Go North, Young Printers

Located at 204 Strickland St., the Arctic Star Printing building has been a part of the downtown Whitehorse scenery since 1983. Now they’ve got a new location. The company acquired Inkspirationz at 120 Platinum Road in July, and as of September 11, the two companies are now operating from the same workspace.

“It will allow us to expand our services and provide a one stop shop for all of your printing needs,” said owner and manager Stéphane Thibeault. “This new streamlined workspace means that customers can now get everything done in one shot.”

Both companies have a long history in the Yukon. Arctic Star has been around for 41 years and Inkspirationz for 34.

The client base for both companies is well established. That’s part of why Thibeault doesn’t plan on merging them for the time being.

“We want to keep our clientele from both businesses and it’s important that they know we’ll be providing all of the same services that they’re used to under one roof.”

He isn’t ruling out a potential future merger down the road once customers grow accustomed to the new location.

Thibeault said the streamlined printing facilities allow for better customer service, too. All of the current staff are being retained. “I’m so lucky to have such a great staff they really know what they’re doing. I’m also thankful to Stephanie and Jim [ Stephanie Churchill and Jim Cleaver, founders and former owners of Inkspirationz] for showing me the ropes.”

According to the Inkspirationz website Stephanie Churchill and Jim Cleaver founded the company as a sign painting and graphic design shop 34 years ago. The business won a Young Entrepreneur Award from the Canadian Federal Business Development Bank and became the largest custom sign fabrication shop in the Yukon.

Staff developed their skills through a progressive mentorship program.

Arctic Star Printing provides short run digital printing services as well as higher run offset printing. They have a wide range of expertise ranging from business cards, brochures and pamphlets to annual reports.

Walking around the place you get a sense of creativity in action. Staff work on different projects using a variety of specialized equipment. The employees are drawn from diverse backgrounds, including several graphic designers and technicians from both companies.

Thibeault came to the Yukon 18 years ago from Quebec along with his partner who got a job in Dawson City. After living in Dawson for a while the couple decided to check out Whitehorse. At first he only planned to stay in Whitehorse for a short time. That’s when he was offered ownership of Arctic Star and made the Yukon his home for good. Business has been good since and he’s excited about diversifying.

“It’s funny because back in Quebec while I was in university studying another topic I used to deliver fliers. Now I print them!” This is, of course, an understatement. Combined services also include billboards, signage, company vehicles and even wooden designs for the outside of buildings.

But newspaper printing is a different beast and the process can be demanding on equipment among other things. He doesn’t want to go there. “The one thing I’ll never print are newspapers,” Thibeault said with a laugh.

He sees the Yukon as a land of opportunity where getting into a field, learning the ropes and working your way to the top is more feasible than in the rest of Canada. “Seeing people with master’s degrees in the big cities down south who never manage to get jobs in their field is really sad. So much wasted talent.”

The printing industry is going through a radical transition as online advertising and news media cut into industry profits. For example, Quebec’s venerable French language newspaper, La Presse, recently announced that it’s moving entirely online and will stop printing altogether this December. The 133-year-old newspaper, owned by Power Corp, is one of the oldest in Canada.

The Yukon is unique in Canada in that the industry is keeping its head above water with potential for growth. Yukoners still seem to enjoy reading a physical newspaper or printed advertising as opposed to getting everything that they need from the internet. For example, around 80 per cent of the readership for northern publications like What’s Up Yukon comes from print as opposed to online. This is an enviable place to be in the industry.

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