By Robert Barron Staff Writer

When John Cromwell was 12 years old, he started working for his father in Cromwell Printing Co., wrapping packages and making deliveries.

In his final week in the printing business, Cromwell still wraps packages and makes deliveries. He is retiring effective Sunday.

Cromwell sold his local and northwest Oklahoma business to Liz Breitenkamp of Phillips Printing in Enid, and sold his business forms with web-fed press to Standard Printing of Omaha, Neb., a longtime competitor.

Cromwell's business is a multiple-part printing operation with heavy focus on the grain storage industry, with customers in 15 states.

"I am pleased that almost all of my people are landing on their feet. They have been able to secure other employment. That nagged at me the most. My decision impacts on the staff as well," he said.

Cromwell currently has 14 employees, and several of them will go to work for Phillips Printing. He will retain some employees.

He will remain in the business and continue to publish the Garfield County Legal News and will continue to offer photocopying services. By the first of the year, he plans to be able to offer climate-controlled self-storage. He owns Crescent Storage Center, which he will expand.

Cromwell calls the change a "new direction," rather than retirement.

The company was started in 1919 as Lamar Printing. It was purchased by John's father, J. Lee Cromwell, in 1929. J. Lee Cromwell brought in his sister as a partner in 1931, and they worked as a team until 1973, when John purchased the partnership and formed Cromwell Inc.

His aunt retired, but his father remained active in the business into his 80s.

When Cromwell purchased the company there were three divisions: printing, office supplies and office furniture.

At the height of the oil boom, he employed as many as 31 people.

"I have mixed emotions about getting out of the business. I have my moments where I'm wondering about it. I have done it for 50- plus years, and I'm ready for a change of pace," he said.

Cromwell sold his office supply and furniture business in 1990 and went forward with the graphics business. At that time, he purchased Printing Impressions and Garfield County Daily Legal Record from L.G. MacFarline.

His son, Justin, is editor of the legal news, and John is technically the publisher. They will continue to operate the business.

"The advantage is it gives me more discretionary personal time. I don't want to retire flat out, but lower my stress level," he said.

Over the years Cromwell has seen a number of changes in the printing business, but digitalization has made the greatest impact.

The ability to describe any image numerically and process it by computer changed the whole world of graphics, he said.

But the business remains fundamental.

"Some of the business has changed a great deal in methodology, but fundamentally it's a way of communicating, and those principles haven't changed at all," he said.

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