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Lehigh Valley Election News

Election season is around the corner. Meet the Allentown shop producing millions of political mailers and yard signs

Industrial Cutter LV Print Center.jpg
Tom Shortell
Carlos Oyola of Allentown operates the industrial cutter at the LV Print Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. He slices, boxes and prepares thousands of mailers, palm cards and other literature during a single shift at a small union print shop in Allentown.

  • LV Print Center in Allentown is a mainstay of Pennsylvania politics, producing millions of mailers and seas of yard signs every election cycle
  • The six-person union shop, while non-partisan, largely serves Democratic candidates
  • Its clients range from local school board candidates to President Joe Biden, said owners Ervin Fetherman and Maggie Wert

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Lehigh Valley residents may not know about the LV Print Center, but they've almost certainly seen its work. And if they somehow haven’t, that’ll likely change in the weeks ahead.
The Nov. 7 general election is only a few weeks away, and political campaigns will soon be making their fall push to connect with voters. The small union shop on Union Boulevard, owned by Ervin Fetherman and Maggie Wert, is a big cog in that effort. The shop prints acres of yard signs, campaign buttons, door hangers and palm cards every election cycle. As for mailers, they can print 100,000 a day.

“We do literally millions of pieces of political mail every cycle,” Fetherman said.

Their business is a six-person operation in a high-ceiling, no-frills warehouse. Customers who stop by to place orders in person talk at the front desk or over boxes of paper products because there are no chairs or tables. A $500,000 printer is the lifeblood of the shop, humming from the center of the room. An industrial cutter acts as a metronome, methodically hissing as its operator slices and packages postcards and other literature.

For about eight months of the year, the shop produces everything from custom t-shirts and commercial signs to medical literature and funeral cards for clients ranging from mom-and-pop businesses to Fortune 500 companies. It even prints a PennDOT manual for bus drivers. But when the calendar turns to political season in about two weeks, about 80% of their work will be producing material for political campaigns, Fetherman said.

Many of the postcards the shop will print will be destined for local zip codes. U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk and Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure all sent their mail through LV Print Center in previous elections. Terry Houck and Steven Baratta engaged in a bruising campaign for Northampton County District Attorney in the Democratic primary this spring, but their competing salvos of mailers were printed, cut and mailed by the same small team at LV Print Center.

But over its 15 years, the shop’s reach has expanded beyond Lehigh and Northampton counties. Wert and Fetherman produce mail ads and doorknob hangers for candidates up and down the East Coast. This cycle, they’re printing materials for candidates in Chicago, Texas and California, they said.

Fetherman constitution.jpg
Tom Shortell
Ervin Fetherman, co-owner of LV Print Center, holds up a placard of the U.S. Constitution made by his Allentown print shop. When the business isn't creating a myriad of campaign flyers, buttons, t-shirts, mailers and palm cards, it produces signs, books, leaflets and other items for businesses and private clients.

This summer, their handiwork appeared on the biggest of stages. When President Joe Biden formally announced he would seek a second term from the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, it was with a backdrop printed by LV Print Center, Wert and Fetherman said. Fetherman said he hung up on the Biden campaign when it first called because he assumed it was a prank.

“We kept going, ‘There’s our flags! There’s our flags,’” Werk said, recounting as they watched the speech on television.

Part of their success, Fetherman and Wert said, is due to their competitive pricing. But it’s also due in large part to their status as a union shop. Unions are heavy donors to political candidates – usually Democrats. But those candidates are expected to support union businesses to maintain that support. As a result, the vast majority of the political literature LV Print Center creates is for Democratic candidates.

“Republicans have their own wheelhouses that they go to, but there’s no reason we wouldn’t do Republicans. It doesn’t matter,” Wert said.

Celeste Dee, a Bethlehem-based campaign manager, said Fetherman and Wert run the only union print shop in the valley, making them the natural choice for Democratic candidates in the region. She’s been so impressed with their work that she’s given them rave reviews to other Democratic campaigns across the state. She’s even been able to rely on the shop to turn around emergency orders on Election Day when they’ve run out of palm cards campaign staffers hand out to voters at their polling places.

“On campaigns, sometimes something comes up. You have to be able to turn on a dime to make a nickel of change,” said Dee, who is currently running the campaign for Supreme Court Democratic candidate Daniel McCaffrey. “They've been wonderful about rapid response when you need something quickly. They understand the concept of campaigns working at full speed.”

The upcoming general election should be relatively quiet for Fetherman and Wert – just a few hundred of thousand pieces of mail being printed by their team of six. Many of this year’s races were effectively decided in May, Fetherman said.

“The local primary is the biggest of them all – 15 people running for the same spot!” Fetherman said, referencing one school board race.

“It was quite crazy in here. We were working round the clock, weekends,” said Wert.

"Fourteen-hour days, seven days a week," Fetherman said.

And for those who don’t enjoy getting waves of political mailers delivered to their doors every six months, keep in mind that Fetherman and Wert probably get more than anyone else in the region. They mail every piece they produce to themselves as a failsafe.

“Then, we can tell you better. ‘Hey, we’re going to need four more extra days because that’s what we’re seeing the post office is taking,” Fetherman said.