GAYLORD — Sun Frog Shirts, already the largest direct-to-garment printing company in the world, it is about to become even larger.
After several months of deliberations and negotiations, Sun Frog, an online-based company specializing in printing shirts with millions of designs created by people from all over the world, is preparing to move from its location at 1564 Dickerson Road to the vacant factory building at 1782 O’Rourke Blvd.
Josh Kent, Sun Frog owner, closed on the building April 29 for a price of $900,000. The purchase allows the continually growing company to expand from its 20,000-square-foot building to a new building more than triple the size at 71,520 square feet, with lots of manufacturing space, staff offices, meeting rooms and other features.
“It has been exciting,” Kent said. “It is a huge blessing for us and everyone who works at Sun Frog.”
AMI originally acquired the building through an auction in 2013 for $95,000, with hopes of bringing the auto parts manufacturer and at least 100 jobs to Gaylord.
Lisa McComb, Otsego County Economic Alliance Executive director, and Joe Duff, Gaylord city manager, were unable to explain why the AMI deal fell through, though both expressed they were happy to see the opportunity arise for Kent and Sun Frog.
“It is fantastic for the community,” McComb said. “Not only does it utilize a building that has not been used to its full potential in the past few years, it also allows for new job creation and quickly.”
Duff echoed McComb’s thoughts.
“We are extremely excited to see they have a place to suit their needs,” he said.
Before hearing the building may have been available for sale, Kent said Sun Frog had been actively searching for a larger location. The company had also been looking to build a 17,000-square-foot addition, which would have nearly doubled the size of the building. While planning out the addition, Kent said they found it would not be large enough.
After discovering the issue with the proposed addition, Kent said Sun Frog began to look elsewhere for possibilities.
“We looked at other buildings and joked about the idea of buying the AMI building because it was so big,” he said. “But jokes became reality.”
When staff members reached AMI, they found the company was indeed interested in selling.
The rest is history, or history in the making.
With the building now under his ownership, Kent has big plans for his company moving forward.
“We will have a lot more equipment, new machinery, cutting-edge type stuff as far as the T-shirt world goes,” he said. “When we are done, we will be the largest (direct-to-garment) printer in the world, by a landslide.”
The purchase of the new building will certainly allow Sun Frog to continue separating itself from the international competition.
With the added space, Sun Frog will be able increase the number of shirts in stock from 500,000 to 1.5 million and double the number of direct-to-garment machines, which print the designs on the shirts, from 40 to 100. This is good news for Kent as he said he recently signed a deal to double Sun Frog’s output.
Sun Frog will need to hire an additional 100 employees within the next two to three months to run these machines around the clock and complete other jobs, increasing from 300 to 400 employees. All of this will be done with the goal of printing and shipping at least 40,000 shirts per day.
Kent said one thing is for certain, there will be no wasted space in the large building.
He next plans to work with Gaylord officials on transferring the seven-year tax abatement originally awarded to AMI by the city to his company.
Duff said this task should not be overly difficult and the process has already begun.
“From my understanding, it should simply be a resubmittal by Sun Frog,” he said. “There is an ability to transfer the abatement and we are looking to do so.”
The original abatement was created to waive personal property taxes on equipment for AMI for seven years. Requirements included creating at least 101 jobs within two years. Kent hopes his company will be eligible for the abatement at the same location, and Duff sounded confident it will be done.
Sun Frog also will be able to take advantage of the Dickerson Road project — widening from two lanes to three, addition of a new water main, new storm drainage, curb and gutter, and pedestrian walkway — which was originally planned to help with truck traffic anticipated for AMI.
According to Duff, the project will take approximately 10 weeks, beginning sometime in July and ending by September or October.
This project fits nicely with the increased production Sun Frog plans, including significant truck traffic coming to and from the building.
Duff said 40 commercial truck trips are expected everyday on the road as a result of the Sun Frog move. Coupled with employee and other Sun Frog traffic, there should be about 240 trips on the roadway once Sun Frog is fully operational out of the building.
As for the building itself, construction is already underway. These efforts inside the building include installing new carpet, painting and other tasks.
“The inside is already in good shape — tile floors throughout, bright lights,” Kent said. “It is much more attractive looking inside than what we have now.”
Kent also plans to reinvigorate the exterior, by installing new steel and repainting the building gray and what Kent calls “SunFrog green.”
“When it is all done, it will look fresh,” he said. “Like a brand-new building.”
Work has been ongoing at the location for the past several weeks and some employees have already started reporting for work at the new facility.
Kent hopes the company will be operating in the new building within 30 days.
“There is still a lot of work to do, but it is coming along pretty nicely,” he said.
The company has experienced exponential growth since Kent created it a little over two years ago.
What started as a small company with 26 employees has skyrocketed to an organization that prints and ships thousands of shirts every day to countries all around the globe.
“Sun Frog has grown beyond our imagination and we are having a lot of fun,” Kent said. “We have some great employees and a great staff.
“Everyone is rolling their sleeves up and getting stuff done.”