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Print Craft: Apparel Decoration with a Cause

(June/July 2017) posted on Tue Jul 25, 2017

This New York organization is paving the way for not one, but two worlds: the print industry and the autism community.

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By Kelsey Johnson

And business has been booming: In 2016, Spectrum Designs had close to $1.5 million in sales and provided 7500 hours of paid employment for people with disabilities. The shop now has a ColDesi M2 DTG printer, a four-station Vastex V2000HD, a Vastex EconoRed II dryer, seven Geo Knight heat presses, and an M&R Diamondback C automatic. An hour after speaking with Screen Printing, the Spectrum team closed on a new 7500-square-foot building, which they’ll move into later this year. The move will allow for even more equipment, with the goal of doubling production capacity in screen printing and embroidery over the next year or two.

Local Love
How has a little mom-and-pop shop grown into a business to be reckoned with in only a few years? “People started to fall in love with the story and the idea. It really took off,” says Spectrum Designs COO Tim Howe. While the company began by screen printing T-shirts for autism organizations, it didn’t take long for other Long Island businesses to catch wind of the new local apparel decorator with a cause.

One early client was Men on the Move, a large moving company. One of the company’s founders has a son with autism named Gregory, so Spectrum’s mission was an easily understood cause. Just like that, Spectrum went from producing one or two shirts at a time to fulfilling orders for dozens of shirts in every size. And even better? Gregory has now been employed at Spectrum for years.

Spectrum assigns jobs based on each employee’s unique abilities. Here, Pete performs the job of screen reclaimer. Courtesy of John Martin Photography.

Other local Spectrum clients include school districts, nonprofits, the autism community, and businesses including Neiman Marcus, Facebook New York, and Guitar Player magazine. “We have an NYU job coming up, and we’re doing some quarter zips for the 90th precinct of the NYPD,” adds Howe. “Picking up customers like that, big-ticket clients that people have heard of, lends supreme legitimacy to what we do.”


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