Spokane Journal of Business

Brunette Sportswear: Screen printing legacy


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-—Kendall Heintzelman
Greg Brunette, owner of Brunette Sportswear, took over the company from his father four years ago and hopes to keep the business in the family.

From a home garage to its own warehouse here—and a second location soon to come—Brunette Sportswear has been imprinting images on clothing here for 36 years. 

The company is a full-service screen printing and embroidery services provider located at 130 N. Lee, in east central Spokane. Greg Brunette, owner of Brunette Sportswear, says his father, Larry, began the company out of his garage in 1979. 

He says his father was a truck driver who “didn’t want to be another number” among the nameless drivers, so when a friend approached him about opening a silk-screening business, his father gladly accepted the opportunity and launched a shop out of his home. 

As the business expanded, his father was able to buy the 12,000-square-foot building on Lee Street, a couple blocks north of east Sprague Avenue, in 1986 and to begin operating the shop there. 

Brunette says he has been working for his father’s company off and on since the age of 12, and its staff size has fluctuated through the years. At one time, he says, it employed 25 people. Now, it has a team of eight, which includes Brunette’s son. He says he hopes to see it become a third-generation family business one day. 

Brunette took over the company four years ago to make it possible for his father to retire. He says he wanted his father to be able to “relax and not stress out about the business.”

Brunette Sportswear today offers a number of services, including screen printing, embroidery, awards and plaque engraving, and business card printing. On its website, brunettesportswear.com, one can find a broad range of product catalog items to choose from. Clothing such as t-shirts, outerwear, and sports uniforms for all ages and both genders are available for prints and embroidery. One can submit artwork or choose from hundreds of logos and designs to have printed on their chosen apparel.

Brunette says embroidery work brings in the most sales for the company, with about 60 percent of its revenue coming from that work alone. Businesses make up the most of its clientele, says Brunette. He says it regularly produces sports gear and uniforms for company sports teams. 

The company’s e-store feature has been valuable for fundraisers, he says. For example, supporters of someone with a serious medical condition could design a shirt with the help of his company and use it as a fundraiser by setting up an e-store with Brunette Sportswear to sell the shirts online. He says if a shirt costs around $6 to make and customers pay $15 for it through the e-store, the difference would go to that person’s cause.

All printing is done in-house.

“We don’t really sub out a lot,” says Brunette, who adds that his company even does some printing for other companies that don’t have the needed printed equipment. 

The company recently invested in graphics software that enables it to convert photographs into separations so it is then can print a photo onto a shirt, says Brunette. It had the equipment to do such a task, he says, but not the software. Brunette says that down the line he plans to update some of its printing equipment as well.

Brunette Sportswear also will be adding a new location soon. He says he bought a home in Reardan, about 25 miles west of Spokane, with a shop large enough to work out of and serve the outlying areas. He says it will be operating out of the Reardan location within three or four months. 

Brunette says he took over his father’s company during the recession, and sales have increased by about 8 percent every year since then. He says its biggest sales now come from online marketing, through sites such as eBay and Etsy as well as its own website, and it now serves around 1,000 to 1,200 clients per month. 

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