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Soup to Nuts

A bowl of hot chicken soup has gained a reputation as the cure for a cold, while a series of more than 40 Chicken Soup books is regarded as the cure-all for the soul.

To get an up-close look at the production of the sickeningly sweet Chicken Soup for the Soul series, as well as an assortment of other inspirational and thought-provoking books, take a tour of Health Communications Inc. (HCI), the self-contained publishing house where it all comes together, right here in South Florida.

HCI Publishing has been in business for some 20 years, starting in Miami, moving to Hollywood, and finally winding up in Deerfield Beach, where the company has been for the past 14 years. Tours of the production department, art department, and printing plant began in the summer of 2000.

Besides giving one the opportunity to visit Chicken Soup Central, many people will have the opportunity to see something they've never witnessed before -- printing presses in action. The smell of printer's ink pervades the area as oversize pages are moved from one station to another before being trimmed and sent to the bindery. There, the pages become books that are then sent to the shipping room to be bundled, cartoned, packed, and shipped to bookstores.

HCI's gift shop, Reading Etc., Essentials for Book Lovers, usually gets the attention of participants. The gift shop is cloaked in ancient Egyptian décor; HCI publisher Peter Vegso was inspired to reproduce the environment he saw when visiting the Egyptian Hall at Harrods department store in London. Creative Design Group, a division of Reading Etc., reproduced the friezes, statuary, and columns that make the shop memorable.

"Everything is for sale here, including the friezes," says director of communications Kim Weiss. Jewelry, stationery, wall art, leather goods, and a myriad of other items are up for grabs. Prices range from $10 up to thousands of dollars.

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Sue Lynn

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