Maybe your band needs some shirts printed up before you go on that northeast tour. Or perhaps your bar-sponsored softball team is gearing up for the summer and you want to talk to a printer about pricing and design options. No matter what you need, Rochester's healthy -- and growing -- cottage industry for custom t-shirt printing has you covered.
In the era of online custom-printing giant Café Press, it can be challenging to compete with large-scale internet-based printing companies. But most of the more than two-dozen local t-shirt presses seem undaunted and have found loads of support. The following vignettes offer a sampling of the personality-filled local shirt-printing businesses, from newish one-person operations to larger and well-established companies. Check the side bar for a full list of where to get printed t-shirts in Rochester.
Though there can be competition in the local industry, there are also many social connections between shops, and evidence of mutual support. For example, Tyler Metcalf of Fresh Prints of Rochester, located on Elton Street, printed 400 shirts for musician Citizen Cope through Jayarr Custom Printing, which Metcalf and business partner Victor Gomez call their "big brother" shop. Metcalf actually learned the trade from Jayarr.
Owner Alex "Jayarr" Steiner works solo at his successful indie press located in the sprawling post-office building on Cumberland Street. The business consists of a small front shop with displayed t-shirts and hoodies, and the rear printing area where Steiner works on thousands of t-shirts per day, filling orders for clients who range from artist Sean Madden to college fraternities and sororities, to corporate accounts with the Volunteers of America and the YMCA.
The 2-year-old business has potential to grow, but Steiner likes having a small operation that serves mostly local clientele, with some national and international projects. Steiner's skills in graphic design allow him to offer design work services as needed to customers who have ideas but no specific imagery. His own graphics handiwork is visible in his annually produced St. Patrick's Day t-shirt, which doubles as advertising for his business.
The door to Hide the Bodies (HTB Press) is invisible as you approach it from the sidewalk on Culver Road across from Sticky Lips BBQ, but once you're upon it, it suddenly manifests. Although its clientele ranges from famous bands and coffee roasters to film-production companies and churches, the 10-year-old business has a definite rocker aesthetic
"We print for most anyone who gets in touch with us," says owner Paul Pieramico, who heads up a small team that prints, in addition to t-shirts, a variety of objects including stickers, posters, signs, and frisbees. "There are sometimes very different jobs on either press at the same time," says Pieramico, "like a church youth group on one and a death-metal band on the other."
"A couple of years ago we got to handle all merchandise for the return of death-metal legends Autopsy, posters for the Dwarves, Agent Orange, Eyehategod, John Brown's Body, and more," says Pieramico. Clients have also included the Roc City Tattoo Expo and the Record Archive, and loads of local individuals and businesses, but accounts also come from French, Swedish, and Japanese bands who will tour in the United States and preorder shirts made here. HTB's front show room displays an impressive array of past projects.
HTB offers design assistance when required, but doesn't currently offer the employees' own designs. "We are usually busy working on other customer items," says Pieramico, "but we have a stack of ideas for cynical, sarcastic shirts and other items brewing at all times."
Ad-Lib Apparel is in its third year of business in the FedderBuilding on Main Street. Co-owner Veronica McClive's industrial studio is separated into "clean and dirty" sections, with a receiving area and space to prep the screens, a printing space taken up by a six-color press (though she can do additional layers), and a lofted office area. The growing business averages about 50 shirts per job, but will take orders of a dozen t-shirts and up.
Ad-Lib's client list includes local band The Lobster Quadrille and Armored Personnel Carrier Clothing (an apparel line by local artist Eddie Davis III), as well as "house pride" t-shirts for local fire houses. McClive also plans to offer a retail product line to hit her new website in the spring, and she recently created a t-shirt in reaction to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure/Planned Parenthood kerfuffle, which reads, "I wanted to cure breast cancer, but all I got was defunded."
