Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Touring a third-generation family print shop in Fergus Falls May 23, 2013

The Victor Lundeen Company, located in the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue, downtown Fergus Falls.

The Victor Lundeen Company, located in the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue, downtown Fergus Falls.

ON A RECENT IMPROMPTU TOUR of a third-generation family-owned print shop in Fergus Falls, I couldn’t contain my giddiness over drawers of aged logos/artwork, handcrafted stamps, stacks of paper, even the vintage cabinets and stools and carts.

I was just giddy over all this handcrafted vintage art tucked into drawers.

I was just giddy over all this handcrafted vintage art tucked into drawers.

The 99-year-old Victor Lundeen Company is the type of place that appeals to a writer like me, with ink flowing through my veins.

The 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, still used in the second floor print shop.

The 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, still used in the second floor print shop.

Ah, the ink. The smell of ink. I just stood there beside owner Paul Lundeen’s vintage 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, breathing in the distinct scent of ink imprinted upon my memory.

Cans of ink line shelves.

Cans of ink line shelves.

Decades ago, working at The Gaylord Hub as a young newspaper reporter and photographer fresh out of college, I first smelled that ink, heard the clack-clack-clack of ancient machines printing auction bills. I watched Frank “Chick” Deis set type on the old letterpress.

While digging through all that vintage art, we found this City of Fergus Falls Centennial Seal of an otter. The city is located  in Otter Tail County.

While digging through all that vintage art, we found this City of Fergus Falls Centennial Seal of an otter. The city is located in Otter Tail County. The Lundeens recently sold all but one letterpress.

Such memories endear me to places like Victor Lundeen Company, started in 1914 by Victor Lundeen, Sr., who bought out a Fargo print shop and moved the equipment to his hometown of Fergus Falls. Today the company is owned by Victor Lundeen, Jr., and his son, Paul Lundeen.

A portion of the print shop looking toward the bank of street-side windows.

A portion of the print shop looking toward the bank of street-side windows.

I find it especially impressive, in this advanced technological age, that printing businesses like the Lundeen Company can survive, even seemingly thrive. This Fergus Falls firm has apparently found its niche in focusing on agri-business needs primarily in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana, but also extending to grain elevator businesses nationwide.

That said, this family-owned print shop, which employs eight in production (30 total in all aspects of the company), also values the individual walk-in customer. Paul didn’t specifically tell me that during our tour. Rather, I surmised that when, for example, I noticed the corner area where employees engrave gold foil names onto bibles for Confirmation gifts. Just like my King James bible imprinted with my name and given to me by my parents on my Confirmation Day in 1970.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

And then there’s Paul himself, who welcomed my husband and me on a Thursday evening like we were long-time friends rather than out-of-towners checking out his store and other downtown businesses during an overnight stay in Fergus Falls. I mean, what businessman shows you the original safe of the former First National Bank of Fergus Falls shortly after meeting you? Paul did just that.

The independent bookstore portion of Victor Lundeen Company on the first floor. Gifts and office supplies are also sold here.

The independent bookstore portion of Victor Lundeen Company on the first floor. Gifts and office supplies are also sold here. I even asked if the store carries Lake Region Review, a regional anthology in which I’ve been published. It does.

His office supply/bookstore/gift shop/printing business occupies two connected buildings, one of them the old bank, in the heart of this historic downtown.

History in the signage.

History in the signage.

Such hospitality reaffirms my belief that chain stores have nothing on businesses like Victor Lundeen Company, which clearly values the importance of outstanding customer service and friendliness.

You can bet, thanks to Paul Lundeen and to Pat Connelly, whom I met later that evening at Dairyland Drive In (that’s a forthcoming post), I left Fergus Falls the next morning with the warmest of feelings for this west central Minnesota community.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Paper packed near the presses.

Paper stacked near the presses.

A vintage stool caught my eye.

A vintage stool, between counters, caught my eye.

My husband noticed the wheels on a cart, made at the former Nutting Company in our community of Faribault.

My husband noticed the wheels on a cart made at the former Nutting Company in our community of Faribault.

I aimed my camera down to shoot this lovely old cabinet.

I aimed my camera down to shoot this lovely old cabinet.

The art of well-known Fergus Falls resident Charles Beck, noted for his woodcut prints, featured in two books printed by Victor Lundeen Company. The books are sold in the bookstore. Across the street, you can view Beck's art at the Kaddatz Galleries.

The art of well-known Fergus Falls resident Charles Beck, noted for his woodcut prints, featured in two books printed by Victor Lundeen Company. The books are sold in the bookstore. Across the street, you can view Beck’s art at the Kaddatz Galleries.

