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Shop Visit: Barrel Maker Printing

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Barrel Maker Printing. They have an office in downtown Chicago, but the main facility is in the Western burbs of Chicago. The owners are Justin and Erin Moore who started the shop in 2009. Justin gets my vote for funniest person in screenprinting, in the deadpan division. Erin gets my vote for warmest person in screenprinting (not that there is any competition,) hugging division. They have a great esprit-de-corps, the shop hums along at a good pace,  and it is cleaner than most. These are all good things.

They have enough techie toys like an automatic screen coater without going overboard. After all, most of us don’t want to buy so much new gear that we end up being an experimental laboratory owned by a bank.

They are my idea of a good medium sized business in that they have a few auto presses and have to sub a little work out. Smaller is tough to afford the right equipment and bigger makes it very hard to manage. Nobody seems overly stressed and they make an ok living, so what’s not to like about Barrel Maker?

I usually have a sense of what makes a place tick. To my mind they have:

1: A good sense of humor and good sense of perspective and they have an air authenticity and genuineness about them. This makes clients want to work WITH them, and it makes good people want to work FOR them.

2. : A good screen room and even more importantly a great screen person (funny how many places forget that it is called SCREENprinting.) Screens seem to be done ahead of time and the room is clean and organized and they know their stuff. It is a great start to doing good printing efficiently.

3: They are reliable, they get stuff done and they don’t over-promise. I can’t verify this, but I got that feeling from the stories they told me. They also don’t take jobs for stupid low prices,  and that’s great because going lowball is one of the great ways to drive yourself out of business.

And why you ask are they called “Barrel Maker?” I don’t know. There is a story and it involves a person making barrels being called a cooper, and I think a precious child was involved, there was printing for somebody thrown in there, and then Justin’s voice trailed off. I’m going with they just liked the sound of it.

They have also succeeded with a live printing division, they do embroidery,  and they are doing promotional products. Just screenprinting is always a risky business, so good on them. It is a good thing to see good people succeeding.


Justin (the bigger person) and Erin Moore, the owners.
Not a bad idea to start your process with good customer service.


The have a live printing division
They do promotional products as well as garments.
It is very nice, when they say “Welcome” they actually mean it.
They show some good samples and some cool art on the walls of the office.

…and a hobby horse.
Barrel Maker promotes sustainable shirt and ink choices.
Of course no shop is complete without a cigarette collection.
Always good to have a sense of perspective
A reasonably clean ink mixing area is always a good sign.
A good idea on two levels, how does the shirt look on a medium, and funny.
My shop also has one of these for squeegee and flood bar cleaning. Less toxic all around and affordable.
Screen guru Maggie hard at work. She seems an integral part of keeping the shop on track.
…and a smile or two always makes the shop go better.
They have an automatic screen reclaim system. They like it. I’m unconvinced.
Ready and racked screens, always a good sight.
A new Saati automatic coater. They like it. I am convinced and will be getting one.

DTS unit. They spoke of it improving their efficiency.
They recently added embroidery. They don’t love it yet. Methinks they will eventually.
Their stuff for and they also mostly sub it out to other folks to do the hands-on part.
The employee was looking at a tablet with order info, not busted for being on cell phone…

Cool art in the office, not their final grade…


  1. Thorough and highly creative story about two amazing entrepreneurs who don’t just dream but actually deliver. Had a bunch of shirts made for a fundraiser. It was a last my minute idea. They took it, ran with it, and delivered on schedule. Love Barrel Maker!

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