A typical day for McClive involves getting up early and eternally present ink stains on her clothes, "but other than that, each day is different," she says. "Some days I stand at the press all day, and other days I'm running around with deliveries or consults." Ad-Lib offers design work based on customer ideas, and McClive will also assist in helping clients' designs to better translate to a t-shirt. "I like when I can be a part of the design process," she says. "That can be really fun -- to talk with my customer and help them not only create an image, but select a style of garment that is going to really suit their needs."
The owner of T-Shirt Express leads a double life as a race-car driver, and competes at Watkins Glen and throughout the Northeast in Sports Car Club of America competitions. Gary Moore got into t-shirt printing in the late 1960's, when he raced motorcycles and he printed t-shirts for local motorcycle shops that were given away with the sale of each bike. His enthusiasm is infectious, and evidence of his passion for racing is found not only in the "retired" tires from his sports car, photographs, trophies, and racing paraphernalia found around the shop on University Avenue, but also in the lines of printed products offered by T-Shirt Express that serve the industry.
In addition to counting the Clothesline and Corn Hill festivals and the University of Rochester as t-shirt clients, the more than 30-year-old business offers vinyl signage and banners, wraps for vehicles, stickers, cups, pens, and all manner of objects. About 20 percent to 25 percent of his business is associated with racing, and T-Shirt Express has even designed trophies and awards for Porsche races. The well-organized and sprawling shop averages about 2000 jobs per year, Moore says, and has taken on orders from one-offs to 20,000 shirts. The volume of orders demands seven to 14 employees, depending on the season, and a host of automatic and manual presses, in addition to other equipment.
Rochester t-shirt presses
Did we miss your t-shirt printing business? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add you to the online version of this article.
Ad-LibApparelFedderBuilding, 1237 E. Main St. 210-0203. email@example.com.
BohanSatherCustomApparelHungerfordBuilding, 1115 E. Main St., Suite 150.802-5741. bohansathercustomapparel.com.
CAP'S Teamwear Inc. Screenprinting and Embroidery40 State St., Suite G. 663-1750.capsteamwear.com.
Crazy Dog T-Shirts316 N. Goodman St. Suite 100.800-214-3058. crazydogtshirts.com.
DePaul's T-Shirt Factory 150 Mount Hope Ave. 325-2900. tshirtfactory.org.
Endless Ink Printing Custom Apparel416 St. Paul St., Suite 401.285-8293. endlessinkprinting.com.
Fresh Prints of Rochester 34 Elton St. 202-7266. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Galaxy Graphics 12 Henrietta St. 271-8008.galaxygraphics.com.
Gnarly GraphicsA1 Country Club Road, EastRochester.478-5902. gnarlygraphics.com.
Guerilla Ink 90 Canal St. 420-6078.guerrilla-ink.com.
HTB Press40 Humboldt St. (entrance 626 Culver Road). 288-8550. htbkicksass.com.
Hard Time Everywhere 888-8941, email@example.com
Harold R. Copp independent apparel printer. 210-6689
Jayarr Custom Printing250 Cumberland St., Suite 202.201-6636. jayarrcustoms.com.
The Job Shirt Store 439 Central Ave. 413-1228. jobshirtstore.com.
Match Play Custom Apparel439 Central Ave., Suite 119.413-1228. matchplaycustomapparel.com.
Metro Sport Brokers9 1/2 W. Main St., Webster. 872-3843. metrosportbrokers.com.
Park Ave T-Shirt Company 877-386-8133.parkavecustom.com.
Screen Machine483 East St., Pittsford. 385-2634.
Stab & Grab Productions694 S. Goodman St. stabandgrab.com.
Tiny FishPrintingFedderBuilding, 1237 E. Main St., Suite 207.288-7470. tinyfishprinting.com, theangrypenguin.com.
T-Shirt Express 1044 University Ave. 256-0070. tsxsport.com.
Top Notch MonogrammingNorthfield Common, 50 State St., Pittsford.248-2650. topnotchmonogramming.com.
Whoopzip Clothing Co.1237 E. Main St. 773-1390.whoopzip.corecommerce.com.
Woodland Silkscreen Co. Route 104, Ontario. 265-3060.