, greatly underestimated the demand for framing services in Laconia.

It probably has something to do with the solid reputation Kevin and Sara Rines left behind, and it could have been boosted by the sustainable income provided by federal stimulus packages. Whatever the cause, it has pushed people from all walks of life to their doorstep.

They can be asked to frame all kinds of images: original works of art, high-quality prints, old family photographs or newspaper clippings. However, they all have something in common, and it is an attachment felt by the customer.

“You’re not going to frame something that’s worthless,” Bethell said. Once this is understood, it follows that the framer’s most valuable stock in trading is trust. Customers come with something of irreplaceable value to them and they have confidence that they will take good care of it.

“It’s really powerful to play that role,” Bethell said. The first step in building that trust is showing a willingness to listen to the importance of the item. “If you take the time to ask, they will tell you their story. “