Promo Actices Ebroidery Screenprinting

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  Promo Actives Marks 15th Year
by Adam Zaremski • April 2010 East Aurora Advertiser

Combining a clothing embroidery operation on one side of a building and pet food sales on the other might seem strange until the back story is known about the owner of Promo Actives on Olean Road in East Aurora.
Chris Kmicinski
Though he’s celebrating 15 years of business this April, Chris Kmicinski started off in North Java at his family's animal feed business, Reisdorf Brothers. If things had gone the way he originally planned, he might not be in East Aurora. In 1992 he graduated with a dairy science degree from the University of Georgia, a degree that focuses on the nutrition of dairy cows and the quality of milk that is produced.

"That's all I ever wanted to do," Kmicinski said during an interview, switching from a tough, joking attitude to one of serious thought. "The dairy industry is an endangered species. The amount of dairy farmers that are out of business, it's sickening."

While in Atlanta for the summer almost 20 years ago he came across his future. Kmicinski was trying to purchase a hat with an embroidery logo from a shop, when after 20 minutes that store owner tried to sell her business to him. He said it was a little strange, but he threw together a business proposal and was close to reaching a deal.

It did not work out, but he came home, did some research, purchased an embroidery machine, took a class on operating the software and was soon in business. The operation started out of his parents’ house, moved to Mr. C's Cleaners in the village for eight years, then after another transfer came to his current location at 391 Olean Road. (now 454 Olean Road)

As he acquired more space, Kmicinski considered other services he could offer, having already expanded the embroidery section with another machine and a silkscreen press. He said he wanted to get into the agriculture background he remembered, and his father suggested selling pet food.

"I looked at him and said 'What are you talking about, dad?'" Kmicinski recalled.

Like the original embroidery idea, the thought stayed and he came up with a business plan. He started off slow and small to test the waters while putting his focus on "two horses to ride" for products: dog and bird food, though he slowly added cat products along the way.

"I doubled in my feed sales last year, and I doubled again this year," he said. "The bottom did drop out last year for a few months, but no holes so far this year."

The two operations have helped him attract new customers. Before the feed sales came, the apparel embroidery and silk screening started to plateau. He said people did not seem to realize what he did. But those who came in for the pet food started requesting work from the other side of the store.

A wall of badges and patches from companies that have used his business decorates one spot in the 3,000-square-foot building. Small businesses, fire departments and students that want a group logo designed are his biggest customers, and a sign outside the shop states the minimum order accepted is one.

"It's not a joke. I want to cater to them, the small business or individual. That is my niche," Kmicinski noted. "If a job comes along I can't do, I tell them. I think they appreciate the honesty. I grew up knowing it was about service, and there you can't go wrong."

Promo Actives doesn’t have a website, and at the moment Kmicinski has no interest in starting one. Kmicinski said he feels more comfortable when people come to his location, talk about their ideas and see in person what he can provide. They can see him too, a guy who helps carry out a customer’s 50-pound-plus dog food bags to a car or jokes around with a repeat customer that cannot make up her mind about a shirt order.

It’s part of his providing a good service to the customer. “Without a plan, you ain’t got a chance at a business,” he said. He has had a plan all along, except for the name of the company. He calls his feed store Bulldogs Feed Company, but Promo Actives?

“Don’t ask me about that,” he said with a groan and a slight laugh. “I don’t know where it came from. One day I was driving in Cincinnati and it came to me.”