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Creps United Publications: Fire Kindles Insert Printer's Spirit to Rebuild

May 2014 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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It was a calm, beautiful morning on Oct. 23, 2012, as Amy Creps enjoyed breakfast on the back porch of her home in White Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The porch looked out toward the cluster of buildings that comprised Creps United Publications, of which Amy's husband, Howard, and his cousin, Jake, are managing partners.

The Wednesday morning turned from pleasant to horrifying in the blink of an eye as Amy Creps screamed out, "Oh, my God!"

Howard Creps, who had his back to the porch, turned to see the fireball that flashed through the building. Instinctively, he rushed to the scene, where he found the fire had started inside a press. The blaze didn't remain there for long; it soon spread throughout the facility.

Actually, since the weather had been so gorgeous, a number of the doors were wide open. "Once the negative air pressure caught that, it just took the fire clear through the building," Howard Creps recalls. Within 5-7 minutes, the facility was fully involved.

Miraculously, none of the 50 employees on the floor at the time of the fire were injured. But it took a dozen fire departments from three Pennsylvania counties roughly five hours to extinguish the blaze, which filled the skies with black smoke so dense and billowing that it could be seen for miles. Walls and ceilings buckled under the intense heat, which one firefighter said eclipsed the 1,200-degree mark at the roof.

It took less than a day to obliterate what took 64 years to cultivate. One of the nation's leading providers of grocery and other retail advertising inserts, POP signage and digital printing sat in ruins. Roughly 250 people would be out of jobs, and luck. But, outside of a few minor burns, everyone was OK, physically. People, unlike buildings, cannot be rebuilt.

Fast forward to 2014 when, due to the commitment by ownership to rebuild and with the help of local government and the outpouring of community love and support, Creps United Publications is back in business. "It's been like Christmas every day, with something new in here," Howard Creps enthuses. "Seventeen months from the fire, and here we are, completely rebuilt."

Between the first sight of the fireball that might have brought Creps United Publications to its knees, and the final touches on the new 100,000-square-foot facility with modern amenities, not to mention newer and highly efficient web offset presses that allow the company to do more with less, lies a tale of hope, determination and focus. It's a reminder to any business owner that the Phoenix can rise from ashes, sometimes stronger than ever before.


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