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125 Years Young: Inside One of San Diego’s Oldest Print Shops

Founded in 1899, family-owned Neyenesch Printers acts as a window to a bygone era
An employee of Neyenesch Printers operating the Original Heidelberg Cylinder printing press built in 1960
Photo Credit: Cole Novak

In this building, the past is present.

“Growing up, my mom would pick me and my sister up from school and we’d play in the ink room or [on] the bindery floor,” says Natalie Neyenesch, a fourth-generation employee of the family-owned Neyenesch Printers. “I remember being here after school and answering the phones and being a receptionist.”

Today, she’s 28 and answering sales calls under the official title of account manager. Really, though, she does it all—printing is in her blood. Natalie’s great-grandfather W. B. “Bill” Neyenesch first began his industry career in the basement of the Hotel del Coronado.

W. B. “Bill” Neyenesch founder of Neyenesch Printers with his first employees circa 1899
Courtesy of Neyenesch Printers

Bill eventually went out on his own in 1899 and set up shop on K Street in downtown. Nearly 125 years later, Neyenesch is a staple in the city, printing almost 1 million sheets a month for clients who’ve stuck with them for 20, 30, 40 years.

They’ve been in their current home base in Little Italy since the ’50s. As we walk through the cavernous basement, we’re surrounded by towering paper stacks and machines that could leave you fingerless, if you’re not careful.

The Original Heidelberg Cylinder built in 1960 that is still in operation today at Neyenesch Printers in San Diego
Photo Credit: Cole Novak

Everything is waiting for its turn to be inked, pressed, embossed, folded, stitched, laminated, or bound. In the back, the shop’s oldest machine acts as a window to a bygone era. The Original Heidelberg Cylinder, built in 1960 and refurbished in 2000, is fitted with levers and pulleys, cutters and wheels, whoseits and whatchamacallits.

In an increasingly digital world, old-school printing tradesmen are a rarity. The average employee tenure at Neyenesch is 20 years. “[My job] has provided a good living for me and my family for the past 33 years,” says bindery equipment operator Bao Trinh. “Every project is unique and challenging. It’s never boring.”

Long live print.

By Nicolle Monico

Nicolle Monico is an award-winning writer and the managing digital editor for San Diego Magazine with more than 15 years of experience in media including Outside Run, JustLuxe and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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