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

 

Up on the rooftop…in Fergus Falls May 22, 2013

I AM CONTINUALLY AMAZED by the access I am granted to interesting places because of my DSLR Canon camera, innate curiosity and friendliness.

A street level view of Victor Lundeen Company, left, and the Fergus Theatre on the right.

A street level view of Victor Lundeen Company, left, and A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls on the right.

Most recently I was invited onto the rooftop of Victor Lundeen Company and A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls for a bird’s eye view of historic downtown Fergus Falls in west central Minnesota.

Can you believe I hesitated? I am afraid of heights and wasn’t sure I could handle being several stories above street level, separated from the roof’s edge by a facade or nothing at all.

Atop the roof and looking toward the door into the Lundeen Company.

Atop the roof and looking toward the door into the Lundeen Company.

So I leveled with Paul Lundeen before exiting a door onto the roof of his business. If I couldn’t tolerate the height, I’d turn around.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

As we moved toward the front of the building, Paul advised me to watch the guide wires, not wanting me to trip and plummet over the edge onto the brick sidewalk below.

On the left, a low wall separates the printing business rooftop from the theatre roof.

On the left, a low wall separates the printing business rooftop, right, from the arts center roof.

Stepping over the rooftop boundary between his printing company and the next-door arts center, my worries eased. A portion of the old theatre facade rose high enough for me to feel comfortable leaning against it and angling my camera down toward the buildings and street below.

Positioned safely behind a high part in the theatre facade, forefront, I shot sections of the business district.

Positioned safely behind the theatre facade, forefront, I shot sections of the business district.

The rooftop is a perfect place to watch parades, Lundeen said.

Looking the other direction into Fergus Falls' historic downtown.

Looking the other direction into Fergus Falls’ historic downtown.

A slightly different view from the roof.

A slightly different view from the roof.

And it would have been better for photos had I been willing to move away from the theatre facade. But I just could not push myself that far. I managed several shots before retreating.

The block of downtown Fergus Falls in which Victor Lundeen Company and Fergus Theatre are located.

The block of downtown Fergus Falls in which Victor Lundeen Company and the arts center are located.

Lundeen offered the rooftop access after a tour of his print shop, an invitation extended when my husband and I walked into his bookstore/gift/office supply/commercial printing business on a recent Thursday evening. We were staying overnight in Fergus Falls en route to Fargo.

As is usual with me, my camera was slung around my neck, my notebook tucked inside my purse. Paul greeted us and we started chatting and one thing led to another, all the way up to the rooftop.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE posts from Fergus Falls, including a tour of Paul’s three-generation family print shop, images of downtown buildings and lots more. This community should own the motto: “Friendly Fergus Falls.”

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling