New owner Darla Hussey brings experience, ideas
For new Riverside Printing owner Darla Hussey, getting settled in Winthrop’s print shop is a bit of a homecoming.
Hussey, who was raised in Bridgeport, moved around the American West and Southwest after college, but couldn’t find the right fit until she landed in the Methow Valley in 2013, when she began working for the Methow Valley News as a designer. Now, as the owner of a design and print business just off Winthrop’s boardwalk, Hussey feels right at home.
Hussey takes ownership of Riverside Printing from Ben and Virginia Nelson, who bought the business in 2016 and later moved it from 206 Riverside Ave., where the Winthrop Marshal is now located, to its current location at 173 Riverside Ave., down the little hallway between the Courtyard Quail and Timberline T-Shirts.
The Nelsons, who own the Rendezvous Huts, plan to focus their energy on that lodging business, as well as on their two young children.
The Nelsons are carrying the loan for Hussey, who said, “As a working-class single mom, I didn’t think it would ever be in my reach to own a business.” But Hussey had ambition, a small nest egg of pandemic stimulus checks, and the invaluable support and advice of family and friends.
Drawing on these resources, Hussey started investigating what it would take to purchase a business that would allow her to leverage her design skills while providing print services to the valley. She took possession of Riverside Printing on July 15, two days after the Barnaby Fire burned on her mother’s property and one day before the Cub Creek fire started. “That was quite a week,” Hussey said.
Hussey said her interest in design and printing was sparked as a teen when she worked on the yearbook committee at Bridgeport High School. After earning a bachelor of science degree in organizational and mass communications with an emphasis in technology, Hussey worked in tech centers in Amarillo, Austin, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. For a time she even worked at 1990s print shop mecca Kinko’s, in many ways the antithesis of Riverside Printing.
She eventually landed in Othello as the designer for the Othello Outlook newspaper. At a trade conference, Hussey met former Methow Valley News employees Robin Doggett and Dana Sphar — connections that later became professional relationships, when Hussey was hired as the designer for the Methow Valley News. Her application was decisive. “I called [editor] Don [Nelson] and told him he needed me,” Hussey said.
“She was right,” Nelson said. “Darla’s energy, creativity and work ethic made us a better newspaper, and her influence is lasting.”
Hussey is a stranger to neither hard times nor hard work. Her eldest son Dean, a 2019 Liberty Bell High School graduate, was born weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces at 27 weeks. Hussey had to move out of the work force to focus on Dean’s treatment and therapy until he was stable, and reentering at a livable income was difficult as a single mother of two young children with learning disabilities. Lacking child support, at times she relied on welfare.
But “we can do hard things if we ask for help,” Hussey said — a philosophy that brought her to the Methow Valley six years ago and now to Riverside Printing. In order to buy the print shop, Hussey asked, and friends and family helped.
On one of her first days in the shop, friend and photographer Steve Mitchell took website and promotional photos for Hussey. Mitchell’s daughter and wife, Neela and Teresa, helped paint the print shop and rearrange its furniture and equipment. Dean, as well as his younger brother, Kenny, set up the computer, phone, internet, VOIP and fax networks (yes, people still fax!).
“If you have the right support, and if you bust your butt, and if everything goes right,” Hussey said, “it’s possible to crawl out of the hole.”
Hussey said that her reception as a new business owner in Winthrop has been “so overwhelmingly fabulous” that she has not had time to update the shop’s website or do any promotional work. “We opened right away,” she said. “There was a backlog of orders. We’re working on them.”
But, she said, she intends to continue Riverside Printing’s tradition of meeting customers’ design and print work needs, including designing and printing posters, cards, mailings, invitations, reports, letterhead, logos, business cards and announcements. “We photocopy, print in both regular and wide format, and we offer a full range of finishing services, such as binding, laminating, stapling,” she said.
Hussey noted that she will also ship out large print jobs for customers, in order to get them a better deal, and will utilize a small squad of freelance photographers, writers, web designers, and programmers for jobs that are out of her wheelhouse. “I have out-of-house pros on tap,” she said.
Hussey also intends to add a committed degree of design support, which includes graphic design, layout, writing, editing, and generating web content. For this reason, Riverside Printing will be closed to walk-in customers on Fridays, so that Hussey can focus on specific design projects.
Kenny, a rising sophomore at Liberty Bell High School, will head back to school in a couple of weeks, but Dean, who will be a college sophomore at Eastern Washington University in the fall and who has exhausted the remote learning options available within his theater major, is taking a year off from school to wait for the COVID pandemic to stabilize and to learn to work in the print shop.
Former co-owner Virginia Nelson, who has been running Riverside Printing for the past five years, said that she’s thrilled to see the business in capable hands. “We think that Darla is a perfect fit. She’ll continue to provide locals with the print and design support that’s really needed in this valley,” she said — a sentiment that is echoed by other local business owners and non-profit leaders, who are relieved to see the services sustained in capable and experienced hands.
Familiar hands, too. Many Methow Valley residents know Hussey’s work as a designer for the newspaper, while others know her through her design work on Methow Valley School District publications, such as the MV Pride and the school calendar. Still others are familiar with her as the quirky face painter and balloon artist — two side hustles that are on hold until the pandemic is under control.
Hussey invites customers to get their design and print jobs on the Riverside Printing calendar. Although the business is technically only open Monday-Thursday, she said “If you have an urgent need on a weekend, email us. If we’re around and available, we’ll try to help out.”
“We’re all here to help solve problems creatively,” Hussey added. “We’re good at that. We find a way. People have told me ‘If you want something done, find a Hussey. If you want it done fast and well, get out of the way and let them work.’”
Riverside Printing’s new website, www.riversidecreates.com, will launch soon. You can contact Hussey at email@example.com.