Neither rain, sleet, snow nor hail could keep Kay Bartholomew from her appointed job.
Postal worker? Nope.
Bartholomew was a member of the founding family of Vernon’s Wayside (formerly Wayside Press) which celebrates 100 years in business in 2021.
Bartholomew, daughter of founder Harold George Bartholomew, worked for the company from her teens until she was 97, a span of 80 years. She died four days after her last day of work in 2018.
“She never married, never had a family. Her dad started the business. It was her baby because she had no family. This was where she liked to be,” said Bartholomew’s niece Jan Robinson, one of 26 family members (five generations and spouses) that have worked or continue to work for the company. Robinson works today in reception. “It gave her a sense of purpose to get out of the house.”
Bartholomew walked from her home on the top of 30th Avenue – she never owned a car – to Wayside, located since 1965 at the corner of 33rd Street and 34th Avenue. She’d show up bleeding or banged up from wiping out on the ice or snow, but rather than go to the hospital, she plopped down at her desk and went to work.
She started working on the platen – a flat platform with a variety of roles in printing or manufacturing. Then into bindary (a post-print process), and did the company accounting for many years. In the past few years, Bartholomew would walk to the post office and get and deal with the mail, and walk to the bank to make the daily deposit. The rest of the day, she worked at her desk on outside interests such as the North Okanagan Naturalist Club and the Greater Vernon Water Stewardship Advisory Committee.
Kay’s father was an apprentice compositor in the printing industry on London’s Fleet Street, walking seven miles to work every day. Harold George came to Canada in 1910 to work in a Summerland sawmill. He moved to Vernon with his wife, Eleanor, in 1921 and formed a partnership for a print business on 30th Avenue with Ancill Hillier. The pair named the business The Wayside Press. It was situated upstairs over the old Okanagan Grocery and Okanagan Cafe.
The logo was a street scene of a young man carrying the type to a business by the wayside, hence the name.
It was in the 1940s that Bartholomew bought the old Vernon Baptist Church on 31st Street and 31st Avenue (which later became the Vernon Flower Shop) and stayed there until they moved to their current location. An addition was built in 1991.
Wayside is the largest signage and large format print provider in Vernon. Its mission is to help clients effectively market their products and services through its caring and creative people who are experts in innovation, committed to quality and generating value for clients.
The company remained a family-owned business for three generations. Harold Desmond Bartholomew took over from his dad and his son, Brian (Skip) Bartholomew, bought it from his father.
“A family business doesn’t usually last past the second generation and it’s unusual to get to the third generation,” said Skip, whose sons, Joshua (controller) and Stephen (production manager), work for Wayside.
Skip, born in 1947, began working for Wayside at age 12, as a typesetter. He never wrote a resumé (though he did print some for his father) and it never occurred to him to want to do anything else.
Skip – whose younger brother, Kim, spent 13 years working for Wayside, starting with janitorial and deliveries in his teens, and working up to sales after attending University in Toronto – remembers watching his dad bring work home and doing estimating jobs at the dining room table after supper.
In 2008, Skip made the decision to sell the company to long-time employees Neil Perry and Richard Finn. Both were vice-presidents within the company.
“My boys could see the stress ownership brought,” said Skip. “It was time for new blood, new energy, and new perspectives.”
Perry started with Wayside at age 19, taking over deliveries from his brother. He worked his way up throughout the company, holding various positions, and became Wayside’s first scheduler and purchaser. Perry was vice-president of operations, and Finn was vice-president of sales and marketing when they bought the company.
“Skip let the two of us run the business and that worked out very well for both of us,” said Perry, who has been with the company for 32 years. In 2020, Perry bought out Finn to become Wayside’s sole owner. Finn remains with the company as a sales rep.
Ron Krause took over Perry’s role as scheduler and purchaser. He started doing after school work as a Grade 9 student at W.L. Seaton Junior Secondary cleaning out garbage, and continued that through Grade 12. After graduating in 1980 from Vernon Senior Secondary School, Krause began an apprenticeship running the Wayside Press.
It’s the only company he’s ever worked for. And while not a Bartholomew, Krause does have family ties to the company. His father, Karl, was Wayside’s production manager and his mom, Anita, worked in bindery.
What’s kept Krause running for 40 years at Wayside is his coworkers.
“The people here, the people I work with are great people, they’re fantastic,” said Krause.
In 2011, Wayside dropped the word Printing to reflect a new direction the company was heading.
“While we continue to bring brands to life with the highest quality commercial print, signage and large format services, we also provide a suite of responsive marketing solutions to help brands connect with their customers and stay ahead of the competition in this digital landscape,” says the company on its webpage. “From direct mail campaigns to email marketing and tradeshow displays to data-driven websites, we help businesses boost both foot traffic and site traffic.
“To do that, we bring together an amazing team of designers, press operators and client managers as well as strategic solutions and state-of-the-art technology. While we’ll always pride ourselves on providing the highest quality printing, we also invest strategically in new services that will allow us to meet our clients’ needs.”
Longtime clients of Wayside include already-100 year old-plus company, Watkin Motors, and the former A.E. Berry Insurance. Kal Tire has all of its printing done by Wayside, and has done so since its Day 1, 68 years ago.
For the next 100 years, Perry wants to continue the family atmosphere at Wayside.
“Our focus is our culture,” he said. “It’s super important to me. Everybody has to like coming in here or they’re in the wrong place.”