If you live in West Seneca, there’s probably not a time that you don’t remember seeing the Al-Ross Screen Printing & Embroidery building at the busy corner of Harlem Road and Seneca Street. And while most of us have probably driven past it hundreds — if not thousands — of times, some of you may never have stopped in to “look behind the curtain.” Today we’ll introduce you to the business and its owners, Joe and Dave Cellino.
Other businesses have come and gone, but you’ve been a staple of the Western New York retail community for decades. On what do you credit your success?
There are a few main reasons why we have been able to remain a viable business. We are able to understand our customers’ needs. As their needs changed from a basic T-shirt to full button-down dress shirts, safety jackets and everything in between, we were able to supply them with everything.
Another big reason is our employees really understand the business. It sounds easy … “Can you put this design on some shirts?” … but it is a very complex business. Every job we do is unique to that customer and our people know what to ask, what can be done, what can’t be done, and what will make their order look the best it can.
When we started we actually were growing rapidly, 20 to 30% a year. We never had enough capacity and we were always buying new equipment, but we never overextended too much. The equipment costs $60,000 to $100,000 apiece, so we would take out a five-year loan and when it was paid off we would buy another piece of equipment — always the best on the market. We currently have very little debt and are able to compete against the larger companies on the internet.
What can you tell us about the history behind the name, Al-Ross?
Our name is probably the number one question people ask us. It is actually two different people. Al was our uncle who started out doing embroidery back in the ’50s as a hobby while still in college. He started a business called Al Faso Emblems. Our dad, Ross Cellino, was a lawyer by trade who wanted to start a business really to teach his kids how to run a business.
So they joined forces and started this business called Al-Ross Screen Printing & Embroidery.
If you can narrow it down to one, what would you say is your most popular product?
Our number one product is custom screen printed T-shirts. No matter the event, school, team or reunion, everyone has a need for this staple.
How many people do you employ locally?
Eighteen in peak season.
Between your original location in West Seneca and your newer store in Tonawanda, you now have both the Southtowns and Northtowns pretty well covered. Any plans for additional expansion?
We like to think that our website is our third location. We actually have had some sales from as far away as Russia, Afghanistan, Germany — not much but some. But we also do a lot of business mostly up and down the east coast and a bit on the west coast.
If a company or organization needs help with a design for an apparel order, you can help?
Yes, we have a full art department and that’s what they specialize in.
What’s one thing that we might not know about Al-Ross — past, present or future — that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
We are a second and third generation family business. As a family owned business, some of our employees have been with us since we started 46 years ago. We have our own factory just down the street from our Seneca Street location. We hire local and most everything is done in house. We have in-house artists, embroiders, screen printers, warehouse, support and a sales staff.
We have customers from across the nation and ship all over America. Our customers range from small companies, schools, colleges, teams and large corporations to families ordering T-shirts for vacation. We’re proud to serve as Western New York’s top choice for custom apparel and promotional products.
If you are a West Seneca Chamber of Commerce member and would like to participate in the “Seven Questions With … ” business profile feature, please contact the Chamber at 674-4900.