A STORY OF
HV Chapman & Sons opened in 1947 and has produced bound books for over 65 years in Abilene, Texas.
Origins – The Chapman Family
Three generations of the Chapman family operated the book bindery for 65 years. HV "Homer" Chapman Sr, learned bookbinding in Dallas, where he also was a paper warehouse manager. In 1925, Homer began managing the bookbinding department of Abilene Printing and Stationery. He later struck a deal with the company to buy out its bookbinding operations.
After having served in the US Navy during World War II, HV "Chuck" Chapman Jr helped open the business.
Homer and Chuck named the new venture HV Chapman & Sons because they expected Chuck's two younger brothers to join them. Even though the younger brothers were drawn instead to other fields and worked only occasionally at the business, the name stuck.
Chuck eventually bought the business from his father. For two generations, the company primarily served as a bookbinding subcontractor to printers and publishing houses.
Stan Chapman, Chuck’s son, worked in the shop growing up and developed an interest in rebinding Bibles and other books, which his aunt did for a few years in a shop next to the bookbinders. Stan learned rebinding from his grandfather and father, but they declined to offer the service to the public when the aunt retired.
While studying at Abilene Christian University to be a teacher, Stan worked at the shop and talked his father into letting him provide rebinding services.
As Chuck began to talk of selling the business and retiring, the possibility of someone outside the family owning HV Chapman & Sons prompted Stan to reconsider buying the company.
After taking over in 1987, Stan began implementing some of his own ideas. Homer continued to work at the shop, focusing primarily on gold leaf stamping, until his full retirement in 2007 at the age of 87.
While grandfather and father always rented manufacturing spaces – spending 15 years each in three different downtown locations – Stan opted to purchase a building. Ironically, in 1991 he settled on the business's original location at 802 North 3rd Street, which by the early-1990s was dilapidated. Renovations took six to eight months.
Stan Chapman also broadened into publishing services by helping customers with design, typesetting and print management of their books. HV Chapman & Sons subcontracted the actual printing of the books. Authors who were willing to market their own books at seminars, speaking engagements and online could make a small profit on a print run as small as 500.
Rebinding also grew at the company, with four-month backlogs of orders a common occurrence.
A New Vision – The de la Vega Family
In 2012, Stan Chapman sold the business to longtime friend Tim de la Vega. The deal was three years in the making. Chapman remains a consultant.
Ironically de la Vega and Chapman are both third generation printers.
De la Vega's grandfather, Gregorio de la Vega, ran a printing business on the side in Mexico City, where he was a Presbyterian preacher. Gregorio's son, Bert de la Vega, immigrated to the United States to complete his education, eventually winding up in Abilene. He worked in a variety of printing jobs, including for the Abilene Reporter-News and RAM Business Forms, a company which would later become linked to HV Chapman & Sons.
Tim spent 18 years, in two separate stretches, with the Abilene Independent School District. He left at the end of January 2012 as manager of printing for the district. He also worked with other printers in town including RAM Business Forms.
In late 2012, Tim approached Andy and Rosemary Esparza at RAM Business Forms about bringing their family business into a partnership with HV Chapman & Sons. In January 2013, RAM moved into the downtown bindery allowing the bindery to begin printing and publishing services under one roof.
Tim has brought his father out of retirement to help out and his sister Adrienne de la Vega also is now part of the family business.
"A dream of mine was to work with my dad," he said. "We plan on keeping it in the family."
Based on articles appearing in the Abilene Reporter-News, March 3, 2009 and March 30, 2012.
HV Chapman & Sons around 1990 - Photo by Steve Butman Photography
Chuck Chapman around 1990 - Photo by Steve Butman Photography
Tim de la Vega - Eric J. Shelton / Abilene Reporter-News