Acme Prints was founded at the turn of the century (1999) by Dan Hargest in Mesa, Arizona to provide shirts for his band you never heard of. Instead of picking a… What’s that? No. You’ve never heard of them so there’s no reason to say the name. No, really. You haven’t. Okay, they were called Pollen. See? You never heard of them. Moving on… Instead of picking a screen printer from the seemingly endless supply of people whose products looked to be printed on back porches with little clue of how to do it properly, he decided to BECOME one of those people on their back porches with little clue of how to do it properly. But unlike the others, Dan broke through the confines of mediocrity to create what has become the humongoid supergiant you now know as ACME PRINTS!! ALL BOW TO THE SCREEN PRINTING GODS!!! Ahem. sorry.
So how did he accomplish such an amazing feat? Stay with us, intrepid reader…
Dan acquired a table-top “press” from his roommate, who wisely decided to part ways with it after realizing how difficult it actually is to put ink on shirts well. The press consisted of a lazy Susan with clamps for the screens and two stationary boards to put the shirts on, and he bolted it to a wooden crate he found.
With the addition of a heat gun from Home Depot, Dan began to print shirts for his band. His first “large” run of shirts was in preparation for a nation-wide tour with ska-punksters Less Than Jake and The Suicide Machines. The shirts sold well as they made their way to the East Coast over a month, but as they toured their way back to Arizona, he encountered the first of many wonderful surprises he’d receive from the land of screen printing. As the band hoped, a fair number of people who saw them opening for the other bands came back to see them on their smaller, solo tour. Unfortunately, many had the shirts with them that they bought at the earlier shows. The only issue was that the shirts were now blank. As it turns out, there’s a 6- to 8-hour time limit for ink to be used if it’s received an additive called Nylobond (this is where screen printers lol). “Maybe that’s why I had to use a power drill to stir that ink”, said Dan.
The first order for a paying customer was for local pop-punk heartthrobs, Girl Repellent, who were set to play with Pollen and their up-and-coming pals, The Ataris in Tucson, AZ. Though the prints would’ve made 40-grit sandpaper feel like Charmin, the shirt run went off without a hitch, and the hobby was now officially paying for beer and pizza.
In an effort to increase production capacity, Dan experimented with curing multiple shirts at a time in the kitchen oven. And though his housemates begged him to continue filling the house with the smoke & smell from the curing plastisol inks, he soon had to move to even more advanced technologies after burning shirts and melting dozens of the omnipresent polyester work-shirts so popular for bands in the late ‘90s. With the addition of his first flash-cure dryer, he could avoid burning shirts (most of the time), and though curing one shirt at a time may seem archaic in retrospect, it was the very embodiment of efficiency and professional screen printing to him at that point. The light-sensitive screens would still need to be stored in a hollowed-out dishwasher, but he finally had an “expensive” ($150) piece of professional screen printing equipment to call his own. Dan registered the business name ‘From the Get-Go Screen Printing’ and world domination was well under way.
Though the thought of standing outside for another year in 100 to 122 degree heat next to a 310 degree flash cure unit while watching the wind blow shirts into the back yard seemed appealing, there comes a point when the back porch must be left behind for
something with a fourth wall and more than 6’ x 15’ of space. So the search for a house with a garage began.
While meeting with a customer/friend to get a new payment to cover a bounced check[foreshadowing?], Dan learned that he was moving into a house with a large tool shed/workshop and was looking for another roommate to help make the house affordable. Perfect!* So he moved in, and soon after taught said customer/friend/roommate how to screen print since business had increased dramatically. At first, this seemed like a perfect situation and Dan thought about changing the name to reflect the change. After much contemplation, Dan chose ‘Acme’, not because of the Warner Brothers cartoons, but for the same reason the Warner Brothers cartoons chose it. Though very few people realize it now, ‘acme’ was once a commonly used word. It means, the best, the pinnacle, the zenith of something. So with the advent of telephones and phone books, businesses wanted a name that said they were the best while coming up first or close to it in the alphabetical list of competitors in the phone book. ‘Acme’ was that name they were looking for. Consequently, nearly every business changed their name to ‘Acme’. This is why almost every business in the Looney Tunes universe is named ‘Acme’. It was a joke that we were too young to get. And that… is the rest of the story.
Though there was a new name, Acme kept the same business license it had since the first days of From the Get-Go. But sadly, the reality of this new arrangement turned out to be far from perfect, so the search for a new place to live and work began before long.
While frequenting his favorite restaurant, ‘Veggie Fun’, Dan developed an interest in the empty spot next to it, once occupied by a magic store (a store that sold magician’s supplies, not a magical store) and he thought, “how great would it be to walk right next door to get my favorite food!? And what a wise thing to base a critical business decision on!” After finding that the rent was a bit higher than he could afford alongside new housing rent, Dan decided to live and work in the shop to avoid paying two rents. He converted an old shower stall into a washout booth for the screens, and he could also use that to shower himself.
There was no kitchen to speak of, but that’s why God invented microwaves and Taco Bell. And let’s not forget his beloved Veggie Fun.
To be continued!