New owners step in at Northwest Graphics |

New owners step in at Northwest Graphics

Jeff Swoyer the longtime owner of Northwest Graphics is selling the business to Nathan and Kerryn Johnson who will take over operations Monday. Swoyer plans to stay on through the transition, before settling into retirement. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For 40 years Jeff Swoyer has looked forward to helping customers get what they need as part of Northwest Graphics in Steamboat Springs.

“One of my favorite things is probably manufacturing business,” Swoyer said. “You start with blank paper, and you put images on it, and it’s sort of nice to be able to create things and help customers. I have met so many good people working in a small business in this town, and it’s been really, really good to me. I’ve loved the nature of the town and the nature of the business.”

Since 1979 Northwest Graphics has been offering graphic design, printing and direct mail as well as a slew of other printing and publishing-related services.

Swoyer started working for Eppy’s Dependable Printing in 1980, and purchased the business in 1984. He changed the name to Northwest Graphics shortly after.

“It’s been a long run,” he said Friday while talking about the transition that will begin Monday. “I think after doing it for 40 years— I turned 65 in December — I just thought it’s a good time, I’ve saved enough for retirement and it’s time to sell the business.”

New owners Kerryn and Nathan Johnson have a diverse background that has landed them in places like New Zealand, Switzerland and New Mexico.

Nathan Johnson was born in Taos, New Mexico, and graduated from the University of New Mexico with a fine arts degree in 2002. After college he moved to New Zealand to do post-graduate work in 3D animation and media design.

Kerryn and Nathan Johnson will take over the reigns at Northwest Graphics on Monday. (Photo by John F. Russell)

“I worked in video games, animated kids television shows, and then eventually I got into feature films,” Nathan said. “That was my ultimate dream.”

He ended up spending 15 years in New Zealand and working at award-winning director Peter Jackson’s studio on films in the visual effects industry including “Avatar,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Jungle Book.”

“Ultimately I worked there for 10 years, and went from an assistant technical director all the way up to senior technical director,” Nathan said. “I had a whole team of people that I was guiding then on the third ’Hobbit’ movie, when I was a lead, it kind of fulfilled all my dreams.”

Kerryn Johnson built a career working inside governmental agencies in New Zealand on environmental issues and then, for a short time, in Switzerland, where she worked for the United Nations as well as for a policy research institute.

She spent more than four years working in Switzerland before returning to New Zealand, and returning to another governmental agency.

The two seemed to be following their dream paths, but they admit the day-to-day pressure took a toll.

“It has kind of fulfilled all my dreams, but after 10 years, it gets pretty exhausting,” Nathan said. “It was very high stress, so when Kerryn and I found an opportunity to come back to America and to help with my family’s business, which is a winery in northern New Mexico, we took it.”

The couple spent a couple of years putting their energy into the award-winning La Chiripada Winery, which is located in Dixon, New Mexico.

“We came to help for a couple years until they felt like they could take the reins back,” Nathan said. “We’ve been looking at other opportunities, and when we found Jeff Swoyer’s business for sale and it just seemed too perfect.”

Kerryn agreed.

“I think after having our professional careers for an extended period of time, we were just kind of looking for an opportunity to own our own business,” Nathan said. “To be our own bosses.”

The couple said that there will be a learning curve, but with Kerryn’s management experience and Nathan’s artistic background, they are confident. They are also thrilled to have an experienced staff at Northwest Graphics to help smooth the transition and are also happy that Swoyer will hang around to advise them during the transition.

“They asked me to stick on for like three months of training, and I told him I’m not moving out of town. I’m not going anywhere,” Swoyer said. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard to hand it off. Like I said, I’m ready, and I think Nathan and Kerryn are going to be great new owners. They’re really sharp individuals, and I’m going to teach them everything I know about the business.”

Swoyer, who lives in Steamboat with his wife, Laura Naczkowskii, is excited about enjoying the Steamboat lifestyle, going hiking and doing all the things that he didn’t have time to do in the past. The couple had three children, Kyle, Avery and Carly, who were all born and raised in Steamboat.

Nathan and Kerryn said they have no plans to rock the boat and are excited to carry on what Swoyer has built, while adding their own touches to the long-running business. They are also excited to be a part of the community.

“Steamboat has a great energy about it,” Kerryn said. “Everyone we’ve met has been beyond sort of superficially friendly, and very genuine … the people here that we’ve met so far, just fantastic.”

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