POCATELLO — After more than 21 years of experience and more than 15 years of ownership, the only thing that Troy Neu would change about Old Town Embroidery is possibly its name. Neu said that when Melba Covert started the business in 1997, embroidering design was all that was offered to customers. Now, Old Town Embroidery offers much more.
“When I came on in sales soon after it was opened, we added screen printing to our offering right away,” Neu said. “Even after 20 years, it’s amazing how many people don’t know that we offer screen printing. At this point, it doesn’t matter much anymore because we stay plenty busy, but it would have been easier for marketing if we had included screen printing in our name somehow.”
Neu said that Old Town Embroidery started with a single-head embroidery machine — which meant that only one garment could be embroidered at a time. Depending on the size of the desired design, it could take several hours for a single item.
“Some designs are very simple and only have 5,000 to 6,000 stitches. Those will take five to 10 minutes,” Neu explained. “There are more complicated designs that might have 80,000 stitches and could take two and a half hours to run.”
Since its establishment, Neu has continued to add embroidery machines, and Old Town Embroidery can now run as many as nine garments at a time, significantly reducing the time required to process large orders.
Recognizing that embroidering a garment costs more than screen printing — which involves creating a stencil or “screen” and applying layers of ink on the garment — Neu helped bring in a screen printer soon after the business opened. As an example, Neu said that most sports uniforms numbers, names or team logos are printed with screen printers.
In 2003, Neu brought in a digital printer, which takes a digitized image of a design and prints textile ink directly onto a garment — much like an inkjet printer prints onto a piece of paper. Neu said that the time required to set up a screen printing job is long and involved, so using the digital printer has saved a lot of time on small orders with lots of colors. For large orders, with fewer colors, screen printing is much more efficient.
Old Town Embroidery can now handle orders as large as a few thousand pieces with a two-week or less turn around. They have done business with large companies such as Idaho Central Credit Union, Farm Bureau, Simplot, Portneuf Medical Center and ON Semiconductor as well as many smaller businesses like Pocatello Electric. They have help individuals with small custom projects like personalizing Christmas stockings or towels, which he says only costs around $10 each.
“My favorite part of this business is working with customers and helping them achieve their goals and deadlines,” Neu said. “It’s really satisfying when people present us with a deadline that they don’t think we can meet. They have nothing to lose by asking, and when we’re able to turn it around for them in one to two days, it feels good to be able to meet what they think are unreasonable expectations.”
Neu now has five full-time employees and has hired an in-house graphic designer who can help customers create their own designs for about $50 per hour.
And fabrics are no longer the only medium in which Old Town Embroidery specializes. Everything from lip balm to pens and water bottles have been printed on for use as promotional products.
“We can’t promise to embroider or screen print on everything,” Neu said, “but it’s amazing what we’ve been able to decorate. … There have been a few times where something has come in, and I don’t think we can do it and somehow my production manager has figured out a way to do it.”
Though Old Town Embroidery does not do e-commerce, there is an online catalog that can be viewed at companycasuals.com/oldtownembroidery. Neu said that they have access to many more products if customers don’t see what they want in the catalog.
Before coming to work at Old Town Embroidery, Neu had worked in construction. He explained that his parents decided to buy Old Town Embroidery about two years after Troy came to work there with the intention that Troy would eventually buy them out — which he did in 2003.
“Old Town Embroidery had a couple of really bad months … so my parents offered to buy it from Melba at that time,” Neu said. “I didn’t have enough money yet. As my parents and I discussed it, if we could get the business turned around in the right direction, I decided I would buy it. … I enjoyed the customers and working with people. I wasn’t enamored with embroidery itself, but I like the industry of screen printing and embroidery. … I love how this business gives me a chance to work with interesting people and other businesses.”
2003 was also the year that Neu moved his business from a rented location at 326 N. Main St. to owning his own building at 556 W. Center St. in Pocatello.
“We had gotten too big for the old location,” Neu said. “I needed more room to expand for the new equipment I was bringing in.”
As for the business staying in the family, Neu said most likely not.
“Eventually, I will probably be selling it because my daughter doesn’t have any interest,” Neu said. “But I’m not old enough to retire yet, so I will be around for a while.”
For more information, visit oldtownembroidery.com or call 208-234-2679.