Growth and expansion are both mentioned in great frequency when discussing the state of Colorado. The U.S. Census cited Colorado as the second-fastest growing state in the U.S. from 2014–2015, with a large part of this influx in the greater Denver metropolitan area. From 2010–2015, the state’s population grew by more than 408,000 residents, an increase of more than seven percent. Despite the significant number of newcomers to both the state as a whole and within Denver, the city still houses many businesses owned and operated by natives. Denver Screen Print and Embroidery owner Ron Katz talked with Printwear about running a screen printing business in the Mile-High City.
Established in 1983, Katz attests that he’s seen the city change, but has also watched his business grow as part of that change. The shop has always been a Denver-based business, moving to various locations in the metro area until finally settling where Katz operates now, in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood.
“We started out in a three-car garage in Cherry Creek North,” states Katz. At that time, Katz and his original partner treated screen printing as a part-time venture and started with little knowledge of the process. Katz had an exclusive deal to print licensed T-shirts for the sci-fi cult television program Doctor Who, but needed guidance. Another local screen printing shop, Rocky Mountain High, guided him through the basics and ushered Katz into four-color process printing.
Since the days of operating out of a suburban garage, the business has shifted to a full-fledged apparel decoration provider. The shop uses two manual and two automatic presses to fulfill orders. In addition to four presses, Katz and his crew use direct-to-screen technology to maintain order volume and accuracy. Despite significant growth and consistent business, Katz points out that he’s learned by default that fostering business-to-business relationships with startups and other smaller companies has been more fruitful than holding out for the “big companies that make up 20 percent of your clients.”
“I believe in building a strong foundation on very small customers,” stresses Katz, adding that while his typical order minimum is 24 pieces, the shop will accommodate short runs if it means building a solid relationship with a client.
When it comes to niches, Katz makes it a point to stay diverse. Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and coffee shops make up a large part of the shop’s clients, as well as local bands and musicians looking for custom printed T-shirts make up the client list.
“We don’t do a lot of anything, other than a lot of everything,” Katz muses.
Like many screen printers, the company builds their client list largely through word of mouth referrals. Katz notes that he has also built a strong online presence to further the shop’s reach. A modern-looking site featuring multimedia content such as videos that offer a view inside the shop keep customers calling from “Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine."
The shop’s focus on water-based printing is one specialty that Katz notes often attracts new businesses, even if it might be at a higher price point than originally budgeted. The soft hand of these prints, combined with a dedication to always meet deadlines has brought the shop multiple longstanding clients. In an industry with competitive pricing, Katz says he’s maintained an approach of offering quality work instead of simply being the lowest priced bidder.
“If we find out the shop down the street can do it cheaper than we can do it, then I say go there,” Katz contends. “Price is important, but we’re fairly priced.”
Looking ahead, Katz sees Denver Screen Print and Embroidery growing along with the city around it. He points out that the immediate neighborhood has evolved from a relatively unsafe area to what’s now one of the most popular neighborhoods to buy homes and raise a family.
“More people walk through our doors from downtown (Denver) today than used to drive down the street,” Katz states.
While the city of Denver is still undoubtedly growing at a rapid rate, Denver Screen Print and Embroidery maintains an operation focused on quality over quantity, regardless of how large the city population grows.
For more information on Denver Screen Print and Embroidery, visit: http://www.dspe.us