With just seconds left on the clock, a group of people kept their eyes glued to a television screen awaiting the final outcome of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. When the final buzzer sounded, the entire city of Cleveland erupted with joy and poured into the streets for a long night of revelry and celebration. For the screen-printing team at Jakprints, Inc., it was going to be a long night as well, but a long night of work.
For the past 18 years, Jeff Weisenberg has worked as a screen-printer and is now the director of screen printing and embroidery at the Cleveland-based company. Fortunately, his late-night printing days are mostly behind him, but whenever there's a "hot market" time frame for printing — something like the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals — Weisenberg joins the ranks for non-stop print production, with breaks and meals staggered between the entire department. "I'm a huge sports guy, so it's difficult sometimes to be invested in a game knowing that I'm going to have to do twice the work if my team wins," he says.
Every day is a little bit different for the screen-printers, depending on the wants and needs of the customers, and each screen-printing project is treated with the utmost care and efficiency.
Being in Cleveland, the environment for the screen-printers is always different, based just on the weather, alone. "Last week, the shop felt like it was 100 degrees," he says, "but in February, it might feel like it's 50 degrees. You deal with Cleveland in addition to your workload."
Not just screen-printing, the night team is often pulling double-duty as delivery drivers. Fast turnaround jobs need to be personally delivered to FedEx or UPS locations.
"I've tried to drive home after long nights of printing before and it feels like I've just drank 15 beers. It's better to just stay," he says. To his knowledge, the current record for longest shift ever worked is held by screen-printing job controller and Signals Midwest guitarist Jeff Russell, who logged in 36 hours.
"It takes a special kind of person to work these shifts," he says. "I have a family and a dog, so there have been times when my wife has had to take off work so I can fulfill a job." Many of the late-night printers are single and have a more flexible schedule, and none of them would describe themselves as morning people. Weisenberg worked in bars for 10 years before he started screen-printing full-time, so he finds he works better at these hours.
Hot market print nights are controlled chaos, and not always predictable in their demands. "When you're printing for the Super Bowl, it's just one game. We know when we have to come in and that we're going to be printing all night," he says.
In comparison, for something like the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup which can last four to seven games, it is much more difficult to plan out when the mad dash for rush printing will begin. "We always know it's coming," Weisenberg says. "But we can't be sure exactly when it's going to hit."