Pawtucket, R.I. Tuesday, July 13, 1999
Massachusetts firm moving to city
BUTCH ADAMS/The Times
The vacant Little Co. building, which was constructed in 1914, soon will be the home of Mirror Image Inc., which makes high-quality T-shirts.
Mirror Image Inc. plans
to expand 25-job operation
once it settles at Pawtucket's vacant Little Co. plant
By WIIIAM HAMILTON
Times staff writer
PAWTUCKET-A Cambridge, Mass., screen printing company that produces 1 million T-shirts a year for clients nationwide and beyond is buying the vacant Little Co. building on Exchange Street and moving its operations here.
City officials confirmed the across-the-border move by Mirror Image Inc., a 25-employee operation that company leaders say will be expanding once they arrive in Pawtucket.
Rick Roth, founder and president of the 11-year-old Mirror Image, said Monday that the company hasn't yet closed on the 28,000-square-foot building located across Fountain Street from the Exchange Street armory. But he expects to begin the transfer next month.
The type of jobs at the company range from folding T-shirts to designing T-shirt graphics.
City officials gushed about the news, saying the business will be a fine addition to the city's relatively new arts and entertainment district, which provides tax incentives to artists who live and work here.
They're the cream of the crop in their industry," said Herb Weiss, an economic development coordinator in the city's Planning Department.
Officials say that Mirror Image is distinguished from most screen printing companies by its ability to reproduce high-definition photographic images on cotton T-shirts, using a computer-separated 12-color palette. Many screen printers are limited to four colors.
In fact, Mirror Image reproduces paintings and photographs on T-shirts, which are sold at museum shows. They also performed less detailed work, such as the New England Patriots' AFC champion shirt in 1997.
The company has won numerous industry awards.
Roth isn't your typical suit-and-tie business exec and Mirror Image isn't a typical company. He's got a ponytail and one of his company's help-wanted Internet postings says tattoos and body piercings are "a plus." Roth said Monday that the posting was a joke.
Mirror Image gets involved in causes, printing shirts for non-profit organizations ranging from Amnesty International to Greenpeace.
Mirror Image has even provided support to a homeless shelter close to his plant in Cambridge. He expects to do the same here. "Money isn't everything," he said Monday.
Still, the company has $2.5 million in annual sales.
And it even picked up a small-business-of -the-year award from the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce this year.
But Roth said he decided to look for a new location in Rhode Island when his lease in a 11,000-square-foot building in Cambridge was close to expiring and few seemed interested in keeping a T-shirt manufacturer there.
With the promise of better real estate prices further from Boston, Roth called the state of Rhode Island. An economic development official drove him around the Providence area.
He liked what he found in Pawtucket: A building for a reasonable price and city officials who went out of their way to help him.
Officials offered to assit Roth in securing a loan to help finance moving expenses. Weiss even mailed Mirror Image a pile of Visitor Center brochures highlighting recreation opportunities and area restaurants.
"When I weighed it all, it made sense to move to Rhode Island," Roth said.
Several Mirror Image employees already have moved into the area. At least one has bought a home in the Quality Hill section of the city.
City records show that the vacant Little Co. building is owned by Herman Souza, who purchased the 113-year-old Little Co. in 1990. The company moved its manufacturing facilities to East Providence several months later.
Now known as Packaging Graphics, the company is located in a former Hasbro building in Pawtuket and has been using the Little Co. building for storage.
Constructed in 1914, the vacant Exchange Street building has been on the market for several years. The property is valuated by the city at $316,780.
Said city Planning Director Michael Cassidy of Mirror Image: "They're as good as it gets when you're trying to bring a small business into the city."