Phil Ochoa, owner of The Bookbindery in Missouri City, has more than 40 years of experience as a bookbinder and said he strives to maintain the art of bookbinding by looking for new ways to improve upon his craft.
Ochoa got his start as a bookbinder in the 1970s by working for the campus bindery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. While working at the campus bindery, Ochoa said he honed his skills and learned enough about the trade that popular bookbinderies in Houston were interested in attaining his services.
“I knew I had a knack for this craft so I pursued it,” he said. “I have learned that I love what I do and I have not gotten tired of it. I have a lot of friends that work jobs they hate and they always tell me how lucky I am because I look forward going to work.”
Ochoa opened The Bookbindery in 1977 in Galveston with his wife, Debbie. He closed his original location a year later and began working at various Houston-based bookbinderies, including the Auglen Retsel Company.
Ochoa reopened The Bookbindery in Houston in 1986 before relocating his business to Missouri City in 1996. Since settling in Missouri City, Ochoa and his family have grown their bookbinding business to service individual customers with various custom binding projects, such as book covers and book boxes and cases. The bindery also services 35 major law firms and oil and gas companies.
“I guess the reason we are still in business is because we do a little bit of everything,” he said. “We have developed the business to the point where we are getting by and making money, [and] I enjoy what I do.”
Ochoa said The Bookbindery is one of the few remaining bookbinderies in Houston and is also one of the last binderies to specialize in leather binding. The bindery offers four different leather options for customers, including imitation leather, bonded leather, cowhide leather and kid goatskin leather imported from Scotland. Ochoa said the type of leather used determines the cost of a project.
Ochoa said projects total close to $80 an hour, however, he provides individual quotes depending on how extensive the project is.
“Every book basically has its own personality when you are working on it,” he said. “We do stuff that can run from a month to a year and a half because we have so much.”
The bindery crafts a selection of custom menu covers, post binders and ring binders. The bindery also specializes in restoring antique books. Ochoa’s son-in-law, Tony Vela, heads the restorations department and has restored books dating back to 1498.
As The Bookbindery nears its 30th anniversary, Ochoa said he is restoring the 3,200-square-foot shop with new paint, carpet and equipment. Ochoa is also taking steps to transfer ownership of the business over to his children.
“The good thing about the kids is they know a little about everything,” he said. “In sports they call that a utility player and that is what is great about them.”