We are humbled and proud of this award write up in the Oregonian newspaper here in Portland, November 11, 2015. Thanks to our customer, Jim Kennedy at CBM for the nomination and to all the friends and customers that have reached out to congratulate us. We should have a video to post after next week’s formal awards dinner, but for now here is the text of the article.
We couldn’t have done any of it without the amazing customers that trust us with their labels every day. Thank you!
Scott and Whitney Pillsbury had already worn the label of business owner for a decade – of, appropriately enough, a label printing company – when a cratering economy forced the brother and sister to raise their management game in a hurry.
“We really were just kind of minding the ship we’d been given,” said Scott, who along with Whitney had taken over Rose City Label upon the sudden death of their father, Mike, in 1998. “Then in 2008, the phone stopped ringing. A lot of our customers went out of business. We had to tighten our belt and really look at expenses like we never had before. We said we’re going to take this business and make it better, invest in it.”
Adhering to the plan as solidly as its labels stick to a bottle of microbrew – the company is a major player in the craft beer sector, and also makes labels for any type of product that comes in a bottle, box or bag – Rose City made a series of capital investments. New machinery has expanded production capacity, improved efficiency and demonstrated both to customers and staff that the company is committed to competing for years to come.
First, Rose City bought a small-format digital printer. Then the company upgraded its traditional, long-run press operation with a high-definition, direct-to-plate system that converts designs on a computer screen into the plates that go on the press — eliminating the costly and time-consuming step of first converting designs to photographic negatives.
Next came digital die-cutting, and then in 2014, what Scott calls the company’s “capstone” purchase: a longer-run digital press.
“Each one built on the other,” said Scott, the company president. “Each investment we made that turned out to be successful gave us more confidence to do more.”
“Digital printing had always been a dream of ours,” said Whitney, whose title is vice-president. “It’s really exciting to be able to achieve that.”
Whitney and Scott describe themselves as the “fourth generation, second family” in Rose City Label history. George Frie founded the business in 1928, and 30 years later his son, Wayne, took over. Mike Pillsbury, who’d been a paper salesman for Crown Zellerbach, bought the company in 1974.
“He was a very strong, clear-minded, nice person,” Whitney said. “He believed in hard work, honesty and treating people the way he want to be treated,” Whitney said.
“He didn’t complicate things,” Scott added. “He used to say, ‘The two most important things we do here are sell labels and make labels, anything that distracts you from that is superfluous.’”
Whitney and Scott, who were 29 and 31, respectively, when their father died, both had worked at Rose City while in high school, then “went to college, went away and did other things,” Scott said, before returning to the family business – Whitney coming back in 1993, Scott a year later.
“We’re going to die here,” Whitney said with a laugh. “I hope we do have our children and grandchildren take over.”
Scott has four children ranging from 18 to 12, and Whitney has a 31-year-old daughter and 8-year-old granddaughter.
“Renewing the business has been really important to us,” Scott said. “Hard work and good luck enabled it all to keep moving forward, and it’s fantastic to see where we are now.”
With an emphasis on innovation and green business practices, Rose City has the buy-in of a loyal staff of 18 whose average tenure is 13 years, including a core who stayed on at 30 hours a week during the leanest of times.
“We are so lucky we have the employees we have,” Whitney said.
Scott and Whitney handle decision making jointly, and they’re also in agreement about what they learned during the downturn, and that the Business Renewal award traces directly back to their father.
“I really appreciate being acknowledged – it’s for Rose City Label and also for him and what he left us,” Whitney said. “We treat our employees like a family, and we’re brother and sister first and business partners second.”
“It’s nice recognition and confirmation that what we are doing is working,” Scott said. “We’ve learned not to take the future for granted. We’re going to celebrate when we’re doing well, recognize what we’re doing right, and be happy and proud.”