A journey of creativity, craft, quality and connection in Cambridge
At the bottom end of Victoria Street lies The Glass Printery, owned by Carly and Rick Dean. Their passion for glassware and ceramic printing has brought them to this perfect spot in the midst of Cambridge's thriving community.
Looking back to where the business started, Carly and Rick Dean's story is one of resilience and determination in the face of adversity.
Carly and Rick originally launched their business in Christchurch, specialising in glassware and ceramic kiln fired screen printing. Rick had been honing his craft since completing high school in 1993 - it's a rare skill that few possess. He’d developed a solid reputation for his skill and precision, and with years of hands-on experience, his expertise and passion set him apart in the industry.
Carly says the business in those earlier days was behind the scenes, relying on Google, marketing and hospitality companies without a public face. They did not directly offer their services to the public.
Then the 2011 earthquake hit Christchurch, and with the family’s business and home destroyed, the couple embarked on a journey north, and destiny led them to Cambridge.
“We’d been on a road trip to the North Island just before the earthquakes and loved Cambridge’s community village feel,” says Carly.
“We had family in Hamilton and Tauranga, so that’s how we ended up here. I was here within a week of the 2011 earthquake, along with the kids and the animals, and Rick followed three months later,” she says.
Building a new home in Te Miro, Carly and Rick immersed themselves in Cambridge's thriving environment.
The move provided them with the opportunity for more personal connections, bridging the gap between their craft and the community they serve.
A homecoming of artistic ingenuity
With Carly, Rick, and their teenage children finding solace in Cambridge, it prompted them to seek a fresh start in business.
Here, Carly and Rick fused their talents to re-design and re-launch The Glass Printery in 2015, a haven for fully kiln-fired screen printing of glassware and ceramics.
While Rick handled the tools, Carly took charge of operations, sales, and marketing to guarantee a smooth and hassle-free experience for their customers.
Operating the business out of premises on Matos Segedin Drive, Carly says it was relatively easy to rebuild the customer database after reconnecting with previous business contacts and cold calling new prospects. Due to Rick's years of knowledge and skills in this very specialised trade, it was a smooth and successful transition.
“Business grew quickly, and we became quite a large setup. We would be continually asked by wineries and breweries to print on a larger scale, for example, 20,000 bottles. However, we didn’t have the kiln capacity to cope. We also knew that no other business in New Zealand could print high volume to this scale, and they would need to approach international printers,” Carly explains.
“We reached a crossroads when we were seriously considering building a large UV printing plant so we could offer higher volume. Just before committing to a new lease, it just didn’t feel right. So we moved our business into our large garage and sleep out at our newly built home in Te Miro and took time to rethink what direction to take - and that’s when Covid hit,” she adds.
“Business quietened down during this period. That’s when we set up our online shop, ‘Glass Pimps’.”
Rick and Carly designed a range of Covid novelty glassware - just for a laugh - and just as the country was going into full lockdown, they pushed their range and online shop on social media.
“The orders were absolutely crazy – dozens were coming in daily. It was an exciting time, but it was a challenge without staff and our regular suppliers not operating. But after wheeling in family within the same bubble, we managed.”
Then Rick and Carly made a strategic decision to shift their focus towards the general public as a target market. As a result, they opened their current workspace on Victoria Street that catered to the public, whilst also maintaining their commercial printing operations on a smaller scale.
“We’re small and boutique, the public can come in and customise a product, and we also offer giftware designed and printed in-house. It’s a lot of fun.”
In Winter 2022 the self-confessed coffee fanatics introduced their espresso bar, and now customers can browse the showroom while they enjoy their coffee.
“Cambridge is such a friendly and supportive town. We’ve become good friends with a lot of our customers. In the morning, it’s a little bit like Friends in here – it has that vibe. We’re pet friendly too.
“In the future, we’d love to open a lounge bar offering live acoustic music and a place to have a pre-drink or after-drink. At night our building is a really cool place with the lighting and plants, so we’ll be looking at how we can make that happen,” she says.