Dave & Laura have deep Denton roots and I had the honor of sitting down with them after their first visit back to Denton in three years. We talk about how they started, their long history with The DIME Store, and how they’re continuing a legacy in Cleveland, Ohio.
So give me a little bit of background...how did you guys meet? What brought you to Denton? How did Triple Threat Press get started?
Dave: Laura and I met in Cleveland in late 2008 and shortly after (10 years ago this week) in March 2009, Laura found out she was accepted to the University of North Texas for Grad School in Printmaking. We moved to Denton on August 1, 2009 which is the worst time to move to Texas!
Laura: We ended up really loving Denton and I stayed on after graduate school. I was doing some teaching at UNT at the Print Research Institute as an assistant to the Director. I didn’t have my own way of making art on a press anymore because the university owns those presses and you have to be a student to use them. We were looking for opportunities for me to make more art and I found a letterpress on Craig’s List for $90. It was a little tabletop letterpress about the size of a large USPS Priority Mail box.
Dave: There was a guy in Sanger who had posted that he was selling a press. So Laura called him and let him know we were coming to pick it up and I called everyone I knew that owned a truck so that we could actually move it and within an hour of seeing the ad, we were in Sanger picking it up. What we didn’t know was that it was non-operational. It was rusted open and it wouldn’t work at all. So we spent the entire summer disassembling it.
How did you guys even know where to start in restoring the press?
Laura: I helped restore four letterpresses with three of my classmates who were graduate students in 2011. The woman I ended up working for, the Director of the Print Research Institute, was our professor and we all worked together to take apart significantly larger presses. So with that knowledge I had the confidence to take the one we purchased apart. So essentially the project that we took on after I graduated wouldn’t have happened without the confidence and knowledge I acquired at UNT.
And that was the beginning of Triple Threat Press?
D: So we reassembled this little press and Laura was going to use it just for making art pieces. After we got it all put together and it was working, we realized we had significant money and time invested in restoring this press. So in September 2012, I thought we should try and recoup some of that, so let’s make some holiday greeting cards.
L: I was applying for teaching jobs and your research as an academic artist is creating work and getting it out in the world. So you can’t stop making art just because you already have a job teaching.
D: This was all pre-DIME Store when Handmade Harvest was put on by Etsy Denton. We knew we were going to be making these greeting cards but we were missing a pretty vital piece of our press which were the ink rollers. We knew we were going to get them so we designed the cards. We printed them out on an InkJet printer on our computer and we said: “Here’s what we’re planning on making, will you accept our business based on this?”.
L: Shelley and Rachel (co-founder of The DIME Store) already knew us but they didn’t know it was us submitting the items under Triple Threat Press. We weren’t really telling people just yet because we didn’t know if it was going to turn into something.
D: So they accepted us and then it was like “oh crap we have to make all of this stuff!”. The rollers came in and we were able to print everything and we sold at our first event in Oct 2012 and it was the Etsy Denton- Handmade Harvest. The following April is when they opened The DIME Store.
L: They were our first wholesale account and had purchased cards prior to opening the store.
D: They had a pop-up event during Northx35 and were trying to get the word out about opening a store. The building was completely empty but us and a few other makers all got to go do a pop-up shop in what was the original DIME Store. So that’s how we started doing this.
L: Our origins are very intertwined with The DIME Store.
So you guys have been around before the store even opened?
D: Yeah they did that show at Shelley’s barn and we were there as shoppers.
L: It was really very “we’re all artists, we all make things, we should know each other”. When we decided to pursue Triple Threat as a business was when we all kind of realized how we were all in similar states of being.
D: They were really instrumental in helping us navigate all of the things that we didn’t have any idea how to do (e.g. what business documents do we need, what forms do we need to fill out, etc). They really helped us essentially start our business. Without all of that help we would’ve just been two people in a house in Denton, printing greeting cards on a little press. But because of everything they did for us we became a business; we felt like we could do it full time.
You guys were here for 7 years, what marked those years in Denton?
D: We split up our Denton time in two periods: The UNT Years, when Laura was in grad school and a lot of our friends were classmates and undergrad students and people associated with UNT. That ended in 2012, I was working at Mad World Records, and then the next four years were all about family-run, handmade businesses and being able to be around people that were doing things that they were passionate about. We actually chalked the design of one of our postcards onto the wall for the opening of The DIME Store!
L: I started working at The DIME Store as their first employee that wasn’t an owner. It was awesome. I started as a Co-Op member and then moved into an employee. It was really nice because you figure out how things run and get up to speed and then you get to decide if this is something that you went to help out with. I always think that’s a valuable thing to learn before someone tries to give you money.
D: Those last 4 years helped us, when we decided to open our store, to have all of this experience working for family-owned businesses. Now, we get to do the same thing.
L: It was really nice that people trusted us to work with them and didn’t mind sharing as we went along. No one was ever cagey or anything like that. It was always from a very giving and welcoming point of view.
So with your move back to Ohio, you guys have opened your own store. What are your hopes & dreams for Threefold Gifts and the Cleveland area community?
D: Originally, when we talked about it we said Triple Threat would be the shop name but then we didn’t feel like that was right. We don’t make everything in the store so I didn’t want to put our business name on things.
L: Triple Threat Press is the umbrella and Threefold Gifts is a DBA of Triple Threat. It was really important to us that people understand how all the makers fit together. We’re greater as a whole. I want to be able to do everything! Right now we stock on consignment but I want the option of wholesale. Capital in the first year is just really kind of volatile so it would be really nice to be able to give people the option. To grow the size of the shop so we don’t take as much of the footprint with our studio. When you walk through the front door, the shop is first, but you can see past the counter and our letterpress is right behind the counter. We don’t prioritize our goods over anyone else’s but often when people bring things up and it’s something we’ve made, we’ll say “we made this on the press right here!”. So it’s kind of nice when folks start to wrap their head around not only did we tell them that it was handmade but you can see how it was handmade. Everyone in the store is doing this. A huge priority for us is handmade professional makers.
D: Another one of our hopes is that we can do a really good job of fostering the free exchange of information between makers the way The DIME Community did for us. We can be that for people who are just starting out or not really sure if they want to make this their livelihood. We can be that community of people that encourage others to do it and let them know we’re here to help you!
L: We also want to be there for folks who think that making would be in their future. We might not be able to sell your stuff in the store but we have a trunk show opportunity or we’re willing to provide you contacts to folks who have similar stories so they can weigh their options. It’s very challenging to do what Makers do, so you don’t want to go into that blind.
D: The store hasn’t been open that long but we’ve already been able to experience this on some level. We had a stockist who had a studio set up in another area of Cleveland and wasn’t super happy with their location and couldn’t do all the things she wanted. When one of our store neighbors moved out we contacted her and asked if she was interested. Now, she just opened her flagship store about a month ago! It was really cool to be able to have her do this thing she wanted to do and to do it right next to us. It’s another reason for people to come to that part of town, it’s another store to partner with on community events and it’s awesome. We want to do more of that! We would love for every vendor that wants to, pull their stuff out of our store because they’re moving into their own store as our neighbor. Then we can bring in other people that are just starting out and give new opportunities!