Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
In a new location in Fairfield, Top Dog Screenprinting is continuing to service the community with custom apparel and embroidery.
The business made the jump to a new location in June, when owner Sara Sheetz’s fiance moved to Fairfield and they searched for a space that could house both the screen printing business and his plumbing business.
In February of 2021, Sheetz moved into the new building at 1804 W Jefferson Ave., and it became the new home of Top Dog.
The building, around 3,400 square feet in total, previously housed Peak Performance, an auto shop.
The new building, has about 1,000 square feet devoted to Top Dog. Sheetz said that’s not larger than her previous location, but the way the space is laid out allows for more room for screen printing.
The retail area, where people can see samples of the products, is smaller than it was at the previous shop, and Sheetz’s work area is larger.
“Having more room to spread out back here (is nice),” she said. “I didn’t have that luxury in the old spot.”
Sheetz wasn’t always in the screen printing business — she worked as a loan officer before buying Top Dog, but she’d always wanted to own her own business.
Five years ago, she bought the business from Rich Anderson, a family friend, and quit her job at the bank. Anderson had owned the business for around 15 years before her.
“It was kind of a 180 transition into something different, but I was excited to own my own business and to be physical, not sit behind a desk all day, because it is a pretty physical job,” she said.
Sheetz along with a part-time assistant, takes care of all aspects of the business: screen printing T-shirts, embroidering hats, hauling boxes of merchandise, taking orders and handling the finances.
Moving from Highway 1 to Jefferson Avenue, Sheetz said she worried that being on a less trafficked road would be bad for business, but she hasn’t seen any downturn since moving.
“As far as I know I haven’t lost any business. If anything it’s picked up,” she said. “I thought I would have less traffic, but people found me.”
Sheetz’s primary customer base is local small businesses — making custom hats, T-shirts, pens, koozies, and other branded items for them. The local school has also had items made through Top Dog.
“I don’t really grasp the gravity of how many people I service until I go to do quarterly reporting for sales tax, and it’s just pages and pages and pages of people,” she said.
Like most businesses in 2020, Sheetz said she saw a drop in sales during the pandemic. When local sports and other events dried up, a big portion of her customers went away as well.
“People want a shirt to commemorate just about everything they do, so when those things aren’t happening there’s no need for shirts,” she said.
Sheetz said she was never in danger of losing the business, but some months were certainly a financial strain. Some businesses in town that did keep operating kept placing orders, and she said that kept the doors open.
Since businesses began operating as usual, Sheetz said her sales have recovered, and many of her loyal customers have returned. With pent up demand for events and commemorative items, she said some of her customers are ordering more than before the pandemic.
She said she appreciates the local support she receives from people and businesses in Fairfield, saying people like to support local businesses and go to her before a larger, non-local option.
“I have awesome customers, and thank God for them, really,” she said. “Just great local support here in Fairfield.”