Founders Chris and Joanna
at Grand Opening in 1980
Our story began in November of 1980, when two young high school sweethearts - founders Chris and Joanna, began to consider their future together. Chris Ithen, who was 18 at the time and had prepared most of his life to become a musician, decided to redirect his life goal of becoming a musician on tour, to a life that he felt would be more appropriate for them both to enjoy together. One day between classes, Chris who was a senior in high school asked his girlfriend Joanna, who was a freshman, if she wanted to start a business together and she said yes.
Screen printing custom made t-shirts was a business where they were both able to utilize their artistic skills. Joanna, who was 15 at the time, wanted to become an artist, while at the same time Chris, was offered the first ever full art scholarship at Slippery Rock University in a neighboring city. Like a puzzle, their dream began to fall into place. They invested all the money they each had into starting the business. Going to school while starting the business was challenging, but with the support of their parents, they both worked 7 days a week, early mornings and late into the night to build the company. Any money they made, was invested back into the business.
A few years down the road, the happy couple married, and the newly weds moved into their screen printing business where they lived meagerly for six years. When they first moved in they slept in sleeping bags and took showers in the sink used for spraying out screens. Chris said, "Just imagine what it was like standing in a sink three feet off the ground, spraying yourself with a hose and a Reznor heater comes on and blows an enormous amount of air on you, in the winter, this was quite cold to say the least! I remember saying on a Sunday night at 11:00 pm, 'Now that we're married, I don't want to work past 11:00 pm on Sunday nights anymore.'"
Their hard work, long hours, and relentless dedication through all of the ups and downs over the years has paid off as the business has sustained them for 40 years. Today, Chris and Joanna have three children, two who are becoming a big part of the company. Their son Gabriel was named President of the company in April of 2020 and their daughter Janoah, leads the brand marketing department. Their youngest daughter, Emilea, gives them lots of input and great ideas! Together, they all love the freedom and opportunity America has to offer and love growing their business to provide more job opportunities for people who love creating custom products as much as they do.
"We start each day with a grateful state of mind for the opportunity to continue serving the needs of our customers in the best way that we can. We love creating and making custom products that not only bring people together but helps spread awareness for their passion. You could say, our passion, is helping someone else promote theirs." - The Ithens