Hans Pangerl has owned and operated Lakes District Printing and Signs in Burns Lake for 25 years. Arriving in Burns Lake from his native Germany, he saw an immediate need for a commercial printer.
“When I came to Burns Lake, I saw the need,” Pangerl said. “About 10 years ago a friend of mine who operated a sign shop decided to move back to Germany, so we started offering signage as well.”
The best things about living in Burns Lake can also be the most challenging aspects of life here. The small town, close community, and rural separation from big city life draws many here and keeps them here, but for some professions the those things pose special challenges.
“We started with an offset press and a film typesetter, in a tiny building next to Marmon Financial,” he said. “It’s been difficult to keep up with changes, because the technology is going so fast and being in a small town you have a hard time keeping up.”
The transition from traditional printing methods to digital production hasn’t been as complete as you might expect.
Because of his large commercial and business customer base, traditional, mechanical printing methods are still in demand and two of his pre-digital machines continue to provide great value and products that digital equipment cannot.
His offset press can produce large volume orders at a cost-saving over digital production, and his 1943 Heidelberg letter press produces die-cut specialty products like perforated forms or cards with interlocking cuts and tabs.
“When we first started out, nobody was able to print a page larger than a typewriter page, but now, with the invention of home computers and printers, people are able to do a lot more at home,” he said.
This erosion of his customer base thanks to the home computer has been challenging, but his mainstay has been business forms and commercial clients.
“Consistency is the answer. That’s why I’ve been here for twenty-five years.”
Even though Lakes District Printing and Signs has gone through numerous expansions as the business grew, employment has always been steady with Pangerl and one part-time employee.
“We’re producing more with less labour,” he said. “It’s mostly computer work now. Before it was a lot of greasy stuff, like oiling gears, making set plates, darkroom work, things like that. Now it’s all computer work.”
Hans loves his work and has no plans to retire any time soon.
“We branched out into making signs, and have a digital vinyl sign maker which lets us make 30-inch wide signs by whatever length a person needs.”
The local shop can accommodate larger requirements because of arrangements Pangerl has with another commercial printer. In the Lakes District, the volume of work means that new technology has barely paid for itself before it’s time to replace it, so Hans relies on partners for some larger format, specialty requests.
Almost anything a person needs printed, Pangerl can accommodate, and he’s more than happy to work with clients early on in the production cycle to make sure they get the finished product they need.
“The best thing is if a person talks to me first regarding things like resolution, photo size and colour space,” he said. “It can save a lot of headaches later on.”