Having spent nearly half of his career in the printing business operating on the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Franklin Avenue, Frank Brown is starting a new chapter by moving the Minuteman Press Uptown shop to North Minneapolis in an effort to diversify the industry and give back to community members.
Brown first started out in the business over 35 years ago when he saw an ad for an accounting clerk position at a printing press. Brown completed his bachelor’s degree in business and accounting and went on to receive a master’s degree in business administration, all the while being promoted at the printing press.
Originally from Seattle, Brown found a business opportunity in Albert Lea which led him to move to Minnesota. After years of working with other companies, Brown decided to get into business for himself and purchased Minuteman Press Uptown in March 2015. Since then, Minuteman Press has been the sole minority-owned union printing shop in the state and is the largest Black-owned printer in Minnesota.
The business has grown so much in the last few years that it forced Brown to find a new location. The previous shop, located at 2101 Hennepin Ave., was 2,400 square feet with only four employees. The new shop, located at 4024 N. Washington Ave. in North Minneapolis, is 15,000 square feet with 12 employees.
Expanding the business is similar to starting a business over again, according to Brown. There are more bills, more people to hire, and more orders to print. But that’s a struggle that wasn’t unexpected.
In moving to North Minneapolis, Brown hopes to attract young people of color, especially Black youth to find an interest in the print industry, which is predominately white.
“I wanted to be up here so I could maybe work with the high schools, Patrick Henry and North High, do some intern programs. Get kids interested in printing because it's really a good career,” Brown said.
In hiring Northside residents, Brown believes that there’s a chance to change the narrative in the area and bring some economic opportunities to an area of the city that has recently lost some major business with the recent closing of Aldi and CVS.
Brown had his own struggles during the pandemic and the uprising that followed the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Brown put up Black Lives Matter and Black-owned business signs in his windows as a deterrent during the 2020 unrest, which largely worked to keep people from breaking into his business.
During the unrest, Brown successfully pivoted the business to begin printing COVID-19 masks and Black Lives Matter signs as a response to the moment the city and the country found themselves in. This led to Minuteman Press Uptown having its best financial year to date.
Brown also took on more of a role during the 2020 protests. The business printed the gravestones near George Floyd Square which depict the names of dozens of victims of police violence as a form of remembrance.
“I've always been engaged in political things and in the movement,” Brown said. “I was one of the people that led Ban the Box so people with records could actually apply for a job without having to check a box. Because usually when people check that, people throw that application away. I believe in second chances.”
Before Brown bought the Uptown franchise, he had worked for a large printing company out in Shakopee. He realized in order to be a part of a business, the business had to uphold the same values that he lived by, otherwise it wasn’t a workplace he could support. At the Shakopee business, he witnessed race and gender-based discrimination that caused him to walk away.
“They had a woman that had been working there for 25 years and she was training all these men on how to run their presses and they were paying the men more than they were paying her and that just didn't sit right with me,” Brown said.
In another situation, a warehouse supervisor referred to Black assembly workers as monkeys who needed to get to work. Though disappointed by these instances, Brown said he wasn’t surprised.
“Printing's been a good old boy’s environment,” he said. “At the Printing Institute of Minnesota, I'm the only African American print owner that's sitting at the table. Everybody else is all Caucasians.”
In looking to change this landscape, Brown is calling for Black and Brown individuals to apply for a position at Minuteman Press Uptown through their website not only for a job but possibly a career path.
“I'm willing to work with people...because I know that there's a lot of people that we need in the industry, especially people of color,” he said. “I think that's important to be a resource to help our people find a career path and find some positive things to do and sometimes people just open up their own businesses.”
Despite the move to North Minneapolis, Brown has decided to keep the Minuteman Press Uptown name to keep the franchise brand alive. He still has many ties to Uptown and volunteers with different organizations based in the area.