Now in their 29th year at G&H Soho Inc., Jim Harris and Gerry Burstein have experienced all the highs and lows of owning a business in the printing industry. The Elmwood Park, NJ, shop has always operated in the New York City metro area, and today, business for the niche book printer is certainly on the upswing.
Last month, to better handle the influx of hardcover, paperback, spiral, and saddlestitched work, G&H Soho became one of the first shops in the metro market to install a new Accutrim HD1680, a fast, efficient, and flexible three-knife trimmer from Colter & Peterson. They also bought a POLAR 66 reconditioned paper cutter from C&P to cut book covers and jackets.
“Since we purchased the three-knife trimmer and paper cutter, we’ve booked so much new work,” says Harris, president of G&H Soho. “After nearly 30 years, we know the book business. It’s in our DNA.”
Harris also knows how important it is to seize the moment when business is good. His father and uncle began the business as Ganis and Harris in 1946. Burstein started Soho Studio in 1971. Harris and Burstein decided to combine companies in 1985, becoming one of the first providers in the metro area to use digital information for producing bound galleys on the Xerox DocuTech production publishing system. Business was booming, and the company moved to Hoboken, NJ.
Belt-tightening and DocuTech work helped G&H Soho to survive tough times in 2001 when, on the same day, two major clients informed Harris that they were taking advantage of cheaper rates in India for typesetting books. The company survived the recession of 2008-2009 only to see the bottom fall out in 2010. The turning point for today’s renaissance came in May 2102 with a decision to move from Hoboken to the company’s present 12,500-sq.-ft. facility in Elmwood Park. Five months later, Hoboken was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
G&H Soho is now a complete digital shop. An HP Indigo press handles color books, color inserts, and both paperback and hardcover covers. There’s also an Océ press for black-and-white text and a Horizon 270 perfect binder. Harris says the average run length is 100 to 300 copies with the occasional longer run of 2,000 copies. The work consists primarily of 6″ x 9″, 7″ x 10″, and 8″ x 11″ books for academic and university publishers and individuals.
What sets G&H Soho apart from other digital book printers is the willingness to print non-standard sizes and customize books to satisfy their clients. The shop is humming, running 15 hours a day during the week with a 10-hour shift on Saturday. Harris says he plans to hire more employees this year, perhaps sooner than he expected.
Last September, however, Harris and Burstein discovered that they had a problem in their bindery department.
“We had a bottleneck when it came time to trim the books,” Harris says. “As we got busier, our people began competing for time with the existing paper cutters. We needed a solution to make our situation significantly better.”
At the time, Paterson, NJ-based Colter & Peterson—North America’s largest independent distributor of paper cutters and paper handling equipment—had just introduced the Accutrim HD1680. User friendly, it offers a maximum book thickness of 3.5″ with trim sizes from 3.15″ x 3.15″ to 11.8″ x 16.5″. Its computer controlled makeready permits through feed or one-man operation, and it has a slew of benefits that are usually not associated with off-line, on-demand three-knife trimmers.
“Until I saw it, I originally thought it had too many moving parts and would be down too often,” Harris says. “I was surprised that this was not the case, and it has proven to be a very productive machine with a relatively easy changeover to go from 6″ x 9″ to 7″ x 10″ or 8″ x 11″ or any size in between.” He adds that the trimmer’s two-year warranty for parts was another key factor in the decision.
The Accutrim HD1680’s 5º swing angle lets operators make the highest quality cuts and reduce wear and tear while extending the life cycle of the knife. Minor format changeovers typically take less than one minute, and complete format changes can be made in less than three minutes—another important consideration for the G&H Soho team.
The Accutrim HD1680 is doing 80% of the book trimming at G&H Soho. “We’re having a great time,” Harris says. “In addition to our regular publishing clientele, we are now printing books for professional photographers and galleries in New York City. We’re also utilizing our warehouse space and doing fulfillment work. We’ve been able to expand our services and client base at the same time. I feel pretty confident about the future of books and the long term success of our company.”