When the boys basketball team at Fullerton IV Elementary School in Roseburg needed uniforms in 1976, mother and seamstress Carolyn Kemp volunteered for the task.
She made the pattern and distributed it to the other moms, who made shorts and shirts for their boys.
Kemp realized the uniforms needed the school logo and numbers. She decided she could do that also. She and her husband, Gene Kemp, traveled to Portland to a screen printing business to learn. They returned home with a squeegee, can of ink and a board, and applied the logo and numbers to the uniforms in their garage.
“That’s how we got started,” Carolyn Kemp said.
Thirty-seven years later and Prints Charming Screenprinting & Embroidery is a successful business in downtown Roseburg with grown sons Rick and Randy now part owners and operators with their parents. The business has also expanded beyond uniforms, targeting print projects for companies, events and promotions. Logos, designs, words and names can be printed or embroidered on a variety of items from clothes to pens.
“When we see people around town wearing clothes that we’ve printed on, it’s pretty neat,” Rick Kemp said.
“What we do puts smiles on people’s faces,” Carolyn Kemp said. “They’re happy. We don’t have customers go out of here unhappy.”
Hawks & Co. Realtors in Roseburg has purchased printed promotional items from Prints Charming for years, according to David Hawks.
“They’re just a great business,” he said. “They’re always happy to help us any way they can. They’re fast and friendly with their service.”
Jonda Lorenson, executive assistant at Lone Rock Timber Co. in Roseburg, said Lone Rock has been doing business with Prints Charming for 12 years.
“They’ve always helped to tweak logos and colors on designs,” she said. “They help us with a lot of rough drafts to get it right.”
Rick Kemp said it is fun to work with a customer who comes in with an idea to create an attractive look.
Gene Kemp, 72, and Carolyn Kemp, 70, have turned most of the ownership over to their sons, but continue to work at the business daily because they enjoy the work.
“It’s been quite fulfilling to do something you like for this many years,” Gene Kemp said.
“We don’t dread coming in here every day,” said his wife of 51 years. “We all enjoy our jobs.”
In addition to the four Kemps, Prints Charming has two other full-time employees, Sheryl Littlejohn and Dawn Johnson, and one part-timer, grandson Andrew Kemp. Littlejohn said she and Johnson are treated like part of the family.
“I don’t know if there really is a boss here,” Gene Kemp said. “We all have our own niche in the business.”
Everyone is cross-trained in screen printing, embroidery, engraving and retail sales.
Back when the Kemps obtained their business license and started filling orders in a garage, they named their business Umpqua Emblems. In the first couple of years, Gene Kemp continued to work as a manager at Gove’s Market on Diamond Lake Boulevard in Roseburg and then helped Carolyn with screen printing at night and on weekends.
After almost two years in their garage, the Kemps opened a small retail T-shirt shop on Jackson Street in downtown Roseburg. A year later in 1979, there was enough printing work that Gene Kemp left the grocery business and devoted himself to the developing family business. It expanded again in 1980 when the Kemps moved a couple doors up Jackson Street to a larger space.
Over the next couple of years, Rick Kemp, a 1981 Roseburg High graduate, and Randy Kemp, a 1982 RHS grad, joined the family business.
In the mid-80s, the Kemps opened a casual clothing business, Bottoms Up Jeans and Shirt Shop, in the 600 block of Jackson Street. In 1987, the family purchased Sun Printing, an offset printing business on Main Street. But after a couple years of spreading themselves between the stores, the Kemps decided to bring their three businesses together under one roof. At the same time, they gave their business a new name — Prints Charming — and dropped the offset printing work.
“We had been dividing our resources,” Carolyn Kemp said. “It made life simpler, there was less overhead, and we made better use of our manpower to have everything together.”
The business was incorporated in 2000 with Rick and Randy added as board members and partners.
“Like any family we have some arguments, but we’re focused on the same goal,” said Randy Kemp, 50. “I like working with family and for family better than working for somebody else.”
Rick Kemp, 51, said morning meetings are held to discuss projects and any problems.
“We believe in our product,” he said. “Even through the struggles, I’d rather be working here with family. We figure it’s on us to make it. We all like the whole challenge of making the business successful.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.