DENHAM SPRINGS — Communities are a sum of their parts. People, government, organizations, and business all combine to make up a sense of togetherness in any given place. The reflection of that community is created by the attitude of the participants – good or bad.
That’s the mindset Danny Paline, owner of Five Star Printing in Denham Springs, carries with him every day to work. It’s his belief that enhancing his business will be a great service to his community, and that he can become a pillar to help hold up, at least part, of his home.
And that modus operandi isn’t new, either.
Just after leaving the Air Force and returning home to Denham Springs, Paline was eager to put his entrepreneurial desire to work. He set out immediately to find something the town didn’t have, settling upon his version of Mail Boxes, Etc. – a business service center which offered printing, packing and shipping, and local courier services.
Business zoomed as Paline filled a need he felt was under represented in the area. However, it wasn’t long before the world of printing come knocking. After about a year and a half doing business services, a local printer entered the office to get some shipping assistance and, as a matter of course, Paline asked him how the printing business was.
“I would no more have known what he was telling was good or bad when he told me,” Paline recalled, “I knew nothing about printing.”
But, that didn’t stop him from taking the bait.
“Good, actually,” he remembered the gentleman saying, “but, I’m about to retire.
“Do you want to buy a print shop?”
So, Paline began putting finances together and found success in the first seven-eight years. He joined the Chamber of Commerce and became one of the main things he had set out to be – a pillar of his community. Unfortunately, Denham Springs was not as large at the time and wasn’t as open to local, small-scale printing – preferring to farm out jobs to larger commercial printers, and the internet.
So, eventually, Paline was forced to close the shop. He moved to Franklin Press in Baton Rouge, where he learned a valuable lesson after about one year on the job. The owner, Jensen Holliday, took a meeting with him one day and Danny asked for advice, to which he received a piece of advice he describes as the ‘best he’s ever had.’
Mostly because it catered to his idea of service and community.
“You really seem to love printing,” Holliday said, “Go get a back-up profession to make sure that your family is set up, and set up this business on the side.”
Not one to abandon his M.O., Paline decided to continue his professional career in a new field – healthcare.
For about ten years, Paline focused on serving people in the health industry. According to him, the printing industry changed, and to be focused very heavily on digital printing, and that’s what made him decide to jump back.
“People were more receptive to local printing,” Paline said. “The quantities per job had dropped, and technology had allowed us to do those large-scale, high quality jobs with fewer people.”
Using any source of marketing he could get his hands on, Paline began building his brand-new print shop as the local source for printing needs. His first big move? Occupying the old Whitehead Travel Agency building, in the same parking lot as Whitney Bank in Denham Springs.
“That was a big visual step for us,” Paline said. “We had better signage, the location – people started walking in. We started getting really good foot traffic.”
Paline’s local angle, combined with the walk-in business, gave him an edge over other franchise copy outfits. But, the expanding business had what many would call a ‘good problem,’ – as Five Star grew into different printing models and met new requirements and jobs, the size of the equipment began to expand.
The good problem to have? Five Star’s facility only had 1,000 square feet.
Unfortunately for Paline, the commercial real estate market for a larger facility with the same visibility just wasn’t there. So, he had to make a trade – sacrificing the visibility of U.S. 190, Five Star moved into a more industrial-type location off of Tower Street in Denham Springs.
“It did allow us to focus more on the commercial, large-scale print jobs,” Paline admitted. “We weren’t so reliant on walk-in traffic.”
That became the model on which Paline was going to build the future of his business. As time progressed, business expanded, and Five Star was able to acquire equipment that allowed them to UV-print direct onto the material – allowing for quick turnaround times.
Once that tidbit got out the community at large?
“We went from 70% - 30% print to sign ratio, to almost an even 50% split overnight,” Paline explained.
The new sign printing bled over into the golden time for Five Star’s business model – campaign season. Paline’s local mantra struck with politicians who needed signage quick. Combined with push cards and various other printing needs, it’s the best time of year for the business as they offer a winning combination.
“We have fast turnaround and great pricing,” Paline said, “and we provide a great quality of product.”
Five Star was poised to explode after a heavy 2015 campaign season, with more coming in 2016. Then, it started to rain…
Early on Saturday morning, August 13, Paline loaded his trailer down with every tool he had and raced toward his office. His intention was to raise or dismantle and carry away every piece of equipment he could before his office began to take on water.
To his bewilderment, Paline was already too late.
“I got to 4-H Club Road and they (Denham Springs Police) turned me around, because the water at the shop was already above head level,” Paline said. “We lost a lot in that flood. I never like to put a figure on it, but let’s just say it was well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
As the water receded days later, Paline returned to the shop to view the devastation. Everything was lost, and he had a decision to make – do I stay or do I go? Unknown to Paline, he had already made that decision internally, he just needed the push in the right direction?
How so? Well, the community he embraced needed his help.
“My phone started to ring off the hook once people started getting back to their offices,” Paline said. ’Danny, you’re my printer – you have all my files and everything was washed out. I need cards, fliers… can you help me?” they’d say.
Resolute in his determination, Paline reached out to a friend in Mississippi who also owned a print shop – complete with some old machines he wasn’t using. Within a week, Five Star was back up and running, although – like most other shops during the flood – the improvisation level was high.
THE BIG PLAY
Five Star was printing. The community had come in and given the company the volume required to stay alive.
They were just making it happen without walls.
Unfortunately, that meant a complete lack of quality climate control. As Paline returned to normal operating levels, he found that his equipment was not responding correctly or overheating. The answer to his problems came through his avenue of community service, as a member of Kiwanis.
“I was at a Kiwanis meeting one Thursday, and the staff-sergeant of the Salvation Army came in,” Paline illustrated by waving the at the door. “I asked him if they’d be moving back into their location on Florida Boulevard… he said ‘no.’”
Paline was out the door before he was asked why.
Just a few weeks later, Paline was moving into 1003 Florida Avenue Southwest. The kicker? Not only did he get his highly-sought visibility back, but now he had even more square footage than ever – 6,000 of it. With an owner who was very accommodating, before long Five Star had solid walls and a cargo-bay door, and it was off to the races.
Paline has expanded his staff to have the capacity to meet needs. Growth plans came when jobs were requested of him that he couldn’t fill. At the time, he might farm them out, but in the interim he was looking for the method or the machine to make it happen.
The new staff, however, puts Paline in a bit of an awkward position – well outside his comfort zone. Like most business owners and managerial types who take their craft seriously, there’s a ‘D-word’ that causes more stress than red on the profit-and-loss statement.
“For the longest time, I operated lean and I was a shop worker 12 hours a day,” Paline explained. “I was always working IN my business, not ON my business.
“This new staff has allowed me to focus on personally marketing my brand, which is new.”
But, Paline realizes that the opportunity is there for him to become even more involved in his community, to seek out business which needs printing but had no idea that such things could be done locally at an affordable price.
It’s difficult for Paline to describe what he does in great detail, as there are so many clever ways people have utilized his services. Put simply? If it needs to be printed on a medium, Five Star can do it – and probably in house. Paper, vinyl, acrylic, metal, and even cotton.
If Paline can’t, he’ll find someone who can and will make sure to grow into a model where you can receive your goods and services.
“I think that’s (filling needs) important because most people assume that printing is just on paper,” Paline illustrated. “Printing has evolved to where we are no longer just printers, we are market service providers.
“Anything related to the promotion of your business through print is usually done in one shop, and the shop’s did not make the jump to do that are no longer in business.”
McHugh David is publisher and editor of the News. He is also a real estate agent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow him on Twitter @mchughdavid41.