TO VIEW PREVIOUS posts from Fergus Falls, see yesterday’s post and check my mid-June 2011 archives. Watch for more stories from this delightful community.

© Copyright 2103 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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25 Responses to “Touring a third-generation family print shop in Fergus Falls”

  1. What a Great Place to Explore – I would have been giddy too – ha! I see a deer, John Deere. Love the otter – a lot of history in that art;) Just imagine what has gone on and is still going on in this place today – Uber Cool! Happy Thursday

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Did you catch that the John Deere stamp is red, not green? If time and Paul (and I bet he would have) had allowed, I would have inked up a few of those stamps. Imagine the possibilities here to create art with all this vintage artwork. Printing is making a comeback as an art form. The Lundeens have an absolute gem here and I could see the business grow in an artistic way.

      • Yes I did – interesting! I do not think printing is going anywhere soon and it will just morph into what it is needed for in the near future. I certainly could see you playing around with those – ha! I am just glad that his print shop is still in existence and doing well.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I thought that, too, until I started noticing a blossoming in the art of letterpress printing here in Minnesota. There’s something about paper and ink and a locally handcrafted work of art or book…

      • I love the arts and crafts and that it is very much alive and happening too:) I still miss film in cameras and someday who knows might go back to it.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I can’t say as I miss film cameras. The freedom to shoot digital, without concern about cost, has really helped me develop creatively as a photographer. I shoot many more photos.

      • I have to agree with you on that! Sometimes I dream about the good old days – ha!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        The good old days. That reminds me of the other day when my eldest asked what we did about wedding gifts in “the olden days.” She and her husband-to-be were working on their wedding gift registry. I told her that I wrote up a list, per my mom’s request, and that is why Randy and I ended up with a zillion salt and pepper shakers and crockpots.

  2. Love it–and I want those drawers, and the stool, and wheel that cart right on over Paul!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Got that Paul, Stacey wants that Nutting cart should you ever wish to part with it. You would have loved this shop, Stacey. Just loved it. Your daughter, too, the graphic artist. Wondering if your Emily found a place in Rochester?

      • My nose was pressed up against the screen Audrey!
        No apartment yet, had one and Lady rented to her Nephew instead! She is staying in Grand Forks an extra week to work, so will have to find something next month.
        Is moving to looking for a roommate situation instead, due to the $! That should be easier to find.
        🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        So, that was you we saw peeking in the window. Stacey, I’m going to email you about the apartment situation.

  3. Jackie Says:

    I could just feel your giddy-ness as you wrote about your experience as you toured the print shop. What a neat place and such a friendly kind of guy that Paul Lundeen. Loved all the photo’s but my favorite was probably the B&W sign and the drawer full of old stamps. Thanks for sharing your fun 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are welcome, Jackie. I absolutely love sharing discoveries like this. The bonus is meeting wonderful individuals like Paul who are so welcoming and truly reflect small town goodness.

  4. dalmatianangel Says:

    Hi Audrey,
    I love this article! My husband has worked in the printing industry for years and will be very interested in reading this. I forwarded it to him.
    He has mentioned a Heidelberg press to me and I’m sure he’ll enjoy seeing your photos. Thanks!
    Nancy

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And where does he work? Maybe I could tour that print shop, too. Thanks for forwarding to your husband.

  5. Bernie Says:

    What a nice surprise to see the post on Victor Lundeen’s shop in Fergus Falls! My husband Bruce worked for VL for 10 years as a sales rep, traveling to elevators across South Dakota and a little in Minnesota. He had quit his hectic elevator manager job, landed this gem of a job,and worked for 10 years for them. I will make sure he reads this post!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Bernie, what a small world. While on this tour, I thought, “What a great company this would be to work for.” I based that totally on first impressions and Paul’s warm welcome. And now you’re confirming that on behalf of your husband.

  6. Steven Says:

    This is very interesting, I spent more than 28 yrs in the printing industry and before leaving the industry was a supervisor for 16 presses and about 40 employees. I have a graphic arts degree and now in the copier service industry. I do miss working with presses and miss the printing industry and do wish I could of inherited or even able to afford having my own small time printing business..Thanks for sharing. Steven

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Steven. That’s a lot of years in the printing industry and a great deal of experience with a variety of presses and employees. Maybe someday your dream will come true. You never know…

  7. As always, you make everything interesting. I never would have thought there’d be a story there!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. Every place, every person, has a story to tell.

      • Very true. But YOU take the time to find them out!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        True. Usually. I don’t always have the time. For example, I spotted this jewelry store below street level in downtown Fergus Falls. I walked down the stairs and peered in the window. Randy said, “We don’t have time for everything this guy would tell you.” He was right. But still, maybe I should have knocked on the door.

      • Randy: your voice of reason.


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