This week we interviewed Joe Sudrovic, owner of Gorilla Joe Printing in Youngstown, OH.
IK: How long have you been involved with printing and/or garments and how long since you have been “in” the industry?
JS: Since high school. I’ve been “in” the industry, printing semi ok garments at first, since 2011.
IK: How did you get started in the industry?
JS: I had a huge crush on my “silk screening” teacher in high school so I took the class. That was the only reason. Then I saw value in buying blank shirts and printing my bands’ logos on them. Fast forward to my twenties, in 2010 I got into some trouble and my probation officer told me to pay off the fines ASAP and they would make me non-reporting and probably leave me alone (no jail). So I printed in my basement for punk bands on the weekends. (Punk bands usually didn’t care of the quality, thankfully! haha) I paid off my fines pretty quick. Then I realized my set up was archaic and I wanted to get better stuff to print. And I built it from that damp, dingy basement of what was equivalent to a squat/party house.
IK: What is your current job title and what do you primarily do as your work?
JS: I’m owner of Gorilla Joe Printing Co. LLC. I oversee production, art, sales etc. Always working on improvement.
IK: What is your history in the industry?
JS: Playing in bands that were always needing merch. The DIY attitude is always make it yourself and save some money for beer.
IK: In your time in the industry what have you seen as the biggest change?
JS: What you can charge for retail now as opposed to before. However, I came from an industry where bands charged $10-$12 a shirt for full color prints. Now you toss an inside tag print and write Supreme on a shirt and charge a shitload of money.
IK: What is one thing you wish you knew when you were starting out in this business?
JS: That when i printed for my (not at the time) wife’s salon, that she would one day become my wife. I would have charged her more…. 🙂
IK: Do you have a song or better yet a Spotify or other playlist that you listen to when you really want to get going?”
JS: Holy shit i cant even begin to pin point that. Sorry, I’ve failed you. Actually a good tune that really used to get my gears spinning was CONVERGE-YOU FAIL ME
IK: Share a story of a mistake you made that in the end you learned from.
JS: Printing shirts for my (not at the time) wife’s salon. JK, I love my wife.
I have so many. Well, my “mistake” or reason I started screen printing in my adult life was a 3rd DUI. I’m not proud or happy I was so careless back then, but what I’ve learned from is that when you think you’re at your worst, good comes out of everything. I had plans to move to Los Angeles with some of my defunct band dudes, but getting into trouble kept me here. I had a few shitty jobs, dodged getting robbed delivering Chinese food to unsavory neighborhoods. I wasn’t in a good place, thinking any second I’m going to jail for my 3rd offense. I had no money despite all the jobs and side hustles. However mistakes happen. Whether they are by accident or you carelessly attract negative shit, they happen. So I learned to just try to make the best out of every situation and really delve deep into your tool box in your head to McGyver your way out.
IK: What part of this industry do you wish you didn’t have to deal with?
JS: (Some) customers.
IK: What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you in this industry?
JS: In my first printshop, it was a high apartment building. I was in a gutted corner store part of the building that was an old pharmacy, maybe 800 sq ft. My basement was the whole basement where I reclaimed screens. I would hear people sing in the shower early in the morning and late at night. Well, I would hear this lady getting nailed or nailing herself here and there. I’m not sure who it was, but it was rather odd. A few weeks before I moved out I had a note taped to my door that says “I know you can hear me but I don’t care.” I looked over bother shoulders and kinda got the creeps. I was very loud when i was down there so it wasn’t even like i was peeping or being sneaky. She just didn’t give a F that everyone knew…haha
IK: What is your favorite garment to print on? What is your favorite decoration technique on one of your garments?
JS: Fav garment would have to be TR401W, thinned out plastisol, no underbase, minimal flashing. We do this mainly for a large clothing company and it’s exactly what they’re after. With them we have the lowest margins of misprints due to the fact they want it all to look weathered, so something we wouldn’t pass they may accept.
IK: If money was no object, what you add to your business right now?
JS: A bar since covid closed them all.
IK: What is your favorite t-shirt, however you want to define that.
JS: An old Marilyn Manson shirt. I had 3 of them when i was young. On the back it said “I am the god of f***”.
IK: Can you speak to having a mentor or hero or someone you admire either inside or outside the industry?
JS: Many in the industry (too many to name them). Outside of the industry was my old boss at the pizza shop I worked for. He taught me about how to treat customers, how to not take shit from anyone, how to save money and how to run a very high traffic pizza restaurant. I implement what I learned there at my print shop. I still print for that company and admire the hard work that family puts into their 3 stores. My boss that I was talking about has died of brain cancer, but his teaching legacy lives on! He was a huge dick though, too. Not a bad dude in anyway, just a dick.
IK: What have you found inspirational lately?
JS: My wife and daughter. I’m writing a childrens book for my daughter about our animals in the house. How they are all different but all get along– different colors, different abilities, different weights etc. She’s two. I’m trying to teach her early how so many people are different but that doesn’t mean we cant all exist in the same space in harmony. My best friend (and art guy at the shop) is an amazing illustrator. He’s drawing all of it.
IK: What have you read recently?
JS: I’m reading FIX THIS NEXT by Mike Michalowicz right now.
IK: Has your company or you personally been involved in some charitable effort that you are proud of?
JS: We are very much into donations. We dont take selfies when we do it either. I donate a lot of misprints to homeless shelters. We raise money for food banks, animal shelters, homeless shelters, anything we can do to help.
IK: With climate change a real threat, what is your company doing about it?
JS: My heating bills weren’t as much this year.
IK: If you had an actor play you in a movie, who would it be?
JS: Ryan Gosling, so that everyone would think I was that hot in real life.
IK: What do you see on the horizon as trends in the industry?
JS: Digital squegee (duh). Lots more on demand, “I cant wait a week” digitial printing. I’m not knocking any of it. We have DTG and I certainly won’t fizzle out not adapting in the future, so I’m down for what the trends will bring.
IK: What piece of advice would you like to share with someone new to the industry.
JS: Find who you want to print for and go after it. Speaking the language of who you want to print for you will gain you a lot more trust a lot faster. Don’t try to print amazing prints on dogshit equipment. Find an ally contract printer and let them do it. I was so stubborn at first Why should I have someone print something that has my name on it even if it is better or faster than what I could do? Treat your company like a business, not an ego boost or cerebral masturbation.
IK: Is there anything else you would like to share?
JS: Don’t just get awesome and stay awesome!