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Muscle Bound Bindery -- Strength and Flexibility

October 2005
For Mike Welsch, strength and flexibility are the keys to building a successful postpress business. The Muscle Bound Bindery president credits the durability of his products for building the reputation his Minneapolis-based bindery enjoys. Strength and flexibility also characterize Muscle Bound's growth from an extension of a publishing house to one of the leading case binding and Otabind producers in the country.

From left, Muscle Bounders Jeff Deutsch, plant supervisor; Mike Ertle, plant manager; Jerry Hanson, former president; and Mike Welsch, president.
Muscle Bound Bindery was founded by Jerry Hanson in 1967 as the hardcover book binding arm of Lerner Publishing. The company quickly outgrew the 900 square feet it occupied on the fourth floor of a Lerner warehouse. Even after several expansions within that warehouse, the facility remained cramped as the company added new services and maintained a steady pace of growth.

"Running a bindery on the fourth floor of a building has its challenges," notes Jerry Hanson, who retired from the business in 2004. "It didn't take long for us to wear out the freight elevators." Hanson says delivery trucks barely had room to unload, and would block two lanes of a four-lane street as they backed to the bindery's elevators.

Feed the Meter

"Our customers knew they'd have an appointment with the meter maid every time they brought a job to the bindery."

It didn't take long for Muscle Bound to earn a reputation among school publishers and libraries for its bindings. The buzz began when Muscle Bound started placing a colophon of a clenched fist raised over an open book on its books' back covers. The colophon was encircled by the phrase "Muscle Bound for Long Wear." The Muscle Bound logo has become widely recognized among publishers and librarians as a reassuring symbol that their books are bound with the strength to survive these environments.

"Children are rough with everything they touch, and books are no exception," says Welsch. "Schools and libraries are environments where books receive heavy and extended usage. Also, many children's books tend to be short, easy reads. The advantage of side sewing is that it lends a great deal of strength to even the thinnest hardcover books."

In 1983, the company moved operations to a 45,000-square-foot facility just west of downtown Minneapolis. Along with the move came some new equipment, including a Muller Martini perfect binder and a Kolbus case binding line. For the next several years, Muscle Bound enjoyed a steady pace of growth as the company honed its quality and efficiency.

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