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Mug Barn keeps company small, quality high

A small business near Grants Pass is helping police and firefightersthroughout the West wash down their donuts.

For 9 years, The Mug Barn has been arming public safety officials withpersonalized, monogrammed cups. The cups have also found their way intothe hands of marching musicians, families at reunions, wedding parties andother small multitudes.

But not big multitudes, says Harold Woodridge, one of the founders. It'sa small business that thrives on quality production of limited orders.

Bill Morey, formerly a foundry personnel manager, and Woodridge, whoworked for American Airlines, started the business after moving to Oregonin 1979.

The economy was bad when we came here and we had to invent something,Morey said. We moved back to Monrovia (Calif.).

He credits Woodridge for the concept. It was Morey who got a job witha Southern California company that made custom cup designs. He kept hiseyes and ears open until he knew enough to return to Oregon to launch theMug Barn at their home on Penny Lane in 1986.

They are selling the business to Cory Harris, who just graduated fromGrants Pass High School.

I did my senior project on screen printing, Harris said.Now I'm going to Rogue Community College taking business managementand business law.

Morey doesn't disclose sales, but says the word-of-mouth business isbrisk enough to support the three of them.

We've just done this for a living, he said. It couldbe very successful, but a bigger business would mean moving into a biggerplace. It's very labor-intensive.

Harris says he'd like to add a toll-free number; now they just use theresidential number, 465-3072. He also has plans to computerize the designprocess and establish a presence on the Internet.

We get a lot of our work through referrals, Woodridge said.The Mug Barn has done personalized mugs for Gov. John and Sharon Kitzhaberand a decorative flower pot to present to Vice President George Bush duringone of his Oregon visits.

They usually start out with a police department patch or design furnishedby the client.

Their prices start at $3 a mug for an order of 72 printed with one color.Their most expensive cup, for the North Pole Police Department, was $8 foran 11-color design.

Every time you add a color, it gets harder to print, saysHarris.

The design is painstakingly reduced to the proper size and silk-screenedlayer-by-layer into a decal.

The decals are applied to the china cups or steins and dried before firing.

If they're not dried, it will blow off the design, Moreyexplained. Our process is the best that we can do. They're dishwasher-safeand microwave-safe. We don't do anything that doesn't last 50 or 100 years.

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