Observations on the closing of Printer Gateway as we remember its history

Toronto-based Printer Gateway, one of Canada’s largest nationally recognized web-to-print trade printers, has closed its doors. The company had a huge array of offset, digital and wide-format presses as well as cutting, bindery, shrink-wrapping and folding equipment. It was a leader in business-card production as well as brochures, booklets, flyers, postcards etc. Shuttered by owner Supremex (LaSalle, Quebec) in December of 2016, the company officially stopped accepting orders late last month.

As far as I’m concerned, this is sad day in our industry. I recall running a feature several years ago exploring the company’s pioneering sustainability initiatives. For example, in 2007, Printer Gateway saved 9,152 trees, 57,200 printing plates and 21,450 hours of press-related electricity (totaling $123,766.50). The company’s use of printing inks, fountain and cleaning solutions and varnishes was also drastically reduced. At first glance, these numbers (independently verified by DePaul University of Chicago at that time), seemed almost surreal. But when you delve into the company’s background, and the extraordinary vision of then President and Founder Brian Armstrong, you’ll quickly realize that these breakthroughs were really just a natural progression of a sustainability strategy that I felt was brilliant in its simplicity – gang printing!

Printer Gateway Founder Brian Armstrong.

In 2008, Printer Gateway averaged $10 million in gross yearly sales, and about 98% of its work was still gang-run printing. Also, the company at that time expanded into a new 45,000-sq.-ft. headquarters in the picturesque town of Long Branch, west of Toronto. “The fact is that very few Canadian printing companies are as environmentally conscious as we are, while remaining profitable and positively impacting our clients’ bottom line,” Armstrong said at the time. “We’re showing our customers each and every day that being ‘green’ really can put them in the ‘black.’ From day one, we took a pro-active approach about energy conservation and environmental responsibility.”

In the late 1990s, Armstrong was already shaping his unique vision of corporate sustainability – long before Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced Canada’s Clean Air Act to the House of Commons in October of 2006. If you’ll recall, Harper’s goal was to move industries from voluntary compliance to strict enforcement to fight air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – and the printing industry was no exception. By 2004, when Armstrong founded Printer Gateway, he was already well ahead of this emerging trend. In 2005, the company became Canada’s first and only 5-over-5 card specialist utilizing MetalFX technology, which made it possible to print up to 104 million metallic colours simply by adding one MetalFX base silver to the CMYK mix.

Armstrong sold Printer Gateway in 2013 and is currently pursuing several of his passions – including commercial real estate developments, fine cigars and target marketing initiatives. Still, it’s quite sad to see Printer Gateway close. I’ll always remember them as being 100% true to the ideals of a trade printer, as well as being a major influence in our industry. Today, I especially feel for its employees, who over the years have worked their collective butts off to make this company an acknowledged Canadian trade-printing leader. I enjoyed interacting with them, I enjoyed working with them and chatting with them, and I admired their expertise – and most of all, their finesse. Today is a sad day. No other way I can put it.

– Tony Curcio, Editor, Graphic Arts Magazine

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.