The years of the Osseo-Maple Grove Press from 1966 to 2000 were revolutionary with changes not only in the method of printing but also with explosive change in the nature and culture of both Osseo and Maple Grove.
Changes in printing occurred when Don Larson purchased the Osseo Press from Helmuth Schultz in January 1966.
Since the 1800s printing was accomplished by using hot metal to type the small print with a linotype and to print the headlines and ads and pictures with various typefaces taken by individual letter from a huge California job case with type sizes from 16 point to 72 point. Very complicated and heavy and time consuming. All were locked into pages so everything on the page would not fall apart and then moved to a printing press, with each page rolled with ink and the press roll would go across the metal page and the paper was printed.
Larson, who had started the first totally offset newspaper in the state, needed an office for his growing newspaper in western Hennepin and eastern Wright County, and when he approached Schultz and is son Werner, they agreed to sell the newspaper and keep the printing operation. Helmuth had purchased the Osseo Press in 1926.
Offset print was called “cold type” (not hot metal) used to create headlines or body copy where you could draw an illustration, type something or use a picture on a sheet of paper, take a picture of that sheet of paper and move a page negative through platemaking to a huge offset printing press that imprinted that page onto a piece of metal that was put on the press. The ink was “offset” from the metal onto paper, whether a newspaper size sheet or (in later years small presses) a small business card.
It offered much quicker results in getting information and illustrations and pictures to the final product of a newspaper.
The difference in the final product was cleaner looking print and very good pictures but you were not able to see the paper printed right in a small printing office. Large presses were needed for that part of the operation, so the newspaper was printed at a printing plant that printed many other newspapers, and you were just one paper with a specific print time.
That total move came abruptly with the first edition of the February 1966 Osseo Press.
The first week the paper was printed full size as the Osseo Press, but Larson saw the future growth of Maple Grove and the second issue became the Osseo-Maple Grove Press and was printed as a tab-sized paper.
The front page featured a huge clear picture of an All Star-wrestling event at Osseo High School.
The Press also reported Osseo had conducted a special census that showed the population of 2,723 for the one-mile square village.
Maple Grove, a 6-square mile sized village that previously was a township, had a population of 3,974. Official 1960 census figures had been Osseo 2,104 and Maple Grove 2,213.
Things changed quickly and all were reported in the Press. Village council and school board meetings were covered in person. The Press offered columns written by local people. All drew readership and people wanted to read.
Columns included ‘Round the Town, While the Coffee Perks, Down Memory Lane, Maple Grove Sampler and Spotlight n Sportlines. Two correspondents wrote feature stories.
In 1966, Osseo was the bustling community and trade center, founded in 1875, that had it all. A department store, pharmacies, hardware store, lumber stories, barber shops, gas stations, meat markets, farming-needs stores, bars, liquor stores, restaurants, and more.
Some of those businesses are still in Osseo today — Dean’s Supermarket,Osseo Meats, City Country Agency, Osseo Paint and Wallpaper, Heinen Champion Auto and Evans Nordby Funeral Home.
Don Larson, who left the Minneapolis Star and Tribune after seven years in their classified and retail advertising and circulation departments, knew he could help the vibrancy of Osseo’s business community while increasing the size and circulation of the Press.
A circulation campaign was started to “Plug the (Osseo) Legion Hall Roof’ which leaked. If the Legion could sell 1,000 subscriptions, Larson would pay for the repair. It worked.
More subscribers sought more information with school events and lots of pictures, reports on civic events, with everything from engagements, weddings, graduations and military information all recorded in the press with as many pictures as families could add to their stories.
By mid-1966 the Press moved out of the storage area of the Osseo Printing Co. where they had their offset typesetting equipment and moved into Dr. Dick’s vacant dental office on Second St. NE. in the back part of the Osseo Surplus Center building that would be the start of the Press taking over the entire building.
Maple Grove was ushering in the plans for the growth of the village as developers were obtaining projects mostly in the south part of the village along Bass Lake Road and north near Osseo High School.
The council members in office in 1966 were systematically oriented to planned growth. The planning commission took on a growth plan for many years out. A huge goal was to have a “downtown” like Osseo and that downtown would be in the middle of the village even if it took awhile.
The Press was reporting almost weekly about the activities.
In 1969, the I-94 extension was completed in Maple Grove after the council held out approving it until both the federal and state governments added access to the freeway at County Road 30. And the extension of I-494 was completed with I-94 at the Fish Lake interchange.
By 1970, Osseo was building a new city hall. School Supt. LeRoy Norsted reported to the school board (all of whom were Osseo residents), that a new school would have to be built each year for the next 10 years to accommodate the growth.
The Osseo Fire Department fought its worst ever fire at that point in history Jan. 1, 1968, when the Roundtable Restaurant building caught fire. The 92-year-old two-story building also included Osseo Plumbing and Heating, Don’s Barber Shop and several apartments upstairs. Flames could be seen as far away as Robbinsdale.
That week’s Press not only included pages of pictures from the fire and stories about the help offered.
Another fire in July, 1975, just inside the Maple Grove border at County Road 18 and 85th Avenue was at Allied Industries. At that time it was the largest fire in the city’s history with $300,000 in damage. Six businesses were affected.
The next major fire was Dec.7, 1975, at Kings Bar, Lancer Lounge and the off-sale liquor store burned to the ground on a Saturday night at the site of the current Holiday gas station in Osseo.
The bar was up for a liquor license renewal which nearby business owners did not want renewed and were priming to be at the Osseo City Council meeting the next Monday. The fire appeared suspicious but insurance was eventually paid to the owners.
