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Sign Shop Profile: MitoGraphics

Kristen Danson and Sheldon Rier

Photos courtesy MitoGraphics

By Peter Saunders
As the motto at MitoGraphics puts it, “We print everything except paper.” Based in Cambridge, Ont., the company produces an unusually eclectic mix of output, from signs, banners and displays to tiny graphics, decals and labels. And as its name’s Greek roots in ‘Mitos Graphikos’ suggest, similar to the Latin-based term ‘serigraphy,’ much of this output is screenprinted. (Both ‘mitos’ and ‘seri’ refer to the silk in silkscreening.)

Co-owners Kristen Danson and Sheldon Rier (pictured) have found a successful niche by marketing two divisions of their business: branding elements and industrial graphics.

Industrial origins
Perhaps surprisingly, the company was not originally set up as a graphics business at all.

“In the early 1980s, as Rier Industries, we were making pool table covers, barbecue covers and other specialty vinyl products for the industrial textile market,” Rier explains. “Some of our customers wanted to add their corporate branding to these products. So, we bought the remnants of a screenprinting operation in Toronto, moved it over to Cambridge and integrated it into what we were already doing.”

Being new to graphics, Danson and Rier read up on screenprinting techniques, attended graphics industry trade shows, brought in consultants and experimented to learn as much as they could about their additional capabilities. As more customer requests for printed materials came their way, what began as a way to add further value to existing products evolved into a new business of its own.

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MitoGraphics was formed when Rier Industries expanded into screenprinting.

“We were just too dumb to say no to the jobs!” Rier laughs. “We worked a lot of long hours to figure out the screenprinting business. Over time, we switched to making products where the graphic is the primary component.”

This shift also entailed a broader scope of products than vinyl and textiles. After initially printing only on flexible materials, the shop also began to handle acrylic, polystyrene (PS), glass, metals and other, more rigid substrates.

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“We found some of our clients liked working with one vendor for all of their graphic needs, whether they wanted to brand vehicles, garments or transit shelters,” says Rier. “We joined the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) in 1989 when we were printing a lot of pressure-sensitive materials.”

The aforementioned motto—“We print everything except paper”—was adopted in the 1990s to help better define their mixed-media approach to their clients. While the range of output grew and the company moved into a larger space in 1999, Rier explains he was never interested in competing with the traditional commercial printing industry in mainstream markets like business cards and stationery.

“We rebranded as MitoGraphics in 2002 because we had really become a specialty reprographics shop,” he says, “and we started to add digital printing in 2004.”

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