Leo Michaud graduated from high school in 1966 and chose a life in printing. He started at a newspaper company, melting lead type (known as “pigs”) to cleanse them of ink, part of the typesetting process. “I was trained as a printer, starting my working career with lead, not offset at the time. I never left this industry because I love it,” he says. He worked for a newspaper publisher from the early 1970s and became immersed in the evolving craft of printing.
After the owner of one newspaper plant passed away, Leo moved to North Conway, New Hampshire, where he worked for a second newspaper until that owner unfortunately passed away also. He never wavered in his love of print and may not have known at the time, but his next employer, Minuteman Press would provide him a professional home for 36 years.
Leo discovered as a loyal employee of Minuteman Press in North Conway, NH, now led by his favorite owner, Pat Kittle, that print loves him back. As his retirement looms this summer, both Leo and his Minuteman Press family celebrate a career he chose as a teenager that was enriched by a company that gave him the opportunity to develop into an expert and a mentor in the modern printing industry.
Leo walked into Minuteman Press in North Conway on a Friday afternoon in 1982 with years of experience involving ink and paper, but no experience actually running presses. His affinity to learn new things and adapt them into his skill set went into immediate use. The first of two franchise owners there before Pat Kittle were less than aligned with the proven system of Minuteman Press International.
Leo reflects, “I was hired on a Friday and when I started, it was just the franchise owner and me. I didn’t know how to run the press. Since we were both new at what we were doing, I was determined to make it work, but it was tough in the beginning. I learned on the job, and after five years, that owner sold to a second individual who worked a bit more on the business and we started to do well, with the training and local support of Minuteman Press corporate. When that gentleman wanted to retire, he sold the operation to Pat Kittle and working for Pat is excellent. He is very good to all of us and is just a great guy. He has been my best boss out of all of them.”
Leo’s proclaimed “best boss” Pat Kittle maintains the highest standard in all things related to his digital print, design and marketing center, and offers high praise for his long-time pressman: “Leo has been the heart and soul of this Minuteman Press franchise from the beginning, and I am very happy he has been with me the entire time. From setting lead type to working with digital print technology, he has clearly seen significant changes during his career in the printing industry and we are proud that our company has afforded him this opportunity.”
Pat continues, “Leo is such an accomplished and efficient pressman, and just a nice guy. He gets a lot done and without ever seeming to work hard, calmly tackling every project that comes his way. He is a humble guy with a great sense of humor. We developed a ‘superhero of the print industry’ theme for a trade show we attended, and our designers created a banner portraying him as “Minuteman”, with cape and superhero suit. Leo got a good laugh out of it, and we got some great response from our customers. We even put it on our envelopes for a time to promote full color envelopes. Leo has been nothing but helpful since day one, and his problem solving abilities are incredible. If he has a problem with the equipment, he works through it first, then tells me about the problem and how he fixed it.”
When Leo isn’t playing the role of print superhero, he enjoys woodworking, building desks for churches and even toys for his grandchildren. He is also a lifelong ice-hockey player and fan. “I played on my varsity hockey team in high school and in recreational hockey through my senior years, until I suffered a bad fall from a divot in the ice.” Leo was sidelined and required surgery. The injury marked the end of his career on the ice but did not stop the presses. He returned to his home at Minuteman Press and continued to perfect his craft.
“When I first started, printing was challenging because everything had to be hand set. Now, with home computers it’s tougher because people have a computer at home and they think they are designers and printers. Then, they come to us and sometimes they believe they have type-ready art but it is not at all because many people don’t have the knowledge. We know what we are doing, so we can help them and make it look great. Sometimes, technology makes it too easy and people make the mistake of thinking they don’t need a designer but find out later they are wrong. Still, we always find a way to make them happy.” – Leo Michaud
He kept going to work the presses faithfully for years after his hockey injury, but now, the time has come to retire and he has mixed feelings about it, yet is ready. “I just love my job and I love being here with Pat, and the people I work with are great. The first owner was disorganized, but I am so glad I stayed because I love Minuteman Press and having a good owner like Pat Kittle, who is good to his people, knowledgeable and cares about the business, makes me want to be young again so I can keep working in this industry.”
“This is part of what is outstanding about Leo,” Pat explains. “He is not only an expert pressman, but also a really good teacher. I found a young woman who had worked in plastic bag manufacturing but had been laid off. I sensed a good fit, and hired her to be his apprentice. Leo was 67 at the time and wanted to cut down his hours, so we engaged in long-term training for this new team member. He has been so wonderful as a teacher and mentor that she has taken over primary duties on the press, with Leo scaled back to 2-3 days per week. I can tell he is happy to know the business won’t suffer, thanks to his training. She brought a strong work ethic to the job, and Leo gave her his expertise and problem-solving approach to press operation, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Leo adds, “Minuteman Press has been very good to me, training me when I first started, so I owe it back. I want to give new employees the same opportunity I have had, and hopefully everyone is happy with that. There are so many things I will miss, especially the fact that I came to work every day and had fun with everyone and we got a lot done, too.”
Pat says, “We will sorely miss him. I have to convince him to come back and do some deliveries. Some people are terrific at what they do for a living, but cannot teach it. Leo did it all.”
And as the retirement party approaches this summer, North Conway’s marketing services experts, led by Pat Kittle, prepare to celebrate the career of their resident superhero pressman. Meanwhile, Leo shares thoughts about leaving the Minuteman Press center after 36 years, “This franchise is doing better than it ever has because Pat is on top of things and he follows the franchise system. Having a strong leader makes all the difference. I could have quit at 65, but I wanted to stay with them and I am glad that I did.”