Stitches

Capital Gains

Graffiti isn’t afraid to try something new. The 30-year-old Cleveland company, which makes and decorates custom caps, is always on the lookout for the next big thing. “Every time a door opens, we take a look at it,” says Rob Hatfield, operations manager. “We’re constantly taking risks.”

The strategy doesn’t always pan out. Graffiti’s attempt to break into T-shirts was a bust. But more often than not, the shop’s forays into new product lines and decoration methods have met with resounding success. For example, during the recession a few years ago, Graffiti decided to create its own knit caps, dissatisfied with the quality of the beanies they’d been importing. Graffiti’s knit hats are lined with Thinsulate for warmth. They fold the hats inside out to embroider, and then assemble them so the backing ends up hidden and doesn’t irritate the wearer’s forehead. “Sales just took off, and we couldn’t keep up with it,” Hatfield says.

More recently, Graffiti has been dabbling in the endless possibilities of dye sublimation, hot-stamping designs onto fabric, which is then assembled into baseball caps. “It’s a huge advantage to make the hats here,” according to Hatfield. Another popular product is the foam-insulated trucker-style caps the company started making in 2011.

With three factories and 150 embroidery heads, the shop brings in nearly $5 million in sales each year, and has set a goal of upping revenues to $6 million by 2015, Hatfield says. Not bad for a shop that began life three decades ago when husband-and-wife owners Abe and Barb Miller bought a single sewing machine and opened a small storefront.