Forward Screen Printing was officially formed in 2002 by Nick Cocores, current owner of Thalia Surf in Laguna Beach. At the time, Nick was working at his family’s surf shop in Laguna and saw firsthand the importance of t-shirts in the retail world. T-shirts are a great way for companies to spread their name for a reasonably fair price to the customer. Although the surf shop carried many beautiful surfboards and other quality goods, it was apparent that there was a definite demand in producing and selling t-shirts in the retail world. This is what prompted Nick to learn the process of screen printing. He recognized that if he was able to produce his own Thalia Surf shop t-shirts, it would be a great way to grow the name of the family business, as well as create greater profit margins on a key selling item for the shop. Nick quickly took a class and educated himself on the process, and business of screen printing. With the purchase of a small screen printing press and dryer, and a new business name, Forward Screen Printing was born.
About a year later, I, Sean Tully, moved down to North County San Diego after finishing my degree in Business Economics at the University of California Santa Barbara. I was friends with San Diego artist Andy Davis, and encountered an opportunity to work with his clothing company “Freebyrd”, which was born from the previous “Free”, and “Byrd” clothing lines. During a trip with Andy to Laguna Beach surf shop, Thalia Surf, I met Nick. We quickly hit it off and he informed me that he was looking for help with printing his shop t-shirts. His idea to print his own shirts for the surf shop was going well, and working in the shop introduced him to many other surfers, artists, filmmakers, and companies that were also interested in having their shirts screen printed. New to the screen printing industry, I set forward to purse this endeavor with the realization that being artistic myself and good with working with my hands, I should give screen printing a shot. I was also looking to get involved in a small business, and to be able to put my new degree to good use. With the help of Nick, I worked hard to quickly learn the process and techniques of screen printing. Before long, we were up and running as a small screen printing operation, acquiring new customers every week with both of our many friends and contacts in the surf/art industry.
As time flew by, we quickly out-grew the small space that we were using in the corner of Nick’s Dad’s warehouse. We made the big move and rented a small warehouse space to set up the new operations. It also became obvious that if we wanted to make the business really work, and keep up with our growing demand, we need to get an automatic screen printing press. We decided to invest in a top of the line M&R 8 color, 10 station press. After the press came a new M&R conveyor belt dryer. Now we were in real business.
We continued to grow over the years, constantly trying to focus on high quality screen printing. Because we were still considered a very small screen printing shop, it allowed us to work with smaller artists that were looking for a more specialized screen printing experience. We also quickly realized the importance of water based inks. The soft feel, and environmentally friendly qualities of water based inks, was exactly what we, as printers, and our customers were looking for. At this time, around 2005, there were not too many screen printers using water based inks, as plastisol inks was the norm for most printers and clothing companies. This focus on water based inks is one main factor that set us apart from most screen printers because of its extremely soft feel and environmental friendliness.
Forward Screen Printing continued to grow, soon requiring us to hire a few employees, and once again move into a new, bigger warehouse space. Nick’s family surf shop was also growing, and becoming a well known, successful surf shop in southern California. Nick soon became the sole owner of Thalia Surf, and we decided that it was time to turn Forward Screen Printing into an incorporation. By the beginning of 2006, Forward Screen Printing officially became an incorporation, with Nick and I being co-owners.
By this time we were also making a name for ourselves in the screen printing world, acquiring more and more accounts every month. We were really learning to perfect our screen printing techniques, while trying to stay on the cutting edge of screen printing products and materials. Environmental sustainability has always been a focus for our shop, and the industry was finally offering more and more environmentally friendly cleaning solutions and materials. We were also trying to focus on being a one stop shop for all screen printing and apparel needs. Because we realized we were still small in size, compared to most screen printing shops, we recognized the importance of being able to accomplish any and all tasks given to us here at Forward. We created an in-house art department, producing our own color separations and film out-puts, a small scale sewing department, and offered services such as folding, tagging, specialty re-labeling services, as well as hat printing, poster, and surf laminate printing. All of these services contributed to our development as a business and solidified us as a reliable, high quality, all around screen printing business.
The year 2008 brought about a few changes to Forward. Nick’s surf shop was doing better than ever and really displayed many opportunities to become a revolutionary surf shop. While most of the surf industry was focused on the fast paced, high performance, logo filled style that the professional surfers embodied, Nick’s shop was becoming the center for the exact opposite. Thalia Surf represented the artistic and soulful side of surfing, carrying many clothing brands and surfboard manufacturers that were less known to most people in the surfing world. His shop would lead this growing wave of art in surfing.
Forward Screen Printing was operating full time with the hiring of an up and coming screen printer Angel Guarneros. Angel’s older brother was a floor manager at a large successful screen printing business, and Angel had worked in several large scale screen printing shops. Because of this, he was able to bring in the vision of high production, while we introduced him to the small scale specialty screen printing style that we embodied. Angel became our press operator and floor manager, and a vital part to the production capabilities of Forward. During this same time Nick and I agreed that with the every growing demand for both the surf shop and the screen printing shop, it would benefit both parties if we each focused our attention to just one business. Nick would focus on growing his surf shop, and I would focus on growing the screen printing business. So by the beginning of 2008, Nick cheerfully left Forward on the basis that we would help each other, by being able to concentrate all of our attention onto each of our growing responsibilities.
The following years would prove to the both of us that our decision was indeed a very smart one.
Forward continued to grow with its production rates and ever expanding customer list. We would acquire accounts in France, Spain, England, Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and all over the continental United States. Word of mouth proved to be our greatest advertising asset. As we accumulated new clients and impressed them with our high quality, and friendly service, they would in turn pass our name to fellow artists and shops in need of screen printing. Although we expanded our printing capabilities by purchasing a small automatic press, we still remained the small, specialty screen printing shop that we started as. We never had the vision of growing to the size of most large scale screen printers. With growth to that large size, comes the need to print more and more contract size accounts, and the growing difficulty of providing each customer the detailed, personalized service that we pride ourselves off of. Although we can accommodate contract printing with ease, we prefer to focus our attention on the smaller specialty accounts looking for high end screen printing services.
Fast forward to 2019, and we are busier than ever. We occupy a 5,000 sf building and after adding a few more printing presses, Direct To Garment digital printing, and a couple more skilled employees, we have been able to keep up with the demand that we have received from our loyal customers. We truly believe this is because of our decision to stay small and specialized. Every account is treated with the personalized attention and quality that we would give to our own art projects. So whether you are a small artist or a growing, well known company, you can rest assured knowing that all of us at Forward Screen Printing are working hard at making your screen printing project the best that it can be.