For Elizabeth Driver, the ink is still fresh.
The owner of SpeeDeeQue Instant Printing, she is the third generation of her family business to wonder what’s possible with new printing technology.
“My uncle was very adamant about getting a color copier machine here, while my grandfather was very, ‘No, we’re going to stick with black-and-white copies. We’re sticking with the old tried-and-true ways,’” she recalled. In the end, Uncle Mike bought a 3D printer to print a Gimble for his drone. “We have it here now,” she laughed. “Soon as we get it going, I see a lot of potential for that around here, especially in the medical field.”
The 3D printer stands in stark contrast next to the family’s original printing press. The antique machine brings back good memories for Elizabeth, who grew up watching her grandparents at work. She remembers Grandma Gloria pausing from the bookkeeping to make her a sketchbook from hole-punched folders; Grandpa Tom calling out “Ding dong!” to announce his arrival at three o’clock every day.
Raised in Durham, Tom Driver opened SpeeDeeQue downtown in 1975, after serving in World War II and becoming a successful printer in Washington, D.C. By its very name, “SpeeDeeQue” invokes a time when speedy queue lines served up home-brewed hospitality with every order. “The whole point,” Elizabeth recalled, “was ‘Hey! Need a bunch of small copies and don’t want to have to bulk-order it? Come by and we’ll do it really quick for you! You can sit down, have a cup of coffee while you wait, and there it is!”Nowadays, customers typically drop-and-dash. With one color copier and many, many orders, business keeps Elizabeth very busy. “I don’t recognize as many faces as I used to,” she said. “But with regular customers, we’ll always know what’s going on in each other’s lives.”
SpeeDeeQue thrives on Durham’s love for local. Over forty-two years in business, the family has never had to advertise. They print for a wide range of Durham establishments, including menus for Bull City Burger and Pompieri Pizza, church bulletins, and weekly event posters for the Durham Hotel. “Everyone goes out of the way to make sure everything they have comes from Durham,” Elizabeth said. “I have a customer who teaches tai chi, and every year she ends up getting a fundraiser together to go to China. We actually printed cards for Durham, with the skyline and everything, to take to the teachers there. So many things are made in China, but she can be like, ‘Hey! This was made in Durham, North Carolina – where I’m from!’”
It’s these stories and relationships that make the hustle and bustle – and technological investments – worth it. Whether it’s new tech or new people, there’s one thing that change can’t change, and that’s vision. “I take a lot of pride in making sure that all the images that come through are crisp, clean, just beautiful,” Elizabeth said. “I’m gonna make sure my work is something I would be happy with if it was mine. Anytime someone comes in, and they’re just so excited to have what they envisioned on paper – that makes me really happy.”