Valley printer has ink in his blood
Her eyes command your gaze and she lets out a low growl. She does not rise, but remains curled up in her comfortable chair. Her fame allows her to do whatever she wants. This is the only business in Carson Valley that has a celebrity waiting to greet you as you walk in. She is Jezebel, star of the famous “Doritos Guardian” commercial done by Bearded Brothers films. Jezebel welcomes you to the magical world of R&S Optimum Offset Printing.
Located on Annie Court just off Johnson Lane, the plain facade gives no clue to what goes on inside. If you can get by Jezebel, you will find an office packed with pictures of a large and loving family, mementos of special trips and events, and tennis trophies belonging to owner Steve Crouch.
Steve was born and raised in Elko with a solid family and a great group of friends. He loved bikes, teaching himself to ride the unicycle with his childhood friend Steve Bohner so they could participate in local parades. They eventually moved on to motorcycles and playing baseball as they grew older; both activities that continue to fascinate him to this day.
His older brother Rod was the print shop manager at the Elko Daily Free Press. He knew how hard Steve worked at his high school jobs, and offered him a position in the late 1970s. He was promoted to management within two years.
“I became passionate about the printing business and loved serving my customers,” he said.
Tim Huether, Steve’s friend and co-worker at the Free Press took a publisher position at The Record-Courier in 1993. Tim fell in love with the Carson Valley and wanted Steve to become print shop manager there. Steve wasn’t interested in moving but since he was always courteous, he came to look anyway.
If he took the offer, Steve would be leaving a brand new multi-million dollar facility in Elko to work in the vintage building at 1218 West Eddy St.. He loved the people he met, but was not convinced. However, as fate would have it, when he was heading out of town he picked up a real estate guide. The perfect house was listed only three blocks away from his best friend who had also relocated from Elko. That cinched it: he bought the home and took the job. He started a whole new life in Carson Valley with his wife Kolene and their five children.
Steve made a lot of new friends in Gardnerville and customers would send candy, cards, and flowers all the time to show their gratitude for a job well done. His co-worker Tracy was in the newspaper department but would come and help in the print shop whenever she was caught up. After a couple of years Steve asked Tim if he could buy the print shop from the newspaper. When Tracy found out, she wanted to come on board. In April 1996, Steve and Tracy formed R&S Optimum Offset. Steve says “It was a family affair: between my wife, kids, Tracy, and her father we really got things rockin’.”
The world of printing has really changed. There is one job Steve remembers in particular for resort brochures and posters. He actually stayed awake a full 36 hours to complete it within the very tight deadline. With the equipment available today Steve estimates that same project would now take about five hours. This is a great example not only of his dedication and reliability, but of the fact that he has been willing to change with the times and the industry, flourishing by his ability to adapt to new technologies.
Co-owner Tracy has a big heart. When her neighbor fell ill to cancer, she would help her with meals and chores. She would even mow her grandmother’s lawn on her lunch break. Once the shop was established she realized she was needed more at home to take care of friends and family and left the printing business to be with them. Within a few short years her good friend, her grandmother, her husband, and her father all passed away. Steve also lost his wife Kolene to cancer. No strangers to sorrow, they have taken these hardships and used them to become more empathetic and understanding. Today it gives Steve’s work an extra radiance.
R&S staff member Bill Smith is pressman-bindery tech, working there for nearly 20 years. Bill is somewhat of a MacGyver who can fix about anything. He helps with car projects and landscaping on the side. Steve is happy that he is “like family”.
Christi Tolbert is the graphic artist-photographer. She and Steve worked together at the Record-Courier in the 1990s. She has a very successful photography business and is a huge asset to the company.
Barby Bridges is the new kid on the block, and has excelled at every project Steve has given her. She is a well-trained and extremely talented graphic artist. Her positive attitude brings a real sense of joy to the work environment.
Steve remarried four years ago to the beautiful long-legged Lori. Along with working hard, they have a tremendous life together playing tennis, riding motorcycles, skiing and traveling. They have what they call their “little bubble.”
Steve also serves on the Advisory Board at WNC, giving input to their graphic arts program.
“I have always been blessed with a great crew over the years and look forward to those special print projects for close friends and family. Joyous things like birth announcements, wedding invitations, and even sad things like funeral programs: we try to put our heart and soul into them to celebrate their memory to the fullest,” he said.
I first met Steve when he printed a book my son had written about how to play chess over 25 years ago. As in every area of his life that I have observed over this time, he did an outstanding job. Our families have been friends ever since. He has put together many different projects for us, the most recent being a new set of business cards. They are far better than anything I could have imagined.
They are an environmentally friendly company with a commitment to preserving our planet’s natural resources. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday and by appointment on Saturday. Services include offset, digital, and poster printing, along with printing promotional items. Their number is 775 267-4553 or 775 309-4009.