Danny Gruninger's focus on R&D and best practices helped push his screen printing shop to success.
By Anya Rao
General Manager/Founder | Denver Print House | Lakewood, Colorado
Age: 32 | Years in the Industry: 13
Words from His Nominator: “He’s the only one in 25 years to figure out how to use our color separation software without onsite training,” says Mark Coudray, Coudray Growth Technologies. “Danny is a visionary, creator, and implementer. There are very few who come along in our industry that have a demonstrated ability to visualize and bring to fruition their vision. He’s one of them.”
From working as a machinist to starting his own decorated apparel business (all while still a teenager), Danny Gruninger’s determination and curiosity have propelled him forward. He helped grow Denver Print House into a successful company, sold it to a customer, and stayed on as general manager. He remains committed to research and development, testing inks, materials, and equipment for the industry, as well as teaching screen printing classes. With an eye toward environmental and social responsibility, Denver Print House utilizes plant- and water-based inks and is a founding member of Allmade Apparel.
How did you end up in the specialty graphics industry?
I started in the industry at the age of 19. At the time, I was working for a high-end specialized engine building company in Colorado where I grew up and I observed my boss’s fleet of companies ordering shirts left and right. My parents had a small company that did corporate awards and their clients were also requesting decorated apparel. So, logically, I set my sights on becoming an apparel decorator – clearly there was a stable market. I quit my job, invested in a small manual setup, and off to the races I went. I quickly realized I needed some help in the shop so I dragged my brother along for the ride with me and I eventually worked with many members of my family as the company grew.
Entering the industry with zero experience was extremely intimidating, but at the same time, a fun challenge digging into something new. I had started working off and on at a machine shop as early as 13 years old, which gave me a strong desire to take the skills I learned in that industry and apply them to screen printing. I locked myself in the shop during those early years and learned everything I possibly could, which has helped tremendously in getting me where I am today. I built Denver Print House around the philosophy that we can and will be the best domestic facility when it comes to garment decoration. At times it was a struggle, but seeing the company grow has been really rewarding. I started with one manual press and 500 square feet. Over the last 12-plus years, I expanded four different times getting to where we are now – four automatic presses, 80 heads of embroidery, garment sewing, and an award-winning art department housed in a 30,000-square-foot facility in Lakewood, Colorado. We have been recognized as one of the most innovative, award-winning screen printing facilities in the world.
Do you have a favorite project that turned into a true learning experience?
There is one project that always sticks in my mind that really tested my patience and skills. One of my top clients had requested I print on a custom wood sign they’d built from scratch out of reclaimed materials for a newly constructed brewing company. I thought to myself, “Sure, I can print on a wood sign, no problem.” Little did I know the sign was six feet wide and six feet tall! I always told my clients there’s nothing we can’t do here at DPH so I was determined to figure out a way to make this sign. A custom-built screen, a six-foot squeegee mounted to a push broom handle, and a lot of mental preparation allowed us to pull off what we initially thought was impossible for our shop to do. The end product turned out amazing and it was a major mental win for me at the time.
Read more about Screen Printing's 2018 Rising Stars Award winners.
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