Quality Reigns Supreme at Ace High Printing
Ace High Printing | St. Petersburg, Florida
A few years later, Herbert launched his own print shop. Since its founding in 2004, Ace High Printing has evolved from a small, online-based sticker company in a garage to a full-service printing and graphics solution with service worldwide and additional retail operations in multiple states.
We talked with Rick about how he built his business, from the early days of working with surf shops and tattoo parlors, to producing graphics for big-name customers like the Tampa Bay Lightning, and for such well-known musicians as KISS, Dick Dale, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Flo Rida, Five Finger Death Punch, and Madonna.
“When I'm running all three printers simultaneously, I feel like I'm conducting an orchestra, a symphony of printing.”
You’ve had quite a journey to arrive at signmaking. Are you still active as a musician?
Rick Herbert: Yes! I’m still in a band – we’ve been on hiatus during COVID-19. We are looking forward to getting out and performing again.
I really enjoy the fact that many of our clients are musicians and artists. We started out printing for all those overlooked industries like tattoo shops and skateboard shops, and of course for bands. Now we’ve added some A-list performers, but we still love printing for artists of all kinds.
Tell us about your shop today?
About 12 years ago, we relocated from Seminole, to St. Pete. The lady that owned Window Kote had purchased a print shop that was going out of business and had a few Roland DG printers. I merged my shop with hers, and we split the building in half. Now I’m under contract to do all of Window Kote’s vehicle wraps.
The building is awesome – it’s an historic building from the early 1950s – a former filling station and garage, and before that, it was a kerosene station. We still have the island in the parking lot where the pumps used to be.
With an ever growing staff, including several employees at our satellite locations in New Orleans and Orlando, we're poised to continue expanding quicker than I ever imagined.
What types of products do you offer these days, and what industries do you serve?
We specialize in stickers, backdrops, posters, storefront signage, banners, T-shirts and apparel, vehicle wraps, fleet lettering, boat graphics, window and wall graphics, custom kick drum covers, amp/cab scrims, and more.
We have lots of local clients like restaurants and catering businesses, clothing boutiques, tattoo studios and surf shops. We also do work for the St. Petersburg Police Department, Daddy Kool Records, the State Theatre, The St. Petersburg Museum of History, Keep St. Petersburg Local, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Tampa Bay Lightning –just to name a few.
Many of my clients come to me because of my connection to the music world. For example, I landed work for Fox Sports and MLB Network because their camera operations manager plays in a cover band, who just happened to need stickers.
How do you select your production equipment?
I started out working in a shop that had a Roland DG printer, and I’ve always had only Roland inkjets in my shop – you can’t beat their quality. They’re also extremely reliable, and easy to use and maintain.
Right now, we have a Roland DG TrueVIS VG2-540, a VS-540 and an SP-300. When I'm running all three printers simultaneously, I feel like I'm conducting an orchestra, a symphony of printing.
My Roland DG machines run seven days a week. Whenever the technicians come out for warranty work, they are always amazed at the hours count. I’m here from 6 a,m, to 8 p.m. – and we set up the printers to run all night – almost 24/7. They don’t stop.
What made you choose the Roland DG TrueVIS VG2?
We’re a smaller operation but we do such big jobs – we need to do really high quality work to compete. The VG2 is just bigger, faster, better.
We have a wide range of clients, but our high-profile clients especially want to deal with a professional operation that can hit their colors and their deadlines. I only use Roland DG inks as well. I made the mistake of trying aftermarket inks 10 years ago – I’ll never do that again.
What are some of your favorite projects?
We've done a number of projects at the Salvador Dali Museum that have gotten world-wide recognition, and frankly, were just a lot of fun! I feel quite honored to be one of the few people in the world that has been contracted to work with his artwork on a digital scale. We also had the opportunity to print for the Museum of Fine Arts here in St. Petersburg.
I like to say that what I do isn't a job – it's just a big ol' creative adventure!
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Honestly, we really haven’t seen a slowdown. We immediately shifted to producing “take out only” and “to go” signage along with social distancing signage for our clients. Now we’re printing tons of “we’re open” banners and signs. Packaging and container labels have also been a huge seller recently.
That said, it will be great to get back to normal.
What do you see for Ace High Printing going forward?
We’re in the middle of a company rebrand and getting our new website up and running. We’d like to be able to offer even more print-ready options for online ordering. We look forward to reaching additional clients that way, and to continuing to connect on social media.