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Pair of Woolwich print firms see way ahead through merger

Martin Johanns is stepping back from Simpson Print, where Tony Denison will now run the show as president, the latest step in his 26 years in the print business. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

Martin Johanns runs his 70,000-square-foot Bloomingdale printing business like a tight ship, captaining with a sharp eye for detail and a steady-on vision for the future. Tony Denison is all about the customers, their needs and the marketing and outreach essential to maintaining a foothold in a community such as Waterloo Region.

The two see a winning combination in joining Johanns’ Simpson Print and Denison Print in Breslau. With Johann’s purchase, the companies will now see more than $10 million in annual sales.

Known internationally for screen for some of its work, Simpson Screen Print & Lithography Ltd. – Johanns bought the business in 1987, after selling well-known company Johanns Graphics of Waterloo – has clientele from box stores and food industries, including Walmart and Loblaws, as well as local corporations like Home Hardware. Along the way, the firm had garnered countless golden standard awards.

Tony Denison’s (right) late-model Heidelberg  press may be dwarfed by Martin Johanns’ state-of-the-art Komori Lithrone S40 H-UV press, but both men bring more to the table than the toys in their business merger.[Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Tony Denison’s (right) late-model Heidelberg press may be dwarfed by Martin Johanns’ state-of-the-art Komori Lithrone S40 H-UV press, but both men bring more to the table than the toys in their business merger. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Denison is good with the customers and making connections, while Johanns has the national and international acclaim and an eye for creative innovation. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]

“That’s part of the reason it’s working so well because, really, we don’t do what the other does. I’ve always been sales-focused, Simpson has always been manufacturing-focused, they invest in the newest technology and they’ve got a huge depth of knowledge. When they finally added the 40-inch [Komori Lithrone S40 H-UV press] I thought: that’s what we need. I’ve got lots of customers but we can only manufacture a portion of what they wanted to buy,” Denison said in an interview together with Johanns this week.

Oddly enough, the company’s marketing could be better locally, Johanns admits, and that’s where Denison, the company’s new account executive comes in. Denison’s marketing prowess has yielded him a solid name in the print industry over the past 26 years, with a significant local presence.

Johanns, who has a vision and an eye for future innovations in manufacturing, said he gains a good marketing man with a passion for the customers that is necessary if Simpson hopes to solidify its footing on the local front.

“I am looking for a succession plan in the future. I actually looked for somebody who could stabilize the business and bring in dynamism and sales knowledge with marketing and also stabilize my lithography business,” Johanns said.

“Simpson is fairly well known in Toronto and in the United States but surprisingly not as much here in Waterloo because people still see us as a screen printing company and my background is lithography – merging with Denison Print changed that.”

Closing the Breslau location of a business he started with brother Chris, since retired, will give Denison a chance to work with innovative equipment and a long-time business man who has positive goals for the future of the industry even as it continues to change and incorporate new technologies.

Johanns’ first job as a teenager in high school was at a printing business in his native Holland. It wasn’t long before he emigrated to Canada, inspired by the liberation of his country by Canadian forces during the Second World War.

“What I do is take the risk of going out for big equipment. I feel really bad when somebody else has equipment and can produce better [work] than me. That kind of drives me to quality. … I immigrated to Canada, no skills, just wanted to get away from home. So I came here and my first job was in the printing trade. I did like business. I ended up buying a printing company because I wanted to have my own business.”

Denison’s loyal customer base in Waterloo Region comes from solid marketing and outreach work over his company’s 26 years – it’s the company’s strength, said Denison.

“I love working with clients, I love the creative aspect of it. That’s part of what’s complementary. Though I like good equipment I don’t want to have to research what equipment to buy, I want to figure out what clients need … where Martin’s passion lies with the equipment and the manufacturing and the quality,” he said.

Simpson’s screen printing wins international awards annually. Last year, the company received several international golden screen printing and national awards for lithography. Its success even as technologies change – the number of printing presses continues to decrease in North America – keeps Johanns positive. He believes in John Naisbitt’s concept and 1999 book of the same name: High Tech High Touch.

“The more you are involved in high tech, the more the other side of you will want to go and relax and read the newspaper or a good book.”

He taps a wooden table: “If you look at design, you’ve seen laminated furniture? We’re all back to solid, high touch stuff. These are trends that are evolving.”

Though even the printing business incorporates many digital tools now, both Johanns and Denison agree there is sometimes disillusionment with online service, making resources like brochures and itineraries sought-after items by businesses. Today the company provides screen, UV offset and digital printing on a variety of materials, from paper to plastic and creates designs for everything from stationary, brochures, posters and books, to decals and large-format signage for retailers.

That and business from the fashion industry will help keep printed resources in people’s hands, they note.


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