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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 10, 2017 4 years ago

Take it to the mat

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Robert Smithson's $8 million digital printing and graphic design firm, Manatee County-based Trinity Graphics, took a big hit at the end of 2016 when it lost its biggest client.

Robert Smithson's $8 million digital printing and graphic design firm, Manatee County-based Trinity Graphics, took a big hit at the end of 2016 when it lost its biggest client.

But with some stoicism famous in his native England, Smithson soldiered on.

Trinity, which does everything from retail signs to window graphics to canvas art, has some of the largest digital inkjet printers in the region. So Smithson thought big along those lines, and came up with a new idea: decorative mats for golf carts. The mats, adds Smithson, take advantage of previously unused golf cart space — the floor.

“I had to create some new opportunities,” Smithson tells Coffee Talk. “I see this as being really big for us.”

Under the brand name DekoMats, the mats are designed and printed with American-made materials in Trinity's facility, near the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. The slip- and stain-resistant mats, images from sharks to flowers to the New York City skyline, cover the golf cart floor and incline panel around the gas pedal and brake. The mats, with a patent-pending printing formula, start at $188 and are installed directly over the cart floor, like a second skin. Custom-made DekoMats are available.

Smithson has taken DekoMats out on tour for some of 2017, going to golf trade shows and other industry events. Interest is high, he says, even in places that use lots of golf carts for things other than golf, such as the Villages retirement community.

The DekoMats concept had been percolating for some time. But Smithson was forced to make a hard-target push in that direction late last year, when Trinity lost a vendor contract with Venice-based drinkware manufacturer Tervis. The loss of that work led Smithson to cut the Trinity payroll in half, from 50 to 25 employees.

Tervis officials say Trinity Graphics did good work, but the drinkware firm's rapid growth required it to expand its vendor list. “Tervis had a mutually beneficial relationship with Trinity Graphics since December of 2009,” Tervis President Rogan Donelly says in an email statement sent to the Business Observer. “As Tervis added new products, licenses and designs, order volume grew rapidly. To keep pace, Tervis partnered with additional U.S. vendors to meet the customer demands.”

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