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Bartley Printing closing its doors after 54 years

By Staff | May 6, 2012

Tom Bartley, in trademark button up sweater, started as the office supply salesman in his father’s business in 1981, eventually becoming the owner of Bartley Printing in 1992.

Fifty-four years ago, in 1958, Burnett ‘Bart’ Bartley and a partner started Bartley Printing on Blue Earth’s Main Street.

This week his son, Tom, the current owner, announced the business will be closing at the end of this month.

“It just was time,” Tom Bartley says. “I was able to sell the business assets and the building and decided to do it.”

Bartley sold his business records including customer files, and some inventory and equipment, to Blue Earth Graphics, a printing shop located across the street.

The building was sold at the end of April to Jim and Ross Pollard, father and son. The Pollards plan to renovate the building, including the two upstairs apartments.

They will then rent the apartments out as well as the front of the building to a business enterprise.

“Things just came together at the same time,” Bartley says. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some emotional reaction.

“My father and Vic Morris started the business and they also started the Town Crier Shopper,” Bartley says. “After a couple of years, my dad bought out Vic, and in 1964 he sold the Town Crier to the Blue Earth Post.”

Tom Bartley was 3 years old when his parents moved from Wesley, Iowa to Blue Earth to start the printing business.

After graduating from Blue Earth High, he went to Southwest State in Marshall.

In 1981 he returned to Blue Earth to work at Bartley Printing, eventually buying out his father in 1992.

“That week in 1981 was a big week,” he says. “I returned to Blue Earth, took the job here, got married (to wife Mary) and we bought a house.”

They planned to live in the house for just a few years and see if they liked living in Blue Earth. They are still here and still live in the same house.

“I worked as the office supplies salesman,” Bartley says. “At that time there were eight employees. Now there are three.”

Carol Ricard has been the layout/composition person since 1991. Brian Mehrhof has been the pressman since 1995.

“In all 54 years Bartley Printing has been in existence, there have only been three pressmen and two layout/composition people,” Bartley says. “George Nichols and Tom Engesser ran the press before Brian, and Sharon Oglivie did layout before Carol.”

Bartley says both his two employees have been awesome.

“Brian has never missed a deadline, and he has kept the presses running in top condition,” he says. “Carol is outstanding in designing jobs.”

Bartley has served as the business manager and in charge of post-press production, sales and office supplies.

All three of them, says Bartley, have one top priority.

“We always knew customer service was our number one priority,” he says. “People can go anywhere for printing and they can even order office supplies online. So we concentrated on customer service, so they would always come back.”

Bartley says his dad planted the seed of customer service back in 1958, and the company has concentrated on that idea ever since.

For the future, both Mehrhof and Ricard were now working just part-time and had other part-time jobs which they will continue to work at.

As for Bartley, he says he will soon be out job hunting, after he finished the work of selling the remaining inventory and cleaning out the building.

“I guess you can just put, ‘I will be seeking employment,'” he says.

For the first time since 1981.