Jerry Grant and Sharon Koomler
In January 1989, Jerry Grant responded to an ad in the local paper and began an interesting new adventure. “Print shop for sale.” It was a letterpress shop in a local garage. Jerry bought the shop and put the contents into storage until he and his wife Sharon Koomler added a Victorian-style addition to their barn at their home in East Chatham, NY. Today, they run the shop as Grant House Press.
Both Jerry and Sharon have extensive careers in museum work and education that brought them to the New Lebanon area: Jerry is the Director of Research and Library Services at Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon and Sharon works at the Powell House Retreat & Conference Center in Old Chatham. They balance full-time jobs with their part-time passion. They love the technical process of letterpress: designing, setting type, and operating the presses, and the satisfaction of an attractive, well-made product. They also feel a deeper drive: the big-picture sense that they are preserving a tradition.
“I really love the idea of pushing ink into paper and the meditative rhythm of operating the press,” Sharon explained. “There is a distinct texture and presence in letterpress that you cannot achieve with an inkjet or laser printer. Personally, because my academic background is in history and folklore, I’m thrilled to learn and share this very basic traditional skill.”
As a rare book librarian, Jerry deals with books with character—character that comes from printers who worked with old type and presses, often too late at night with bad lighting, resulting in work where you can see the hand of the printer and not just the product of a machine.
Grant House Press is a short-run press, meaning they only print limited editions of greeting cards, notepads, chapbooks, and broadsides. Their products change from month to month and season to season, according to demand and inspiration. Jerry and Sharon have an Etsy site that sells to customers across the country, but the vast majority of their prints go to nearby shops and fairs. “We want to support our local shops as well as have them support us,” Sharon said. “It takes away that anonymity of the products that you buy and use.”