FAIRBANKS – Big changes are taking place at Great Alaskan Shirt Company / Raven Screens.
Husband and wife Debbie Bredlie and John Barnes have owned the business on 2421 Hill Road since 2009, but the company was founded by Kevin Staudt in 1988 and was originally located on Airport Way.
In the midst of a major expansion, Great Alaskan recently bought Trademark, the high-profile store on Third Street, and plans to move the majority of Trademark’s stores to Raven Screens’ warehouse as early as Monday. This includes equipment and employees, which will more than double from four to nine.
Aside from the acquisition, the Great Alaskan Shirt Company has invested in new equipment.
Just last week they installed a brand new high performance embroidery machine and invested in a direct printer a few years ago that can print almost any image onto shirts quickly and cheaply in an inkjet printer. Future plans include a completely redesigned website where customers can design and place orders.
“We have the nervous phase behind us. Now we’re just too busy to be nervous, ”said Barnes of the growth of the business.
Great Alaskan plans to keep Trademark’s phone number and hopes to keep customers as well. The purchase also includes engraving equipment, which will add a new line of products for the company.
Rick Redick, former operations manager at Trademark, is excited about the change and says he should have more time to experiment with new things. “It changes the game of what you can achieve artistically,” he said.
According to Redick, the owners of Trademark had been running the business remotely for some time and were ready to pull out.
Bredlie and Barnes are grateful for the employees who are moving from Trademark. “It’s really hard to find someone with screen printing experience, especially in Alaska,” said Bredlie.
Bredlie said her work can be seen on shirts across Alaska, particularly for village functions like potlatches, military groups, and North-Slope-related functions – like the shirts for the Prudhoe Bay general store.
It is exciting for Barnes to own a screen printing company as he has to keep up with new technologies and trends like direct printing.
For starters, direct-to-garment is attracting another niche market, as it uses water-based inks instead of oil paints. Additionally, it’s great for people who want a few cheap shirts priced at $ 12-15 each instead of bulk orders in the hundreds.
Future technologies Barnes is keeping an eye on include devices that use a wax instead of emulsions, saving time and money.
“One of the problems we run into every day is that our makeready times sometimes take longer than printing,” he said.
Bredlie likes the job because she gets insight into many demographics and provides local service to local customers. “We’re local and as a local company we try to do business with other local companies,” she said.
John and Debbie consider themselves “very practical” business owners, but at the same time they trust their employees and don’t stand over their shoulders.
According to Bredlie, having a positive attitude is key to running a successful business. “You have to be ready to change over time. Everyone is switching more to online ordering, so we’re learning to adapt to it. “
While the site will hopefully accommodate customers who have a hard time getting into the store during their business hours, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Bredlie notes that they are available to help customers design and print shirts help, and nothing beats come in, talk to some artists and understand the process.
Contact staff writer Robin Wood at 450-7510. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMcity.