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Old-school printing keeps business humming

Jim Hoover, right, handles a fresh stack of Christmas cards as his wife Jonnie, left, looks on. Hoover is proud that he still uses a Kluge platinum letterpress from the 1950s for many of his jobs even with the current digital technology available in his Costa Mesa printing shop today.
(DON LEACH, Daily Pilot)

In a back room at Hoover Printing, Jim Hoover looked over one of his small presses that, some six decades later, still runs and requires little maintenance.

Hoover, 77, is probably one of a handful of people around who knows how to work a 1950s-era Kluge platinum letterpress. As is often said about old-school machinery, he notes that it’s a solid piece of mechanization built to last.

With a few actions in all the right places, Hoover gets the machine spurting to life and churning out personalized family letters that pile up on the receiving end.

The longtime Costa Mesa businessman later comments with a smile that when he started out, “I didn’t know what a printing press looked like.”


That’s certainly not the case now.

In 1964, after working for a Southern California Edison plant, a 26-year-old Hoover took over an existing Costa Mesa printing business that became Hoover Printing. Fifty years later, Hoover, his family and their employees are still putting letters and words onto paper at 2324 Newport Blvd., and they plan to keep doing so for another 50 years.

Back in the early days, when Hoover frequently put in 18-hour days to get the business established, his street front sign used to proclaim, “We print everything but greenbacks.”

That’s about as far as his advertising went and he still primarily relies on word of mouth. They’ve never relied on advertising to keep business coming in and have never had a salesperson.


“That says something,” Hoover said.

Notable clients — some of whom have been using Hoover Printing for more than 40 years — have included the Segerstrom family, the Costa Mesa Police Department and George Yardley, the late NBA star who began his basketball career while at Newport Harbor High School.

The Hoover family says printing trends come and go — letterpress is making a comeback — and new technology comes in to get the job done. Still, even in the digital era of fewer printed products such as newspapers and magazines, the Hoovers say people still like real paper for their needs, like business cards, social announcements and, this time of year particularly, Christmas cards.

“We have worked hard and God has blessed us,” said Jonnie, Hoover’s wife.