The Dawn of Time
The first Borealis Press product was a poster called To Catch A Lobster, printed in 1984. It was a critical success: The National Zoo's invertebrate exhibit in Washington DC actually used one of the posters in the permanent display. But you can't run a company with one product, so for the next five years designer Mark Baldwin kept building bathtubs and houses.
The Borealis Press goes full bore in an old brick building in Ellsworth, Maine, with Mark, Dee Knisley doing the books, and David Ball in charge of the press and production. There was a recession hammering the country but we didn’t know any better so we just plugged along with our 60-year-old press and odd of near-antiques equipment and furniture.
Borealis moves to Willard Kane's old general store in Surry, one village away but still on the same bay. In 2009 a move to Dr. Tyler's old offices in Blue Hill, another village away and still with a view of the same bay. With a fast boat you could go from our first office to the Blue Hill one before you finish a big cup of coffee. In 2020 with Covid ballooning and stores in trouble, Borealis lands in our present office in the small center of small Bucksport, still a boat ride away where the Penobscot River pours into Penobscot Bay. Main Street is a lovely, functioning old-style place with locally owned independent shops, restaurants, and lodging, and the Alamo Theater. Same old furniture that we collected or made in 1989.
Our lives change when Rudolph deHarak walks in the door to get some typesetting and printing done. Rudy hijacks Mark's graphic vision.
Rudy was one of the seminal graphic designers of the twentieth century. He won the AIGA gold medal for life achievement. He is easy to Google. Rudy took a liking to Mark and became a close friend and constant mentor. Everything done since has had a deep touch of Rudy (sadly, the late Rudy) and his wife Carol, a master photographer and printer.
The first Quote UnQuote cards, which quickly became our best-selling product and eventually, as one old-timer said, "changed the look of the card industry" because so many others started copying the photograph-plus-quote idea.
Years Go By
The Borealis Press card line has grown and grown. Recycled and chlorine-free papers (which we used from the get-go) got better and better. (See Borealis and the environment.) Our customer service software, inventory management, and fulfillment went from, well, primitive to totally up-to-date, though a live person still does, and always will answer the phone. In 2007 cancer took our first card customer, Susan Bergier who, 15 years after her first Borealis order, became Mark's wife. We’ve added magnets and jotter books, and other items from time to time, and there are more new products in the works.
We welcome anything you have to say or send us. One of our customers sent a picture of herself and her sister (now card 354). Some Borealis children and grandchildren are on cards. Numerous retailers, like Linda Given of Joie de Vivre, regularly give golden feedback on what we do. ("Don't change a good thing" is Linda's favorite line.)
Mark Baldwin, who started The Borealis Press, had a fair amount of experience in journalism, design, building houses, and operating a sawmill. The Smithsonian Institution owns one of his wooden bathtubs. He designed a "honeylog" that was credited with keeping captive bears from going crazy. But he knew nothing, zero, about greeting cards. Mark originated the photograph-and-quote card design, and runs the company, with a lot of help.
Jeff Grenier came on board to manage an unruly inventory. The problem with Jeff was that he did everything so well and so quickly that it would have been a chore keeping him busy if he weren’t such a self-starter. Jeff is now vice president in charge of the president and is more often right than wrong in about what will be popular. (Need we admit that Mark is the other side of that discussion?)
Dede Johnson is all over Borealis Press like down on a goose – retail sales, all aspects of making cards right, catalog layout, and any computer thing that stumps the rest of us. No Dede, no production, but as important as she is to Borealis, Dede is more important for having guided a number of children from hard luck beginnings into much better lives. Good soprano, too, and an international (no fooling) Gilbert & Sullivan champion.
Heather Grenier (that’s Heather and Jeff on card 810) runs our order-entry department. Heather is Madam Organization. (Want to know what you had for breakfast a year ago last Tuesday? What Jeff has to do today?) But here’s an opportunity: be the first to find a mistake in your invoice. And did we mention Paxton Grenier, Borealis’ 2016 office baby now a Big Boy with a front office desk.
Leora Mitchell takes care of the part of the business called money. She is who we ask when there’s a ? after the $.
Emeritus: David Williams, master cabinetmaker in the old school and an expert on aspects of American antique furniture. David chose photos and quotes for many early QuoteUnQuote best sellers.
Pauline Torrey: See a fondness about Pauline on the inside front cover of catalog No31 or ask us for a pdf you can read.