Labor of Love: Local Printing Press brings local businesses together during trying times

The+Printing+Plant+building+sits+along+S.+Illinois+Ave+Feb.+5%2C+2022+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.+%E2%80%9CWere+kind+of+multiple+businesses+under+one+roof%2C%E2%80%9D+owner+of+the+Printing+Plant%2C+Jason+Buehner+said.%0A

Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography

The Printing Plant building sits along S. Illinois Ave Feb. 5, 2022 in Carbondale, Ill. “We’re kind of multiple businesses under one roof,” owner of the Printing Plant, Jason Buehner said.

If you ever walk into the Printing Plant, you’ll find their store mantra encompasses their business model perfectly: Think BIG – Shop SMALL.

In downtown Carbondale, Illinois, there is a humble little building that hosts the Printing Plant, owned by Jason Buehner. Its name is very clear about its purpose, but once you enter, there is more in store than one might expect.

Opening under its original name, Copycat, in 1974, the shop focused on performing the typical services of a copy shop. The shop was rebranded as the Printing Plant before being bought by Jason Buehner in 2007. He started working at the copy shop in his college years. Currently, he owns and runs the shop with the help of his wife Meghann Buehner. According to her, when they first acquired the Printing Plant, it was very much just a standard copy shop, but as times and business practices have changed, so have they.

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In 2016, the Printing Plant expanded with the goal of introducing the Award Shop, a service that focused on engraving trophies and making awards, and the beginnings of their Gift Shop into their new upcoming location which boasts more space to grow as a business.

“We’re kind of multiple businesses under one roof. We have our regular printing as we’ve always done. We have an award shop where we do trophies and plaques. We’ve got a gift shop where we do laser engraved, promotional items or gifts. We do signage, where we do everything from vinyl to banners, etc.” Jason Buehner said.

In spring of 2015, after its location at the Murdale shopping center closed, FedEx reached out to the Printing Plant to become a shipping center. The Printing Plant didn’t have the space initially, but in May of 2016, the Beuhners set up a small shipping station at their old location mostly functioning off of a folding table.

On August 15, 2016, when the Printing Plant opened its current location at 608 S. Illinois Ave, in addition to the new services it offered, it had a fully functioning FedEx shipping center operating out of the shop. During the height of the pandemic this was their saving grace.

“It was hard to understand what to do. There was a lot of messaging that wasn’t super clear as to whether or not we were supposed to be open or not open […] Ultimately, we were asked to stay open because we were considered essential. Primarily because FedEx was integrated into what we did,” Jason Buehner said.

When they were determined to be an essential business during the pandemic, the Printing Plant opened its doors to other local businesses. The Printing Plant helped to keep these businesses’ products available to the public in a time when many were forced to shut down, by offering curbside and online options through their own shop.

The Printing Plant began to focus on working with the local businesses of Southern Illinois such as Fired up Jellies and Jams, Steamshovel Coffee, Big Muddy Root Beer and more.

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“Having that ability to be able to serve the community, the more the merrier type of thing was kind of the thought process behind it,” Jason Buehner said.

Other businesses had already started to become present in the store, like Sauced Up Smokers Barbecue Sauce, which had been present in the copy shop for many years under Jason Beuhner’s ownership. Meghann Beuhner said the creation of their business, 618 Candle Co., launched their project to promote local small businesses into their shop.

618 Candle Co. is a soy wax melt brand, created in March 2020, which focuses on Southern Illinois, naming some of the scents after local businesses and Southern Illinois landmarks such as Giant City Peach Cobbler, Saluki Snickerdoodle Dandy and Cold-Blooded Caramel Macchiato, named after one of the local coffee bean businesses they carry at the Printing Plant.

“Our hope with the product is that it would inspire people to think locally and shop locally. By showcasing some of those favorite places in Southern Illinois, it sparks memories and creates good conversation starters and brings a little bit of nostalgia to the product,” Meghann Buehner said.

Randy Miller, the owner of Steamshovel Coffee, first met Jason Buehner when inquiring about hand stamps for his business. Miller owned a coffee shop in Cobden, Illinois, and during the pandemic he closed his storefront and found he needed to refocus his business.

During this time he refocused on providing coffee to the region rather than focusing on serving coffee at a shop and Jason Buehner approached him about being part of a project focused on promoting small businesses within his store.

“[The Printing Plant] is a company that really cares. They get business. […] [Jason Buehner] wants to see us as Southern Illinois companies, successful. Then when we’re successful, we’re buying more product from them, and he’s more successful,” Miller said.

Fired Up Jellies and Jams is another Southern Illinois business that got a boost during the pandemic with help from the Printing Plant.

Michael Smith and his partner Krista Daniel started Fired Up Jellies and Jams in 2019 and started wholesaling to other retailers later that year. They were planning on doing promotional events for their products in 2020, but, due to the pandemic, they were never able to do so. They found it hard to get people to try their products, let alone get interested in buying them.

Daniel brought the project to Smith’s attention and suggested reaching out. Jason Buehner decided to take them on and Fired up Jellies and Jams has been in the Printing Plant for the past two years.

“It became a great outlet for smaller companies like ours that didn’t have a lot of exposure. Because the Printing Plant has been around for a while, we were allowed to piggyback the exposure they already have and get our products out in front of people. Which for all of us, the local products, that’s great, especially in a time when we couldn’t get out in front of people ourselves,” Smith said.

Both Jason and Meghann Buehner said operating a small business helped to understand and aid others who were in similar situations, especially when it came to helping local businesses during the pandemic.

“They were trying to support us and we kind of just tried to band together to become a little bit stronger of a selection and variety and destination to be able to serve the community,” Jason Buehner said.

He said he and his wife never planned to implement some of the retail aspects to their shop in the way they have been in the last few years. When people started to come into the shop to browse the products the Printing Plant carried instead of utilizing the copy shop’s initial services, Buehner found himself a little shocked. However, he feels the community’s positive response has encouraged them to keep pursuing the current direction they have taken and support the community the best they can.

“Because of COVID and the way that we adjusted, it really made us feel like we are part of a large local community,” Jason Buehner said.

Meghann Buehner said she hopes to see more local products carried in the Printing Plant in the future. She believes small businesses are the lifeblood of small towns.

“The money that they’re making goes home to them. This is their livelihood […] if we can be a catalyst to help these other businesses survive and be able to take care of their families, that’s huge for us,” Meghann Buehner said.

Staff Photographer Dominique Martinez-Powell can be reached at [email protected] To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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