July '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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80 || P R I N T W E A R J U LY 2 0 1 8 PRINTWEAR SHOP SNAPSHOT B Y M I C H A E L C L A R K Graffiti Caps The Ohio company runs a large series of multi-head embroidery machines. Top: Graffiti builds its hats from scratch, allowing for the utmost customization. Above: The Made-in-USA component of the company's product is a major selling point for custom- ers. Right: Dye sublimation for headwear makes up a large part of Graffiti Caps' operation. (All images courtesy Graffiti Caps) I t's no secret that running a manu- facturing business in the U.S. is a challenging feat. With overhead like higher labor costs, property taxes, and strict compliance regulations, many companies opt to outsource and cut down on costs. Despite those chal- lenges, Graffiti Caps runs a thriving business dedicated to delivering quality products. Specializing in headwear dec- orated with both embroidery and dye sublimation, the company also cuts, sews, and assembles the caps onsite. Starting in 1984 and constantly growing since then, the company boasts an output of more than 10,000 units per-week and employs more than 60 people in the Cleveland area. The company's success started with owners Abe and Barb Mill- er's humble beginnings as a single-machine hat embroidery business. Dissatisfied with stock baseball caps available at that time, the Mill- ers decided to start a hat factory in the 1990s and design their own. Graffiti expanded its workforce and began adding more depart- ments as the years continued. Then, like many American businesses, the 2009 recession posed a roadblock for the company. Rob Hatfield, operations manager, says that instead of coming to a halt, Graffiti discovered new opportunities. The company added dye sublimation for headwear and developed its own yarn-knitting technique, evolving into a fully-independent operation. Today, the company runs multiple departments on one plot of land, including a hat factory, two embroidery departments, and a warehouse. With both embroidery and dye sublimation in their wheelhouse, Graffiti often combines the disciplines for a mixed-media approach which helps them stand out. While baseball caps make up the ma- jority of orders, the company also churns out custom-made beanies in high volume. During the winter months, Hatfield estimates the company sells anywhere between 50,000–60,000 knit caps. Looking ahead, Hatfield says he sees advancements in technology driving the company's growth. Improvements in sublimation inks and paper, and refinements in embroidery machine features have evolved since the company's start, and he sees that continuing. Hat- field also notes that within the last year, a rejuvenated interest in American-made caps has also set the stage for a bright future. "I've never seen orders coming in like they are now," he adds. "People really want Made-in-the-USA headwear." By merging quality, inno- vation, and attention to detail, Graffiti plans to maintain a presence for many years to come. For more information, visit AT A GLANCE LOCATION: Cleveland OWNER: Abe and Barb Miller SQUARE FOOTAGE: 35,000 sq. ft. PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT: • 135 Barudan embroidery heads including 20, 15, 12, 8, 6, 2-head models • Two Mimaki JV330160 dye sublimation printers • Three Hotronix heat presses • One 60-inch heat press • 75 sewing machines

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