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● Like father like son – Bruce at his Windles desk and his father Dennis (right) with the cards from the V&A

cutting and embossing machine in 1988.” By the following year Windles had outgrown their site again, and needed a six-colour machine as greetings cards at the time were mostly CMYK plus pink and often violet. Bruce found the Long Crendon site and spent £92,000 of the company’s £100,000 savings on a secondhand Ultra 6 Man press that would have been £1million new. “The building itself was

catastrophically late,” he said, “and I installed the press when the unit had no roof on one end and they were just casting the fl oor. “They were the

Mercedes of print presses at the time and it was the absolute rock of this business, in use until it went out of here in 2003

when I sold it to a company in Luton who still run it to this day. I sold it for £22,000 so that wasn’t a bad return!” Windles then developed contracts with big publishers including Kingsley, Regent, Second Nature, Apperley and companies such as Watermark who had the Boots contract. “Watermark’s was the largest greetings

card run I’ve ever seen,” Bruce added, “it was a Father Christmas image for Boots and we printed them 32 cards up on an A0 sheet and ran in one hit 350,000 sheets of that one design – 11,200,000 cards!”

The market has now changed with more publishers doing direct to retail rather than wholesale so Windles moved to smaller B1 machines in 2003 and, having expanded into three further units on the site, now run 13 units 24 hours a day which can produce 2½ million greetings cards daily as a 16-up function. They are running two long Heidelberg machines, a seven-colour and a six-colour, as well as the speciality fi nishes such as the cold foil process which Bruce developed by playing with one of his expensive presses before inventing a separate machine, plus he’s come up with holographic coating and textured varnish among numerous other developments.

Bruce said: “I love machines and working out how to apply them so, when customers

ask for the usual, we can then show different applications. Our whole drive is fi nding new and better ways of doing things. “I have to respect the machine to allow it to be part of the family, and we clearly have the machines that do everything from sparkles, fl itter and embossing, to packing and labelling. “In order to fully take them to my heart I have to get the best machines for the job to expect my staff to run them. Since

and windmills, and heat with biomass. Originally they were going to nearby Westcott but the lack of public transport has made Bruce decide to move to Thame, just a mile from their current base but across the county boundary into Oxfordshire, with construction due to start at the end of this year. “It will be a green factory,” Bruce explained,

“it’s come out of a practical approach as, when it comes to waste it’s not come necessarily from ‘we want to save the planet’ – of course we do but the problem you have to get rid of waste which costs us money, so we instead looked at what we could reuse. “We always recycled the paper

and board, then we were looking at how you recycle plastic, wrapping and boxes, and then it’s come out across the company as staff have got involved and we now recycle bottles and food too. “It wasn’t really a green crusade,

more common sense as to what to do with these products. We had

all the pallets left over from the paper deliveries and there was the usual Bruce thing of looking at how I could turn wood into energy so making a machine to take the pallets.

● Back in time – the Brent Press showroom at the NEC in the 60s, stripping the cards, and picking and packing

my fi rst press I’ve run them all myself, every machine we have, so I know exactly what I’m asking people to do and people enjoy the fact that if they have a problem they can ask me and I can help them – but it does have a fl ip side that they can’t say ‘we can’t do that’ because I’ll say ‘stand aside and I’ll show you’!

“So they want to see what they can do, see how well they can run the machine themselves.” Windles Group’s future now involves another move as they seek to build on their well- deserved green credentials with a purpose-built factory on a sustainable model, where they will produce their own electricity with photo-voltaics

“It cost us £34,000 a year to heat the buildings and we saved 20 per cent on that in the fi rst year with the wood chip pellets, now we use them to heat the whole factory. “One thing leads to another and people come to me with ideas so it’s developed into a company passion that’s good for the planet and also good for the bank balance as we have revenue streams from recycling of at least £23,000 a year.

“I was always the new kid on the block and now I’m one of the establishment – even my kids ask me what I’m going to do when I grow up! But I’ll still be here playing with my machines.” Despite having 30 years in the print industry under his belt some things never change, as Windles marketing manager Michelle Mills said: “Bruce can’t came to work in a suit because he might have a meeting one minute, then he’ll be inside the Bobst 106 embossing machine!” T: 01844 201683 15

● Card images from the V&A Museum

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