LOVELL BROTHERS SHARE SECRETS OF MAKING GOOD FIRST IMPRESSIONS

February 04, 2002 11:00 pm
Rob and Dave Lovell hold a windsail that Rob built. ().
Rob and Dave Lovell hold a windsail that Rob built. ().

Like many area residents, Dave and Rob Lovell arrived in Brookings via a long and winding road.

The Lovell brothers, new owners of First Impressions printshop, grew up in London and around the world as their father, a geologist, worked on various assignments.

The brothers, good friends as well as business partners, still shake their heads in wonder at how their path led to the South Coast.

Weve lived in five different countries, Rob said in amazement. England, Nigeria, Australia, Spain and the U.S.

Lots of experiences, Dave added. We had to leave Nigeria because civil war broke out. Later we spent three months on a boat emigrating to Australia.

Both brothers attended University of Plymouth, a college on the Southeast Coast of England.

We loved being by the sea, said Rob. We hoped we could find jobs at the coast.

They each graduated with honors in marine sciences. Dave majored in marine biology, Rob in fisheries science and oceanography.

Their books may have been open to marine science, but their passion is windsurfing.

We learned to windsurf when we were in college, said Rob. It was half and half. Half studying and half windsurfing.

In England, wed windsurf in weather like this, he said, describing the rain and wind seen on stormy days in Curry County. The waves werent necessarily huge like they get here, but the storms were when wed get the big wind.

Its like riding a wind horse, said Dave. Theres this natural power.

Youre dancing with the elements, added Rob.

Windsurfing turned out to be what lured the brothers to the U.S.

We followed our dad to Hood River in 1990, Dave said. Hed retired and bought an apple orchard there.

Hood River is a world reknowned mecca for windsurfers. Thermal conditions generate strong summer winds in the Columbia Gorge, or big air as its called in the sport.

The growing windsurfing industry offered fertile ground to the two unemployed windsurfers.

Dave found work building wetsuits and Rob learned to construct the delicate windsails many liken to a birds wing. They each learned to tinker with temperamental sewing machines that were the tools of their trade. In the winter, they drove snow cats and worked in food services at Mount Hood Meadows, a nearby ski area.

All these jobs, you learn from each of them, said Rob. You learn responsibility and you get confidence in your abilities.

Dave also added another skill to the Lovell resume. Id always been interested in graphic design, he said. I taught myself and opened a small design firm.

Before long, Wind Tracks magazine came knocking on his door. The glossy, 100-page magazine needed someone to do layout and production. It didnt hurt that Dave was a regular in the windsurfing community and spent every spare minute darting along the Columbia River like a dragonfly.

They were the sole magazine of the whole sport, Dave said. I worked for them for four years.

During that time, the brothers learned about another windsurfing hotspot. Wed watch the weather forecasts and a lot of times the only place that was windy was Pistol River, said Rob. We visited every chance we could.

In 1998, Dave realized his design work was portable enough that he could pack up and pursue his dream of living at the coast. He settled in Gold Beach.

Then, in a twist of fate the work dried up. Wind Tracks was absorbed by another magazine that didnt need his services. He started looking for work he and Rob could do together.

I was sitting in Soakers (a Gold Beach coffeehouse) one day and I overheard Kathy Brace talking about First Impressions, he said. She owned this printshop in Brookings and she wanted out.

Brace, who owned both Soakers and First Impressions at the time, was ready to downsize from two businesses to one.

Graphic design and printing are closely related, Dave said. I knew graphic design would enhance a print shop.

The brothers quickly formulated a plan. Dave would work on the design end and Rob would run the presses.

They patched together enough funds for a modest downpayment and in March 1998 plunged into the heady atmosphere of business ownership.

Brace stayed on a month and a half to show them the ropes.

There are 16 machines, said Rob, and each one has its own personality. Its older equipment and it needs constant adjusting.

I knew I could do it, he said of the mechanical challenge. Ive stripped beatup engines and we spent all those years fine tuning sewing machines.

Printing is definitely a trade, he continued. All the papers, inks, the machines. You dont learn this in college. We just dive in and learn how to produce a product and figure out the rest as we go along.

Juggling. Thats the hardest thing about owning your own business, Dave said. Making a living, keeping the bills paid, providing good service, reasonable rates.

Were trying to learn all the aspects of the business.

Someday I hope we can have more of a design presence in town. Id like to see the print shop help promote art in the community.

Meanwhile, the brothers Lovell are putting their personal stamp on the print shop. A windsurfing board is propped near red and yellow kayaks on the sidewalk outside the shop door. Dogs Miles and Foxy greet customers enthusiastically. A sturdy beat from the stereo joins the rhythmic sound of the presses.

We rock out, Rob said.

First Impressions produces a wide range of business forms, brochures, flyers and custom logos.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Call (541) 469-5131 for information.