Loss was more than $350,000 Thick smoke was a major problem for firefighters as well as false ceilings and icy conditions.
The Press had three pages of pictures by publisher Don Larson and photographer Tom Pace.
During the fire, smoke was so thick that firefighters were obscured in it. The Press building at 200 Central Avenue suffered major smoke damage. For a period of time firefighters were on the roof of the Press building with hoses to make sure embers from the fire did not start any fire.
And the last big fire during the Larson’s ownership was Feb. 4, 1987, with the destruction of Bob Evans Furniture and Gifts. The morning fire ravaged the business at 133 Central Avenue and was a huge loss to Osseo. It was the largest gift shop in the metro area and drew a lot of customers from outside the immediate area.
The gift shop was the oldest building in Osseo, constructed in 1895 with additions in 1915 and 1919. Bob and Grace Berndt had operated the store since 1961. He started as a funeral business and furniture store with the funeral home part of the business being bought by Keith and Charlotte Nordby.
The events showed the changes occurring in Osseo where the major businesses of 1966 were gone and a period of transition occurred.
Meanwhile Maple Grove was growing. In late 1960s, Zachary Square north of County Road 30 on Zachary Lane was the first shopping center to open in Maple Grove with a supermarket, drug store, cleaners, pizza restaurant and several other small outlets.
The next major shopping center was Grove Square in 1986 in what was to become the downtown of Maple Grove – right in the center of the city as the city leaders planned.
Main Street in Maple Grove, patterned after Osseo, came in 1999 with Arbor lakes as a “destination” type of shopping area in 2000 with additions in 2003.
The Press Office
The Press went from its tab-sized newspaper in 1966 to full-size just a few years later when it went from being printed in Crystal on a big offset press to being part owner of ECM Publishing in Princeton on a Goss offset press. Finally in the mid 1970s, the Press had its own printing plant at Albany where Larson had bought another group of newspapers. State of the art pre-press and printing press were installed in the new building.
Starting out, Don handled all of the advertising and his wife Carole handled all he news with a part-time person typing the news stories on a Friden Justowriter and 2 part-time people using a Varityper for small advertising type and small headlines and a headliner for larger type in ads and for the headlines of the newspaper.
By late 1968 they moved to Dr. Dick’s office at 200 Central Avenue and added two more people in production.
Larson decided he could operate more efficiently by doing all of the “pre-press”work which entailed having a large camera that could take a picture of an entire newspaper page and make a page negative and then take those negatives to the printing plant. The plant would take the negatives and imprint them on a plate which was then clamped on to rollers on the press where the newsprint would make its impression.
Larson put a darkroom on the second floor right above Dr Dick’s office so staff would go outside to a stairway that took them to the second floor.
The original building on 200 Central Avenue had been a bank. The Osseo Post Office put an addition onto the building after a fire in the 1920s at the Masonic building on Central Ave.
As the Press staff grew with production of the Osseo Press, Crow River News and then the Stearns Morrison Enterprise all done at Osseo, Larson ultimately bought the surplus center building, knocked a hole in the double brick common wall between the Press side and the surplus center side and made a full first floor area for production, advertising and news.
There was an apartment on the second floor of the building with an enclosed outside entrance. Larson closed off that entrance and created a new layout. Ultimately, the accounting and news departments were on second floor with the darkroom with its huge camera for page negatives and an area to develop pictures for the news and advertising staff.
Meanwhile Larson felt the small weekly newspaper publishers in the area should have their own printing plant. He contacted several weekly newspaper publishers. They met and decided to have their own plant. The publishers were from Elk River, Foley, Princeton, Milaca and Mora. East Central Minnesota (ECM) Publishers was started.
That system work well until Larson saw that, with his expansion of newspapers, many produced at Osseo, he decided to have his own printing plant. That came in he 1980s and the printing was at Albany.
By 1984, the employees at the Central Avenue building were about 125% of capacity, so Larson opened satellite offices in St. Michael and Rockford.
An opportunity came up that fall when the owner of a body shop at 33 Second Street NE wanted to sell. Originally, that building was the body shop for Iten Chevrolet whose showroom was right next to the Press building, until the car business was moved to Brooklyn Center.
The Larsons bought the building and gutted it; then started designing it for a newspaper office. Press staff helped design the building, determining where the news, production, classified and display advertising departments would be as well as accounting and the circulation department. In the spring of 1985, everyone moved across the alley into the new building and then hosted an open house for the community
The production facilities had moved to computers. Larson tended to be on the forefront of the newest equipment so sometimes the staff ended up testing equipment from major firms. Much of it worked, and Larson settled for Apple MacIntosh computers and then worked with tech personnel to link each department with another so when someone came in to place a classified ad, it would be typed into a computer and automatically went to production and the cost went by computer to the accounting department.
Transportation was a big item throughout the Press. In the beginning, papers were addressed with mailing labels and in bags to the post office.
Larson decided that with the newspaper/free section delivery system, it was easier and more accurate to deliver the product themselves. He bought newspaper tubes for the various areas, bought old postal jeeps and hired drivers who did outstanding jobs of delivering the papers.
By 1999, Larson saw that there would need to be a massive overhaul of the entire system to jump into the next generation of computerization, digitalizing and making the best use of online interaction with the traditional newsprint newspaper.
And since the inception of offset printing some 40 years before, those changes would be coming much more swiftly to keep up with the next technology generation. The Larsons felt success in what they were doing and decided to retire and let the younger generation move forward with the world of digital technology.