University District

One of the city's last locally-owned print shops thrives in the University District

Minuteman Press is a mom-and-pop design and print shop located in the University District. The store serves a truly remarkable cross-section of Memphis nearly every day. Customers from a vast span of cultural, economic and faith backgrounds take their business to Minuteman. 

“We do work with everybody. I have printed things for the Islamic community, the Hispanic community, the Thai community, you name it. Diversity is our middle name,” said Al Harville, who owns the business alongside is wife, Wilma.

Located on the border of the University District at 3445 Poplar Avenue Suite 12, Minuteman is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

It’s a small operation, just the Harvilles and a part-time graphic designer, but the quality of their work and customer service has attracted clients from all over the city and keeps them busy.

“I never know what kind of challenge I’ll be getting each day,” said Allison Hancock, Minuteman’s one employee. “One day we did books for a Hindu temple. Not long afterward, we created an Arabic language book that read from the back to the front.”

A typical day for the Harvilles and Hancock is anything but.

They could cover work for a funeral, church, small business and school in a single day. The company regularly prints flyers, posters, brochures, yard signs, pull-up banners, business cards and more. A favorite job for Hancock was recreating a damaged cookbook from the 1960s that once belonged to a client's grandmother.

Beyond just printing needs, Minuteman can assist with recreations and designing a customer's unique vision from start to finish. 

“We look at ourselves as print solutions or marketing solutions providers,” said Harville.

Minuteman supports the Memphis India Fest’s print and promotional needs each November and has done so for the past 10 years.

“We do everything for them — banner signs, tickets, you name it. People go to events like that and see our work and ask who did it,” said Harville. “That helps lead people to us.”

A sample of Minuteman's work sits on display at their shop at Poplar Avenue and Highland Street in the University District. (Minuteman Press)
The Harvilles were nearing retirement when they launched the business 13 years ago. It is a franchise location of a national brand.

“I spent 32 years working in corporate America,” said Harville. “I gave up my gig and we moved here to be closer to my wife's family. We wanted to spend our senior years in West Tennessee. I didn't want to work for anyone else so we started our own business.”

Harville enjoys Minuteman Press because he gets to work alongside his wife and doesn't have to work as hard as he did during his youth. He’s also passionate about personally helping his customers and offering design assistance when needed, which Hancock says is a rarity in the design and printing business.

“If there is a mistake on the artwork or design, Al will look at it and tell the customer what needs to be corrected,” said Hancock. “That isn't how most printing places work. Most of the time, they just print off what you give them and take your money.”

Steve Russell is a Minuteman client.

“I gave Al a flyer I needed to print for my uncle,” said Russell. “I thought it looked fine, but Al looked it over and told me there were some mild changes that would improve it. And he was right! I would have been embarrassed if he had not caught the mistakes.”

“There's no such thing as a bad idea. We will attempt to do what you ask,” said Harville. “We actually care about our clients. If they listen to us and let us do the work, they'll be satisfied.”

The results of that quality work and customer care show. The company doesn’t really advertise, other than word-of-mouth and its website presence, but it has enough work to stay busy and 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google reviews.

“We are one of the few small, independent print companies that's still standing,” said Harville.

Harville and his wife chose the University District to open their store because of its location. They wanted to be halfway between Downtown and Germantown to capture some of both markets and the space in between and felt Poplar Avenue was the most traveled street connecting the two.

During their 13 years in the district, Harville says he has seen positive changes.

“The neighborhood is busier now because people are doing more things to promote themselves,” he said. “There are more business activities everywhere you look.”

And if those people and business have printing needs to help them grow, Minuteman has them covered.

Read more articles by A. J. Dugger III.

A.J. Dugger III is an award-winning journalist and native Memphian who joined High Ground as lead writer for its signature series, On the Ground, in August 2019. Previously, he wrote for numerous publications in West Tennessee and authored two books, “Southern Terror” and “The Dealers: Then and Now.” He has also appeared as a guest expert on the true-crime series, “For My Man.” For more information, visit ajdugger.net. (Photo by April Stilwell)
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