From a single sewing machine to a multi-million dollar company


CLEVELAND -- Being a part of the city's economic growth isn't just about starting new businesses.

Graffiti is a local family business that has grown into a multi-million dollar company, largely because the owners have continued to evolve their business for decades.

"We've had the pleasure of being here for the last 30 years," co-owner Abe Miller proudly tells WKYC.

Sometimes to see the possible, Miller says you just have to keep innovating.

"How can I make this product better? How can I do more? How can I improve it?" Miller explained. "It's that kind of believe and values that help your company evolve."

That evolution has been very successful, as Graffiti has grown into a three-factory sewing and embroidery company on the city's near east side.

But the company was started with a single sewing machine by Abe and Barb Miller in a small storefront.

"My wife and I, Barb, we started in 1984. We were in the Terminal at the time." Miller remembers while looking at old photographs. "We started doing little monograms and embroidery on towels shirts and neckties, and then we realized it was difficult making a living on this. We really wanted to grow"

In 1987, they moved to Carnegie, where the company continues to grow.

They now have 65 employees, and it's a loyal workforce.

"I started out as a machine operator in 1995," employee Rob Hatfield says. In that time he has worked his way up to become the operations manager. "A lot of us have been here for a long time."

Hatfield has been around long enough to see the company survive two recessions. Surviving has meant carving out a niche.

In the nineties, they began manufacturing their own baseball caps, with extra attention to detail.

"We add extra stitching on top of the visor. We pre-bend the visor if the customer wants...We steam and block, Hatfield says, walking through the process of making the hats. "Those are all steps that other manufacturers don't do."

To help during the most recent economic downturn, the company started manufacturing its own winter knit caps to stay busy during the slow months.

Managing to survive even when other manufacturers shuttered, Graffiti is now a multi-million dollar company in the city.

"You do have a workforce here. You do have an opportunity to expand and to grow," Miller insists. "You just have to take the risk. You just have to see it."

It's proof that even companies that have been part of Northeast Ohio for decades are seeing the possible in Cleveland.

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