JEFFERSON – A Jefferson embroidery shop now features new owners, a new name and, very soon, a new look.
Creative Embroidery owner Susan Carter said last week she was stepping away from the business after three years, and had sold her operation to Mark Baldwin, owner-operator of Renegade Graphics.
“I loved creating for all of you that visited the store but it was simply taking too much of my time,” Carter said.
Located at 109 N. Main St, in Jefferson, Baldwin said the shop should be up and running again by Feb. 9. It’ll offer the embroidery services customers came to enjoy from Carter’s operation, along with the screen printing options Baldwin has offered for a couple years under his Renegade Graphics banner.
Baldwin, an Alleghany County-native, called his journey to small business owner something of a winding road.
He started his professional career as a teacher after graduating from Appalachian State University. He said he thought it was the career he’d always wanted – right up until that turned out not to be the case.
“I think a lot of factors went into it but really I just felt myself becoming burnt out with teaching,” Baldwin said. “The state of education today, especially new teachers, you feel underappreciated. I just didn’t see an opportunity to build a really good life through teaching.”
When Alleghany County’s Luke Hampton, a promising senior wrestler, was injured in late 2011, Baldwin designed and created t-shirts that were sold to raise funds for Hampton and his family. Some 6,000 of those t-shirts were eventually sold, Baldwin said, and he was hooked on the art and science of screen printing.
“I continued to teach but this was something that I really enjoyed doing and I found out I was ok at it,” Baldwin said. “And more importantly I was able to figure out that there was a market here for this sort of thing.”
Spurred on by entrepreneurial dreams, Baldwin and his wife Jana found enough financing to fund a screen printing operation in the basement of their home in 2014, and he’d also started courses through Gardner Webb University’s online Master’s in Business Administration program.
The business grew slowly through its first year, but picked up enough to convince Mark Baldwin to ditch his job as a middle school physical education teacher last summer. Like any startup, there have been hiccups along the way he said, including a botched t-shirt printing job for a longtime friend.
“A friend wanted me to print some wrestling shirts for their kids’ camp,” Baldwin said. “It was supposed to say ‘Agoge – that’s the name of the ancient spartan training camps – Survivor.’ We both saw the design proof and said, yep, this is good.”
But Baldwin said that same coach called him while he was enjoying an anniversary trip to the beach with Jana.
“Turns out we’d misspelled ‘Agoge,” Baldwin laughed. “Luckily it was in Greek, so the only guys who knew about the problem was the coach and me.”
As the business began to pick up steam, Baldwin said it was necessary to begin looking for a space outside his family’s home.
“It’s tough because you have a lot of other things to consider all of a sudden,” Baldwin said. “But you know you’re going to look more professional and probably get more done if you can move outside the cramped basement. It was time.”
In addition to moving his manual screen printing presses to North Main Street, Baldwin said he’ll continue the embroidery operation that Carter started.
“We’re actually going to do a little more than just screenprinting and embroidery,” Baldwin said. “We’ll have some hand painted signs that Jana does and we’d like to have a furniture piece now and then.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.