By Steve Pettit
BELTON — Painted fire engine red, the seven metallic arms of the mammoth machine hissed, sighed and clanked into motion. “Watch out for the rotation,” a visitor is warned, as yellow safety bars are swung into place.
It’s another run of screen printed T-shirts inside the metal commercial building that houses Print-It, and the computer-monitored, pneumatic behemoth, tethered to its jumbo air compressor, was carefully tended to by sisters Kayla, 17, and Jenna Roach, 22.
“We had a large quantity order not too long ago and turned out a printed ‘T’ every 2½ seconds,” said David Roach, Kayla and Jenna’s father, and owner of the 9-year-old business. “This press has made a big difference.”
As the two girls expertly placed blank, unprinted T-shirts on the press, the machine swiftly moved the apparel counterclockwise to the screen, which forced the special Plastisol ink into the fabric. The next abrupt movement signalled a programmed quartz heater to automatically administer a two-second cure of intense heat, to speed the drying process. After a full 360 degree circle, the shirts, now fully printed and mostly dry, were deftly folded and placed on a conveyor line, ink side up, for final heated drying.
The roll-up garage door was open, but the humid June day did little to dispel the heat generated by the machinery inside the business. Workers had bottled water close by and were sensibly attired in shorts and, naturally, T-shirts. The other half of the building is air conditioned and houses another computer-controlled large format press for posters, signs and banners, as well as graphic artist and longtime employee Liz Denio.
Although some of the designs to be printed are emailed to Print-It in high resolution and are ready to go, that’s the exception, Denio said. Pointing to her computer monitor, she demonstrated her current project and its finished, full color graphic.
“Here’s what the customer came in with,” she said, holding a jagged, pixillated image on a sheet of copy paper. “It’s up to me to interpret what the customer wants, make it look good and get their approval.”
T-shirt printing, Print-It’s initial revenue generator, makes up about 50 percent of the firm’s business, Roach said. “With two daughters in softball, I thought it’d be fun to print shirts in my garage. After I really got into it, I realized I had over $10,000 invested, so the hobby needed to expand.” Signage and wraps, handled by employee Blake Mascari, are later additions to the product line and have complemented the firm’s shirt printing, Roach added.
Century 21, Wilsonart and Garlyn Shelton are among the local clients Print-It has provided with large-scale graphics and other printed items.
“This is a typical vehicle sign,” he said, gesturing to the vivid graphics applied to a 1-ton, white cargo van. “The vinyl should last at least five years.” The crisp lettering and colorful artwork, an eye-catching design for a plumbing company, cost about $800, Roach said.
One can’t-miss example of Roach’s work was parked next to the shop. A late model Volkswagen Beetle, originally pale yellow, was amped-up with a full body, uber-saturated Kodak yellow wrap, overlaid bold black lettering and a yellow perf-screen on the rear window.
As daughter Kayla polished the car’s glass, Roach spoke about the success of Print-It. “We are growing and are about at capacity. It’s a fine line — how much do we want to expand?”