Allan Good, Hurst & Co. Celebrates a Half Century in Miniature Finishing

Britain's oldest specialist miniature print finishing company is still going strong. Here its co-founder Allan Good recalls early days of hand machines and rented garages in 1958.
2008 will see the 50th anniversary of Allan Good, Hurst & Co. which proudly proclaims itself Britain's oldest, specialist, miniature print finishing company. In today's world it's rare to find a 50 year old company serving the printing industry, let alone a family-owned business. Allan Good, Hurst & Co. is such a company, now run by the second generation of the Good family, Bob.
Today it is a solidly established operation in a small factory in Bromley, just south east of London, with a range of versatile equipment that can do practically anything for customers who need miniature folded, glued or stitched leaflets, fliers or novelty cards.
So the company has come a long way since its early days in a rented four-car garage with a couple of folders, a guillotine and a hand stitcher, as Allan Good himself recalls. He's now aged 74 and in retirement, having sold the company to his son Bob 20 years ago.
Allan's first job after leaving school had been at a printer, Blades, in East London, which did a lot of cheque book work. At 15 he started an apprenticeship at Hart Press in Croydon, which he completed at 21. After that he had to do two years National Service in the Army, ending up as a sergeant chief clerk on £6 and 10 shillings per week. That was more than the first print job at Allan Good Hurst brought in!
"I moved to Croydon and met Len Hurst," he says. "He was 20 years my senior and had been a major during the war. We got our heads together working at Cranfield Press in Croydon, and decided to start our own business. I had no money then after two years in the army."
So to raise money for the equipment he had to sell his beloved 1930s BSA Scout sports car for £60. "It was a sort of cheap alternative to an MG - I was 24 at the time and I was Jack the Lad in that!" he laughs. "We handled ordinary folding at first, the miniature work came shortly after. The first big contract we got was for colour leaflets for 'tuppence off' Sunlight Soap. Advertising then was not like today! We did millions of these for door to door delivery. We worked all hours - the order was for two or three million."
The pair worked long and hard and the business steadily grew for the next 15 years, moving to bigger and better premises and employing more and more staff. "We bought a Banda Folder, our first miniature folding machine, in 1959. We then got the UK's second Macey Multibinder, which came as deck cargo from the USA. We went to the first user to see it before we ordered one and I thought it was brilliant."
Recession and recovery
However, the economic recession of 1973 hit hard, particularly the three day working week imposed to save electricity during coal miners' strikes. "The company was on the floor, and we had to sell our big house in Outwood in Surrey. I thought of going into pubs instead, but eventually I bought out Len Hurst because there wasn't enough business for the two of us."
More hard work saw the company slowly recover, with the help of Allan's wife June, son Bob and his other two sons, who worked after school and in the holidays. Business success allowed him to buy an adjacent site and double the factory floor area a few years later. "What kept me going was the money," Allan cheerfully admits. "I'd do 100,000 L'Oreal Colour Glow leaflets overnight on our Camco folder, then cut them and wrap them up in brown paper. 100,000 in a night - that was good money! Then I'd go home for a few hours sleep and come back and start again."
The new generation
Bob Good took over the running of Allan Good, Hurst in 1988 and bought his father out the following year. He's still doing cosmetics leaflets for L'Oreal, which has been a customer since the company's early days, and also does a lot of work for other cosmetics companies such as Mary Kay, pharmaceuticals work and even for pet foods. A big recent job was folding leaflets for dog treats - even these need instructions too!
"The strangest job I've ever done was for Walkers Crisps - Pepsico - in the early 1990s in Poland," Bob relates. "They had an offer where 7.94 million small Polish banknotes were folded into sachets and put inside the bags. It doubled Walker's sales, but it wasn't easy. It was a secure area guarded by Polish Army blokes with guns! In the beginning there was a problem with the notes not laying flat and we had to do a demonstration to prove we could hit 15,000 per hour. I ended up standing between the boss of Pepsico Europe and a Polish general with all his medals!"
Specialised business
Allan says: "In the 1950s I could have bought a folder to do 1,500 copies per hour. Then I could buy a new model for 5,000 per hour. Now we have machines that will do 30,000 per hour. When we started, 30,000 was a day's work. Now we can do it in an hour."
Today's equipment includes four Herzog Heymann miniature folders, a Macey Multibinder and a Macey saddle stitching line. Two larger MBO folders and a guillotine round off the main equipment.
As miniature folding is a specialised business, Bob is often asked by customers to advise on what is and isn't possible. "We work for the printers. We do all the impositions, but they ring us up first to check that it can be done with a particular fold and thickness - that's our knowledge."
Some things certainly haven't changed in 50 years, Allan says: "Any time lost in the printing process has to made up at the finishers - everyone still wants it yesterday!"www.allangoodhurst.com