For Roswell Bookbinding, family is one of the most important ties that bind a successful entrepreneurship. The Phoenix-based bindery was founded in 1960 by the late Mark Roswell and his wife, Iris, who left the hustle and bustle of New York City to start a new life in the desert with their three small children.
Unable to find jobs in their respective careers – accounting and graphic art – the couple used the remainder of their savings to start a small bookbinding business focused on repairing old textbooks.Business was slow at first, but diligent phone calls to area schools helped put Roswell Bookbinding on the path to success. “As Phoenix grew, our bindery grew with it,” their son, President Mike Roswell says. “After a few years, we were rebinding books and periodicals for schools, public libraries, universities and private collections throughout the western United States.”Then, in the early 1970s, a new generation of western and American Indian artists took the Southwest by storm. This inspired publisher Paul Weaver and his company, Northland Press, to produce art books that promoted the masterpieces of this burgeoning art movement.
Northland sought a reliable bookbinder to bind these new coffee-table art books it was printing, so it turned to Roswell Bookbinding.
Although the company had never put together a new book, it invested in the necessary equipment and people to complete the task and quickly found its calling. Today, Roswell Bookbinding continues to work with artists and commercial printers. It is known across the United States and Canada for achieving not only the highest-quality of work in its industry, but also the most complicated, whether it is working with odd sizes, difficult configurations or exotic materials, Roswell says.
A Look Inside
Two 30,000-square-foot production spaces flank its shipping dock and separate Roswell Bookbinding’s short runs from its long runs, which range from one book to more than 100,000. It operates three divisions – Library Binding, which was the company’s original business; Specialty Division, which includes limited editions, portfolios and specialty packaging and boxing; and Trade Division, which produces new books, both soft and hard cover.
With the second generation at the helm of this family owned business, Roswell Bookbinding has evolved from a hand operation to a fully automated facility with state-of-the-art, high-speed equipment. “We still use all of the old binding techniques and materials in the same building as our 9,000-signature-per-hour sewing machines to create high-end bindings of all types,” Roswell says.
Using profits to continually invest in specialized equipment was a business philosophy instilled in Roswell by his father, he notes, adding that the firm recently bought an Italian-made Smyth high-speed, oversized sewing machine that is the only one of its kind in the United States. “It’s the equipment we have, but it’s also the people we have and our mindset,” he says. “We love to think outside the box. That’s our reputation in the industry – when there is a difficult project, people come to us.”
The majority of Roswell Bookbinding’s 100 employees have worked there for at least 10 years,
and a handful have been with the company for more than 20 years. “The strength of our business is our people,” Roswell asserts. “We do the best work in our industry, but in order to do that, we have to have the best employees in the industry. We hire the highest-quality, highest-skilled people that we can find. The people that work here love challenges because we are challenged every day.”
Investing in equipment and skilled people helped Roswell Bookbinding become more efficient so it could keep its costs down and remain competitive during the recession. “For us, improving our equipment is a constant goal,” Roswell says. “During the recession, there was a lot of equipment in the market available for very low prices, which we took advantage of and upgraded significantly.“This enabled us to keep work in the United States that previously had gone offshore,” he continues, adding that publishers overseas continue to work with Roswell Bookbinding on projects too difficult to be produced in Europe or Asia. “As electronic reading devices gradually eat into the mass-market arena, I believe that the high-end books that we focus on will still be around for a long time,” he notes.
Although Roswell had followed his dad around the facility since he was 10, he officially joined the business after graduating from college. He moved up the ranks and learned the ropes of bookbinding until Mark and Iris Roswell felt comfortable enough to leave the company in his hands. To this day, Iris Roswell still contributes to the business in a consultative role.“From a fledgling manual repair business, we have evolved over the last 50 years into a fully automated, state-of-the-art book manufacturing and finishing company with highly skilled employees that are dedicated to preserving the printed word,” Roswell states.
“We are looking forward to being a part of the vibrant manufacturing community of Arizona for many years to come.”