Published November 06, 2007
Screenprinter grows from small seedRolf Boone
Color Graphics Apparel, Ad Specialties & Awards is one of the largest screenprinting companies in South Sound and continues to grow after a very modest beginning.This year, the Tumwater business acquired Deer Creek Awards, a retailer and maker of awards and trophies, to increase its staff to 29 employees. Color Graphics operates out of a 23,000-square-foot warehouse in Mottman Industrial Park and offers screenprinting, embroidery, sign and engraving services. This year, the company expects to do more than $3 million in gross sales, co-owner Fred Gustafson said.Beginning with a kitBut before the business was launched in 1984, Gustafson was an electrician until his wife, Debbie Gustafson, brought a $40 screenprinting kit home one day. "I told her I wanted to learn screenprinting," said Fred Gustafson, adding that he was ready to change occupations. The Gustafsons started slowly, first making t-shirts and then softball uniforms before opening a t-shirt business at South Sound Center in Lacey.The Gustafsons sold the business and moved to Mottman Industrial Park in 1987. Since then they have operated out of three other locations before moving into their own building in March 2006, Fred Gustafson said.Corporate customersToday, the business has about 270 corporate customers such as Lumbermens and Venture Bank, he said.Pamela Pool, an advertising secretary with Lumbermens' corporate office in Hawks Prairie, said the lumber company works with Color Graphics for producing its employee uniforms. This includes polo and button-up shirts, jackets for drivers, and sweatshirts and t-shirts for employees who work in the company's lumber yards, Pool said."They are absolutely the best people to work with," Pool said about Color Graphics. "They go above and beyond in customer service."Venture Bank spokesman Joseph Beaulieu, who said the South Sound bank has worked with Color Graphics for about 10 years, agreed with Pool about Color Graphic's dedication to customer service."They go out of their way to meet our deadlines," Beaulieu said.Scott Ritter, a longtime observer of Color Graphics at Mottman Industrial Park, acknowledges that the Gustafsons have done a good job developing their business.For many years, Ritter owned Ritter Cabinet Manufacturing at Mottman before he sold the business in 2003, he said."I have a lot of respect for people who start a business and work at it," Ritter said. "There's no substitution for hard work."Rolf Boone covers business for The Olympian. He can be reachead at 360-754-5403 or at email@example.com.