Our shop was only about 500 square feet big, an island within the rest of the warehouse. Looking back on those first couple months, it seemed like we did more wiring, framing, and hanging drywall than actual printing, all to the soundtrack of Kind of Like Spitting, The Sensualists, Sleater Kinney, or whoever else happened to be playing just a few feet away at The Glass Factory. The club closed shortly afterwards, but the construction of our little shop was completed.
In those early days we started with two presses; a 1960's green body Chief 17 offset press (still with us!) and a 1940's Kluge 10x15 M series old-style letterpress. Those first two presses, although sometimes quite stubborn, allowed us to combine letterpress and offset printing, which we still love to do today. During that time we added a Challenge proof press which allowed us to do larger letterpress posters and broadsides as well as more variations of record and CD packages.
By 2001 we had outgrown our space, and the shop was beginning to sustain us, so we decided to take the leap and expand. We moved to Southeast Morrison Street, in an old auto showroom built in the 1940’s. The space served us well, in this space we grew from what originally looked more like a studio to a small "mom and pop" shop.
Having all come from Portland's exciting DIY music scene of the late 90's, we continued to develop our shop's specialty; design, manufacture, and printing of 100% recycled disc packaging. As the business gained momentum we added additional workers and presses, and after a couple of years of bumping into each other and completely running out of space to stack paper, we moved again. You’ll now find us cranking away at our work in an old red-brick building that sits in the shadow of the Fremont bridge. We're in the industrial district near the Albina train yards.
In 2008 we restructured the business and officially incorporated as a worker cooperative in order to welcome the new folks who began working with us.
We initially operated under two names, Blackberry Press for offset printing, and Firefly Press for letterpress specific jobs. We carved a sign calling our first shop space “The Stumptown Chappel.” A chappel historically is a forum where workers in a particular trade come together to exchange ideas & discuss their craft. We hoped to ultimately create just such a space, even if only for the three of us. Eventually we surrendered to one moniker, Stumptown Printers.
"Stumptown" is a nickname for Portland that originated in the 19th Century. At that time, what was essentially a logging camp quickly grew into an urban center. New buildings and roads shared the scenery with stumps from fresh cut trees, and the stumps became a familiar part of the landscape, so much so that Portland was known as "Stumptown".