Underground Printing emerges.
In late October, Underground Printing moved across the street and up the block to a bigger location next to Good Time Charley's on South University. How much bigger? Co-owner Ryan Gregg put it this way: "Our new sign is bigger than our old store," which measured a paltry 250 square feet. At 4,000 square feet, Gregg and business partner Rishi Narayan finally have the flagship store they have wanted for years.
Gregg and Narayan, both twenty-eight, founded their custom screen-printed and embroidered apparel company back in 2001, when they were both sophomores at the U-M. "We were very active in school, we belonged to a lot of groups, and we were always entrepreneurial," Gregg recalls. When the two friends realized that all the groups they belonged to needed custom T-shirts, they saw opportunity--especially after a tow truck operator who came to Narayan's aid after his car broke down mentioned that he used to print T-shirts and still had his equipment in a pole barn in Cadillac. Gregg says he thought about all those campus groups--"and I thought: I bet we could sell a lot of T-shirts!"
They bought the guy's equipment, moved it to Whitmore Lake, and started selling T-shirts to anyone who needed them, which turned out to be a lot of people.
Within months the partners had more business than they could handle and hired Underground Printing in Chelsea (which really was underground, in a basement) to make the shirts while they turned their attention entirely to sales. By the end of 2003, Gregg and Narayan's orders were such a big part of Underground Printing's business that it seemed only logical for them to buy the company.
They moved the printing side of the business to a 33,000-square-foot facility in Ann Arbor in 2004 and opened the small retail space on South U in 2005. Since then they've opened ten more stores in other college towns and expanded from T-shirts into all kinds of printed apparel and accessories,
like hoodies, polo shirts, jerseys, sweats, pens, hats, Frisbees, and magnets.
Though their client list has expanded to include local businesses like Zingerman's, Conor O'Neill's, and Running Fit, the campus remains the heart of their enterprise. "We know the market, we enjoy it, and you can't beat the lifestyle," Gregg says. "There's so many people around, and there's always something going on."
Underground Printing, 1114 South University. 929-6648. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. www.undergroundshirts.com
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[Originally published in December, 2009.]