HILLSVILLE – When Keith Saunders, owner of Classic Creations, decided it was time to open his own screen printing business, the first thing he had to do was to find a location.
Saunders lives in Martinsville and he began to look at sites near his home in both Virginia and North Carolina. He was still looking when he came to Carroll County and met County Administrator Gary Larrowe.
The Carroll County IDA had recently purchased two buildings from Gildan Corp. in the Carroll County Industrial Park. Saunders felt the smaller building would suit his needs in the early stages of his operation and at the same time, provide room for future expansion.
Sanders also said they would need natural gas to run his operation because electricity or propane would cost more than natural gas.
Larrowe pointed out that the county had installed a natural gas line in front of the Gildan building. That was another problem solved.
Then there was the financing. He worked more than a year with the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and Board of Supervisors and other state agencies such as Virginia Community Capital that helped make the deal come together.
He printed his first order in December.
Today, with 18 employees, most of them from the Carroll County area, and a steady stream of orders, Saunders is pleased with his operation and is still appreciative of the support he received from the IDA and Board of Supervisors.
“They were great to work with and after working with other localities, I knew this was the right place for me,” he added.
Saunders said he has found that the employees in this area are “very trainable.”
The building had been empty for several months and was in need of remodeling. Saunders purchased the building and completely renovated the facility, including front offices and the break room for employees.
The main part of the building was repainted and the old lights removed and replaced with a more efficient system that shuts off in 20 minutes if sensors don’t pick up any activity below.
“The natural gas has been great,” Sanders said. “The old heating system was converted and Earl Hagee, natural gas coordinator for the county, has worked with us to produce maximum efficiency.”
Saunders said local contractor Steve Winesett and his crew from Candor Construction Co. had done a great job with the remodeling.
Sanders is also proud of the fact that the 12-color machine that is capable of printing a design on a T-shirt in an average of five seconds and all his other equipment is made in the United States.
Because of his heavy workload, Saunders is already making plans to install additional equipment.
Saunders said a lot of his orders were coming from G-III Apparel in New York. He is also working on a warehouse plan with G-III where he would house up to 400,000 garments at one time. G-III has such customers as JC Penney, Kohl’s, and several sports teams.
Saunders recently had a meeting with officials of Motorsports Authentics based in Concord, N.C., who handle NASCAR clothing. He has already printed shirts for Sprint Cup drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Kyle Larson, who recently won the Grand National race in California.
Saunders said a lot of the NASCAR work was coming from Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder who has a trailer and sets up to sell shirts, hats and other memorabilia at tracks from Bristol to Talladega, Ala.
On the local scene, Saunders said they planned to print shirts for HoustonFest, a bluegrass music convention that will be held in Felts Park in Galax May 2-3.
Saunders said besides the screen printing, he also packages and labels the garments and in some cases, ships them on hangers ready to be displayed in stores. A lot of customers also provide their shirts for printing.
He admitted that starting the new business had been “challenging at times” but he had worked through the problems and everything is looking positive in the future.
The Carroll County IDA was scheduled to have its monthly meeting April 7 at 2 p.m. at the Classic Creations building and to tour the facilities.