Written by Jim Murphy | Photos by Anthony Harden
The printing room throbs with the efforts of two massive multicolor presses and a series of machines that cut, fold, and assemble the catalogs, brochures, and posters that come off the presses. The room is as well lit as a basketball court on game day—and even bigger.
The design room produces a muted hum against the insulation of padded cubicles where Apple computers stand ready to create the layout and the look for a client’s promotional material.
The man in charge of all this orderly, even sleek production is Jim Daniels. Jim’s office at the front of the building looks out on Swannanoa Road through a window that runs the length of the room. Awards cover the walls, and family pictures of three smiling generations sit on a side table.
And then there’s Jim’s desk. It is not so much a workspace as a mini-warehouse, displaying no fewer than 11 stacks of papers, each at least a foot high. They contain brochures, folders, pamphlets, binders, booklets, correspondence, proposals, and a vast selection of unclassified random paperwork. Jim shows a sheepish grin as he swears he could find anything he might need in his maze of stacks.
One wonders if some of the documents in his towers of paper might reach all the way back to the beginning of the business in 1948.
That’s the year doctors sent Jim’s father, Ernest, to Asheville in a desperate effort to deal with his tuberculosis. “The doctors sent him here to die,” Jim says. But Ernest was a widower with a young son to support, so he rejected the death sentence and began looking for a way to support the two of them.
“He had been a stenographer in Florida. He knew how to take dictation and he was a good typist. So he went to the offices around Pritchard Park, looking for temporary stenographer work—taking dictation, typing letters. He got enough work that we managed to survive.”
One of his clients was a law firm, and he soon made a deal to provide free typing services in the morning in return for desk space and use of their equipment in the afternoon.
Pretty soon, the elder Daniels was ready to expand to his own office. “He rented a room in the McIntyre Building in Pack Square Park. He borrowed $50 to buy a used typewriter and mimeograph machine and he put out a shingle that said, Daniels Secretarial Service. I worked there after school and on Saturdays and—if we were busy—on Sundays. My job was to crank that damn mimeograph machine. I was making a quarter an hour. After a while, business was good and we expanded to two rooms.”
Expansion became the company keyword. Daniels Secretarial Services soon became Daniels Duplicating, then Daniels Duplicating and Mailing, and Daniels Business Services before it finally settled into its current identity: Daniels Graphics.
As the name changed so did the location. Over the next four decades the company moved to bigger offices six times, finally settling in their current headquarters on Swannanoa Road. Along the way one of their offices was in a building that had been occupied by Mission Hospital.
“We were using the morgue, the laundry, and the D.O.A. room. By this time we had three or four presses, duplicators, folders, cutters, cameras, and stuff. Maybe five or six employees. I think my pay was up to $100 a week by then. We were doing real well.
“Our biggest customer was GE in Hendersonville. One day they contacted us and said, ‘You know, we’ve got a little building out here that’s full of our literature.’ It was sales documentation, collateral material, that kind of stuff. They said, ‘Could you store it for us, send it out to our customers?’ That was the beginning of our fulfillment business.”
Now an entire floor of the Daniels building—20,000 square feet—is dedicated to fulfillment and mailing. In the fulfillment area, rows of shelving are stacked with printed material for an array of clients in the furniture and bedding industries. The promotional and product packaging pieces are ready to go whenever the client needs them. Daniels can ship the products to the client or to its overseas manufacturing headquarters. Daniels also provides direct-mail service. A client sends in a mailing list, and Daniels’ mailing department can fold, insert, seal, and stamp items, and send them on their way. Daniels can give its clients full service, from the initial design of a piece, through the printing, and, finally, the direct mail marketing.
This post-printing dimension to the company began back in the late ‘50s with that request from General Electric. “GE was our biggest customer back then. We depended on them. And they’re still a good customer. We’ve been working together since 1958.”
(article continues on page 2 and more photographs are at the end)