MAKing It: At Color Art, the modern era meets a centuries-old trade

SPONSORED: Color Art Printing celebrated 65 years in business in Alaska last summer. Its story is one of passion for printing, design and community.

Presented by First National Bank Alaska

Color Art Printing was already an important part of Richard and Deanna Teders’ lives. The couple met while working at the print shop, eventually falling in love and getting married.

After decades of helping the business thrive, in 2012 then-owner Connie Chambers approached the pair with life-changing news.

“One day, we were getting ready to go on vacation and Connie dropped the bomb that they were looking to retire,” said Richard Teders.

Chambers had settled on two options: Either close down the business completely or sell Color Art to Deanna and Richard.

“We decided there was a lot more that we could do,” said Deanna. “We were really excited.”

The hand-off was completed in 2015. Nine years later, the couple owns the successful print shop on Seventh Avenue in downtown Anchorage, where they have expanded and advanced its offerings. Color Art is more than just a business — it’s a story of multi-generational passion for printing, design and community.

Continuing a family-operated legacy

Color Art was founded in 1958 by Connie Chambers’ father, Steve Hafling. By the time Deanna and Richard met there in 1993, the print shop was already a vibrant local business.

Deanna had arrived in Anchorage from Portland, Oregon, with a degree in interior design. She joined Color Art after working at a local art gallery. A young mother in need of a stable job, the print shop had good benefits and a supportive atmosphere. She started in customer service and soon learned the printing trade.

Richard grew up in Anchorage. He started at the business in 1989, hired on the spot by Hafling. He delivered proofs and products to customers and had planned on staying for only the winter before heading out to sea to go crab fishing. Instead, like Deanna, he remained at the print shop and worked his way through the company.

They grew to be friends, and the couple’s first date was in 2000, at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

“Here we are, 23 years later,” said Deanna.

The couple’s personal strengths balance well in business. Richard is thorough and manages logistics and equipment. Deanna loves working with people and runs front-of-house customer service. If you call Color Art, Deanna will most likely pick up the phone. The couple’s dog, a black Labrador Retriever named Ellie, greets people at the door.

Deanna has a long-standing passion for art and design. One of her greatest joys is helping artists develop their own careers — and her support of the arts in Alaska transcends far beyond the print shop. For more than 20 years, she has raised, by her estimate, more than half a million dollars for various art organizations. One event is Transformed Treasures, which she has managed for 14 years. At the event, repurposed art is auctioned off to benefit The Salvation Army.

“I believe everyone has a responsibility to give back to their community,” said Deanna. “I personally love working with our amazing art community, so organizing and using art to raise money for charity works for me.”

A centuries-old trade redefined in a new era

The modern printing trade reaches back to the mid-15th century with the invention of the commercial printing press, which helped carve the way for the Renaissance in Europe.

At Color Art, some of its specialty printing equipment honors these centuries-old methods. The company’s letterpress machine is 60 years old; its relief printing is similar to a rubber stamp and gives prints a tactile, handcrafted quality.

Other printing equipment is brand-new, such as the company’s large digital press and wide format machine, which can print on materials like vinyl and fabric.

After the sale in 2015, Chambers encouraged Richard and Deanna to adapt the business and expand it however they felt best. They have taken that initiative to heart, investing in equipment that has helped the print shop adapt with changing times.

“There’s so much in this industry,” Deanna said. “Signage, floor decals, you name it. It changes all the time.”

Today, print products remain an important part of business, whether it’s banners, event programs or branded tablecloths. High-quality printing helps organizations stand out, said Deanna.

“Printing is not just business cards anymore,” she said. “We’re state-of-the-art.”

Color Art’s wide range of equipment means customers can get what they need — including specialty items that make a big statement, like wedding invitations embossed and foiled with silk, gold or copper.

Color Art is also one of the few union print shops in Alaska.

“The union label means your project has been handled by professional journeymen and craftsmen,” said Richard.

The 12-person team has dedicated their careers to printing and, in some cases, continue a family legacy. On their staff is a second-generation pressman and a third-generation pressman. Many team members manage multiple stages of production.

“At a single time, we might have a couple hundred jobs in various stages of completion,” said Richard.

A local partnership comes in handy

Color Art relies on First National Bank Alaska for its banking, another longtime local business founded on similar values: relationship building and commitment to community.

For Richard, the bank’s 100-year history speaks for itself. “They are really the epitome of an Alaska business,” he said.

Kippy Lane, First National assistant vice president and South Center branch manager, helps Color Art with its needs as a flourishing local business.

“We offer a team approach and local experts that combine efforts to provide sound solutions to meet our customer’s needs,” said Lane.

Last year, an influx of check fraud hit Alaska, said Lane. Color Art reached out after some check payments mailed to vendors went missing. The checks were likely stolen in transit by an active criminal ring, Lane said, which intended to modify the checks and cash them.

“Within a couple of hours, First National staff were standing at our front counter, and they already knew what was going on,” said Richard.

First National placed holds on the checks before any money was lost. Now, Color Art makes payments online through ACH or wire transfers. Thanks to their banking relationship, the print shop saved time and money, and was spared heartache.

“Their response to our phone call was the most impressive thing,” said Richard. “They’ve got thousands of customers, and it seemed like they dropped what they were doing to get right down here.”

“The largest financial risk that your average Alaska business is facing right now is check fraud,” said First National Vice President and Information Security Officer Mike Mason. “Stolen or counterfeited checks are a gold mine for fraudsters.”

Reviewing bank accounts daily and enrolling in preventative services such as Positive Pay or Check Block are some of the best measures to prevent check fraud losses, according to Mason.

Unfortunately, other types of scams, like imposter schemes, are also rampant. Mason and other experts at First National hold free webinars for Alaska businesses and individuals to help combat these schemes.

“To help prevent fraud, organizations can train employees to be wary of email requests; use real-time alerts for banking transactions; and confirm requests for money are legitimate by calling known phone numbers to verify,” said Mason.

A new generation and the future of print

With both local and national elections coming up, Color Art is anticipating a busy year ahead. Yard signs and mailers for political campaigns will be some of the many projects handled by the team.

Deanna and Richard are ready. They have peace of mind knowing their business banking is secure, and that they can rely on First National for quick support and protection, should the need arise.

The shop is also looking toward the future of large-format printing. Deanna continues to explore the craft, her current passion experimenting with printing wallpaper. She also prints on fabric, which artists recently transformed into unique pieces for auction at her latest fundraiser, Bag It Up.

The venture continues to be a family operation. The couple’s daughter now works at the shop. Several new staff started in 2022. Deanna and Richard enjoy teaching them all the printing trade has to offer – a wide variety of techniques to create all kinds of products, from business brochures to printed vinyl.

“Young people starting in this industry are seeing so many things they weren’t aware were possible,” said Deanna. “The future is bright.”

First National Bank Alaska has been Alaska’s community bank since 1922. We’re proud to help Alaskans shape a brighter tomorrow by investing in your success as you take the leaps of faith, large and small, that enrich communities across the state.

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This article was produced by the sponsored content department of Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with First National Bank Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.