WAXAHACHIE — Centrally located in the core of Waxahachie, College Street Printing is believed to be one of the oldest Ellis County business to continually operate from the same location — and is second oldest of such a claim in the State of Texas.
“I found out a lot of interesting things about this company when I did some research,” began Kenneth Denny, owner of College Street Printing Co.
“It was not originally located where it is now, which was a disappointment to me, but what I was able to gather from the State Comptroller’s office is that we are the second oldest business in the state of Texas continually operating from the same location. We’re second only to a monument company in Weatherford, but we’re the oldest in Ellis County."
This one-stop shop provides more than just graphic design, creative branding and printing of all genres, but also carries a rich history that has stretched throughout the beginnings of Ellis County.
“I spent hours down in the basement of the library and researched. This building actually burned twice as a wooden structure; it was originally a saddlery where they made saddles and bridles,” Denny noted. “Once I got into it the building, it was so incredible the things I learned about it, which lead me to Thomas Middleton, who looks just like ‘The Most Interesting Man In the World’ commercials."
Known as the “pioneers of South Carolina,” the Middleton family were "spread-out successes" all over the country, which included Thomas Middleton’s ancestor, Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
“Thomas Middleton used to regularly correspond with President Woodrow Wilson about matters of infrastructure improvement and the plights of the working class,” Denny acknowledged.
“After moving to Waxahachie, the red house right behind the post office, that’s where he lived,” he added. “And the owner of the Ringling Brothers of Barnum and Bailey circus, when he was in Dallas he would sneak off and come down here to the shop and play chess because Middleton and he were avid chess players. This guy did all kinds of stuff like that.”
The printing business originally started as a weekly newspaper called the “Waxahachie Mirror” by E.C. Huckabee in 1881, where Middleton added a job-printing branch to the newspaper’s service, later purchasing it in 1887.
“The printing business wasn’t on College Street in 1887,” Denny clarified the company’s original start was on what was known as 602 South Washington Street.
“Actually, the College Street building was selling saddles in 1887, and then it was a sample room for visiting salesmen to store their stuff in for the show,” he added. “Then they moved out of the Dove’s Nest building and into the Baumgartner Building and then there was a fire.”
All the fire damage destroyed the Baumgartner Building in 1888 where the newspaper was published, and Middleton quickly relocated to the second floor of what is now known as The Dove’s Nest.
“Middleton started as a newspaper man before 1887, selling a lot of things to do with printing besides newspapers, so he decided to do job printing in late April of 1887.”
The business soon unfolded a narrative as old as time, developing a claim to fame of being the oldest continually run business in Ellis County as it revolved locations.
Additionally, the building’s tenancy also alternated from a harness shop in 1885 to a saddlery shop in 1890, and finally a millinery facility in 1893, until another fire destroyed the wooden structure.
“This building burnt twice as a wooden structure, and then they finally rebuilt it with brick,” Denny recalled.
By 1894 the college street building was rebuilt and immediately occupied, bringing Middleton’s printing company in by 1908, later purchasing the property in 1912.
Middleton’s two sons, Marcellus and Montgomery, ran the business for 50 years until Marcellus died in 1961 and Montgomery passed his father’s business on to Ralph Robins in 1963.
For the next 11 years, and on the edge of closure, Boyd Box assumed ownership and revived the printing business in 1974, renaming it “Box Printing and Advertising.”
“Back then, every town had at least two or three print shops in it, but now there are only two or three in the whole county. So the print industry has shrunk,” Denny disclosed.
Going to work for Box as a Sheetfed Pressman in 1984, Denny accepted ownership of the company in January of 1993 after Boyd’s retirement.
“I saw an opportunity to take ownership in the future and went to work for him,” Denny recollected the memories. “Boyd was the third owner of the company with ‘Box Printing and Advertising, ’ and I worked for him for nine years before he retired.”
Changing the name from “Box Printing and Advertising,” to “College Street Printing,“ the company remained true to its purpose regardless of the name change.
Soon adopting a life of its own in a technology-changing world, College Street Printing remains relevant in the 21st century, serving the community of Waxahachie.
“Printing has changed over the years,” Denny admitted. “So when I bought this company, you either typed it yourself on a typewriter, or you took it to whoever had a copier and had them make a copy for you.”
After the launch of Microsoft Windows '95 and Macintosh workstations with full range design software, Denny ramped up his production capabilities by adapting to the digital trends throughout the early 2000s.
“We do original art, production art, commercial printing, brochures, business cards, posters, signs, and social stationery,” Denny listed.
“Going from the offset press world and into the digital has opened up and expanded that, because we’re able to run a lot of materials through our digital machine,” he added.
Just as it was in 1887, today’s success continues off the enduring heritage of friendly customer service and high printing quality for over 130 years.
“So I don’t know what’s going to happen when I move into retirement someday, but I would hope that after I’m gone that there’s someone who comes along and keeps it going,” Denny mentioned. “That’s what I would like to see because I know what that meant to Mr. Box when I came in and kept it going.”
“But all the time we’ve been here, we’ve been very blessed to be here and be as busy as we are - and that’s a good thing. I think it helps to know where you’ve been to figure out where you’re going, and I’m just grateful to be in this community with a history,” Denny concluded.
To connect with College Street Printing, visit collegestreetprinting.com, or call (972) 938-1971
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer