Lawrence’s Allen Press sold to large, Minnesota-based printing company; new owners plan to keep East Lawrence plant

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The printing plant and headquarters for Allen Press are shown in East Lawrence on Jan. 10, 2023.

A Lawrence company that has been an international leader in the printing of scholarly and academic journals has been purchased by a larger, Minnesota-based publishing firm.

Brainerd, Minn.-based CJK Group Inc. has purchased Lawrence’s Allen Press, but the company said it plans to continue operating Allen’s East Lawrence printing plant, which is a significant employer and taxpayer in the community.

The Lawrence facility will be renamed Sheridan Kansas, reflecting one of the brand names the CJK Group operates. It will be Sheridan’s tenth U.S. printing facility.

“The plant’s central US location affords Sheridan a strategic production option for both Midwest and West Coast publishing communities with more efficient mailing and distribution,” CJK Group said via a press release. “The addition of this location further broadens Sheridan’s job-share abilities and raw material procurement strength.”

The acquisition — terms of which were not released — does bring to an end a longtime Lawrence company. Allen Press got started in 1935, when a Lawrence printing apprentice by the name of Harold Allen purchased an existing print shop that was located in the basement of what is now the Merchants Pub & Plate building in downtown Lawrence.

By the 1960s, that business had morphed into a printing business that specialized in publishing scholastic journals — the type that University of Kansas professors and other academics used to publish their work.

Harold Allen’s sons — first Arly Allen and then Rand Allen — led the company after Harold Allen’s death in the late 1980s.

While CJK Group plans to continue operations at the Lawrence printing plant — which is located just north of 11th and Delaware streets, near Hobbs Park, in East Lawrence — it is unclear what impact the change in ownership may have on job totals in Lawrence. In addition to its printing, publishing, and mailing staffs, the Lawrence operations also employed corporate executives and other administrative staff that may overlap with positions CJK already has in other locations.

I’m reaching out to officials with the new ownership group for additional comment.

I’m not clear on how many employees Allen Press currently has. Decades ago the company routinely employed 300 or more people, but more recently the company has not been included on the list of largest employers compiled by economic development and city officials, indicating the company has seen those employee levels drop.

As for the CJK Group, its operations are extensive. In addition to printing plants in Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, the company also has locations in Italy, Belgium and China. According to its website, the company does business in the book, scholarly journal, niche magazine and catalog publishing industries.

The company has several divisions operating under different names, including Sheridan, which is its commercial printing division, and KnowledgeWorks Global, which has been a competitor to Allen Press in the scholarly journal market. While the press release said the Lawrence operations will carry the Sheridan name, the company’s website also is listing Lawrence as a location for KnowledgeWorks Global, indicating the Lawrence operations will do a mix of commercial and academic printing. Allen Press long has been doing both types of work. KnowledgeWorks Global has other locations in Virginia, the United Kingdom, and multiple locations in India, according to its website.

CJK Group also has a third division, the Tweedle Group, which focuses on printing and content creation for a variety of manufacturers.

CJK’s leader said the purchase of Allen Press fits well with CJK’s strategy. The company has grown through multiple acquisitions to become one of the larger printing and publishing services companies in the U.S.

“Allen Press has long held a unique and highly respected place in the print and publishing market, offering exceptional front-end capabilities as well as creative and marketing solutions, in addition to high-quality print and distribution,” Chris Kurtzman, CEO of the CJK Group, said via a press release. “We see this as a perfect fit for both our Sheridan and KGL families. The entrepreneurial customer-centric culture at Allen Press is a mirror reflection of our own, something we look for and place a very high value on when we bring companies such as Allen Press into the fold. We are looking forward to bringing streamlined performance and additional capabilities to both our existing and new customers.”


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