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● Hands on – a young Bruce with one of his

fi rst presses rst pr and (below) in the shell of the Long

Crendon base Three decades after setting up a print works in a

Group into one of the big names in greetings card printing with an ingrained green streak.

known for his environmental values? Well, the family history in the industry pointed Bruce Podmore in the right direction but, three decades after he mortgaged his house to fi nance his fi rst printing press, it’s clear that drive, instinct, ingenuity, determination and sheer bravado are the major factors in his and the Windles Group’s success. All that coupled with 51-year-old Bruce’s ingrained inventiveness and ability to see beyond the obvious has taken him from an Aylesbury shed in 1984 to the the company’s current four- building operation in Long Crendon, Bucks. “I went into engineering when I left school,” Bruce said, “I wasn’t academic, I liked to do stuff that made me feel good and that was making things, and I had a fascination with big machines. “But I realised all I’d be doing was designing components for other people to have fun with using in their big machines.” Bruce’s grandfather Arthur Podmore set up


Brent Press in the 1930s off London’s Western Avenue as a general printers which then moved into publishing greetings cards and his father Dennis worked for the family fi rm, which had 500 employees in their heyday. In the 1960s the fi rm became Brent Buzza when they took on the UK production for American fi rm Buzza Cards, which later became Buzza Cardoza and is now a division of Gibsons Cards, owned by American Greetings. And the Podmore family’s part in greetings

card history has been acknowledged as London’s V&A Museum have a Brent Press birthday card from 1957 and one they manufactured for Buzza Cardoza in 1969 in the archives. Brent Press stayed as a separate fi rm until it was taken over by the Kaye Greetings Card Company, based in Corby, while Dennis eventually bought HA Windles & Son printers in Maple Cross, and was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the 2008 Henries. “So greetings cards were in the blood,” Bruce continued, “and when I was looking for something to do, this huge history made me think how I could get hold of a machine that I


OW does a chap who just loves tinkering with machines become one of the big names in greetings card printing and

could do some printing on. The ordnance factory in Southampton was closing and they were getting rid of a two-colour machine that had spent its life printing Ordnance Survey maps. “That was all you could get in those days, either single-colour machines or two-colour so if you wanted more colours you had to change the ink in the machine and put the item through again.

“They were throwing this machine out and I was always one for a deal so asked if I could have it, when they fi nally said yes, I got the money with a £6,000 mortgage on my little two- up, two-down house in Thame and a friend with a van went and picked it up for me.

Three decades after setting up a print works in a shed, Bruce Podmore has used his love of big machines, inventiveness and family history to build up Windles

inventiveness and family history to build up Windles Group into one of the big names in greetings card printing with an ingrained green streak.

– he came up with 100 contacts from a print trades directory and had a secretarial company mail a letter offering the services of his new company Tempo Designs. Of the fi ve responses, one was McCorquodale Envelopes in Wolverton, Milton Keynes, whose in-house presses were the wrong size to print their direct mailing envelope contracts. Bruce explained: “McCorquodale’s Steve

Moore asked me to run them for him – after that it just grew and grew and I ended up doing a Golden Virginia promotion for East Anglia, this was before computer data so they just blanket mailed everyone in an area.

I installed the press with no roof on one end and they were just casting the fl oor “There was an engineering fi rm in Aylesbury,


“I did 740,000 sheets in six colours which each had to go through the machine three times as it was only a two-colour machine. “I did it all myself then got in another 20-year- old to help me and he ran the machine through the day and I’d run it through the night, we did that for 3½ months, we never stopped. “When that contract fi nished we carried on with JPS, Barclays, Barclaycard, we ran all their direct mail envelopes and slowly built it up. “We then started picking up overfl ow work

Broderna Danielson, and the landlord had a few buildings behind so I took space in a shed at the back. I’d bought the machine but then needed to be taught how to use it. “Hazell Watson & Viney printers were in

Aylesbury but no one there would teach me – I wasn’t a union member or working for them, so they didn’t want to know. “So I went to the Hazell’s social club where all these nice old boys were playing bowls, they were in their 60s and retired and I asked if they would teach me how to print. They did – I think they were bored and wanted something to do!” When it then came to the question of what he was actually going to print, typically, Bruce found his own way of reaching potential customers

from Waterlows in Dunstable. We had a 1962 George Man Master two-colour printer and at Waterlows they had new Roland 800 four-colour machines but the boss there said the work I got from the Mann was better than they got off their Roland.”

By 1987, Tempo Designs needed more staff and space so Bruce moved to Maple Cross where he bought out his father Dennis’ print fi rm and began operating with Tempo as the direct mail side and Windles as the trade printers, where they won contracts printing wholesale greetings cards for Gieson & Wolfe. “I used to go around the factory,” Bruce said, “and saw the waste bins which stuck with me because of the greetings cards stripping I saw in the Buzza factory as a youngster. “It was an ancestral pull so we became the print shop for Gieson & Wolfe and from then we leveraged it to Second Generation, a big publishers at the time, then Beau Cards. “I realised that whenever there was a

recession the fi rst thing to go would be the trade print as they’d take the overfl ow work back in- house – I thought we needed our own product so went into greetings cards, buying our fi rst die-

Man and machine

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