Bartash Printing in Philadelphia Closes Its Doors After a 66-Year Run
Bartash Printing, a local iconic establishment that had billed itself as the largest coldset web offset commercial printing operation in the greater Philadelphia area and among the top 100 publication printers in North America, has ceased operations, effective Nov. 30, impacting 163 workers. A phone receptionist confirmed to Printing Impressions that the company would be closing and, when asked to speak to President Helene Rubin, was told that "she is no longer with the company." And a voicemail message left for Richard Mager, chief restructuring officer, seeking more details about the closure was not returned.
The Phoenix, an independent weekly campus newspaper serving Swarthmore (Pa.) College since 1881, also penned an editorial thanking Bartash for printing the publication the past 10 years. "From inclement weather to patiently accepting 4 a.m. submissions despite our 12 a.m. deadline, Bartash delivered The Phoenix every week without fail," the editorial board wrote. "Sadly, we received notice that this will be our last issue with Bartash, as the company will be closing effective Nov. 30.
"It’s certainly not news to anyone that the newspaper and magazine industry has rapidly declined in recent years. While many national publications have managed to stay afloat, local publications have suffered severe losses," the editors pointed out. "It doesn’t just stop at publications, however. Printing companies like Bartash also get swept up in the ripple effect of local publications’ low readership. So what can community members like ourselves do to ensure that local publications and small businesses survive? The answer is simple. Support your local publications."
Bartash Printing Outlook More Promising Just Last Year
The business outlook for Bartash seemed much more positive as recently as last year. On Aug. 8, 2017, Bartash announced that it had extended its loan agreement with North Mill Capital through 2020, with more favorable terms. The financing consisted of a revolving line of credit, along with two term loans.
At the same time, the company announced:
- It had invested more than $1.7 million in 2017 in its press and postpress departments, including strategic purchases of “state-of-the-art” equipment to enhance its production capabilities.
- It had hired industry veteran Thom Scirrotto to complement and expand its sales efforts in commercial offset printing.
- Helene Rubin, then-president of Bartash, had received the Graphic Arts Association’s top honor, the 2017 Neographics Person of the Year, at the GAA's annual Neographics awards gala. Rubin was also named to serve on the association's board of directors that July.
- Bartash had won the “Best of Newspaper” category at Neographics 2017 for exceptional design, quality and finished product.
In the same release, Linda Rubin-Simon, owner of Bartash, commented, “2017 has been a remarkable year so far for Bartash. We extended our relationship with North Mill Capital through 2020, thereby securing all of our financing needs for years to come ... With a strong financial partner (North Mill), exceptional employees and long-standing vendor relationships, we are well-positioned to continue providing best-in-class products and services to existing customers while strategically onboarding new customers who are looking for a strong, reliable partner to grow their businesses now and into the future.”
But it obviously didn't play out that way.
What Lead to Bartash Printing's Decline and Closure?
Part of Bartash's demise might be attributable to $105,000 worth of printing owed to it by The Current Newspapers — a 50-year-old community news operation with five free editions serving northwest Washington — which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, according to the Washington Business Journal. The Journal also reported that The Current Newspapers had been sued by the Gannett Co. in September 2017 for $180,000 worth of printing, dating back to the period leading up to the end of 2015 when Gannett shut down its Springfield, Va., printing operation, which had also been printing USA Today.
Printing Impressions also reported on April 13, 2017, that the U.S. Department of Labor had required Bartash to pay $273,892 in back wages and liquidated damages to 136 temporary employees for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition to the back wages and liquidated damages, the DOL reported that Bartash also agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $31,350, making the total amount of the fine $305,242. According to the DOL, Bartash used a temporary help agency, VQ Management — doing business as Managed Staffing and/or Best Staff — to acquire the workers, but failed to ensure that they were paid minimum wage of for working overtime.
In addition, there were some rumors, albeit unsubstantiated, that there was infighting among Bartash ownership about control of the company.
Bartash Printing was last ranked Number 124 on the 2016 Printing Impressions 400 list of the largest printing companies in the U.S. and Canada, reporting sales of $39.75 million and 250 employees. Its revenues were broken down as 60% publication, 25% newspaper, 10% catalog and 5% direct mail printing. Click here to access the most recent Printing Impressions 400 list.
According to its website, Bartash was founded in Southwest Philadelphia in 1952 with a single press in a 10,000-sq.-ft. facility by Joe Bartash to print his weekly newspaper, The Southwest Globe-Times. In 1962, Bartash’s son-in-law, Sidney Simon, joined the company and eventually purchased the business. During the next 45+ years Sidney Simon and his son Michael — who joined in 1994 — grew Bartash from that single-press operation to what would become six press lines in a 100,000-sq.ft. facility located on Grays Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia.