Blue Steel Imaging is Powell River’s one-stop shop for custom printed t-shirts, engraved wooden products and other one-of-a-kind promotional pieces such as printed mugs, drink coasters and keychains.
Owner Sherri Wiebe started the business in 2014, first as a photography studio and then pivoting to focus on giving businesses and nonprofit community groups a local alternative to ordering online promotional items.
“Blue Steel’s focus is on helping local businesses promote themselves by helping them with locally produced, custom-branded products,” says Sherri. “We mostly do custom silk screening and sublimation printing, which is a computer-generated ink that is pressed on to a substrate to create one-of-a-kind items, such as mugs.”
From 1995 to 2000, Sherri owned printing business Rapid Promotion, which sold business cards to local businesses and then promotional items with a focus on making everything locally.
Blue Steel has recently branched out and acquired a wood engraver.
“It has been an amazing addition to my business,” says Sherri. “I saw a gap in the market and with all the requests to do engraving I took the plunge and now my machine is running all day every day.”
With the machine, Sherri is able to create custom raised-letter signs, earrings, Christmas decorations, crib boards, cutting boards, custom-size boxes and more.
“I also do a lot of acrylic, custom pieces and trophy-like items,” she adds. “I have customized hundreds of bottle caps, name badges and slate coasters as well.”
Sherri says customer service sets Blue Steel apart from any website customers can order company t-shirts or other custom apparel online from.
“They won’t get the personalized customer service, be able to go over the colours or feel the material of the shirts before they buy them,” she explains. “I offer all of that.”
Sherri adds that some of her customers even come in and print their shirts and products. It is especially memorable for customers who are printing their own artwork, she says.
“People come in and do the first print on their job and they are so excited,” she says.
Sherri is a big support of shopping local.
“I believe in shopping local when I can,” she adds. “It’s a big thing for me; otherwise I wouldn’t be in business.”
Sherri was heavily influenced by her father Dan Wiebe, who opened a few local businesses in town including Dan’s Sound Vault, Dan’s Flooring, and Westview Life Bait and Boat Rental.
“Since I was a kid, I have always been looking for business opportunities and falling for get-rich-quick schemes,” says Sherri. “Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood.”
Blue Steel produces merchandise for the Powell River Kings.
“You can find me at the King’s home games selling swag, anything from keychains to hoodies with the retro lion’s head or the traditional ‘P’ logo on it,” she says.
She adds that she brings new items for Kings’ fans every game. “Come and check it out and support your local BCHL team,” says Sherri.
Blue Steel is the screen printer for local artist and entrepreneur Jeanette Kangas’ Thick brand of apparel.
“Everything in her store that’s screen printed, I do,” says Sherri, “right from the very first design.”
Earlier this year, J&D Signs relocated and now shares office space with Blue Steel.
“It’s been great for both of us,” she adds. “Now you can come into the shop and get anything you need; it’s a one-stop shop for promo items and signage.”
Sherri says the two companies are working together to renovate the space and create some retail frontage.
Any community nonprofits wanting to explore different fundraising opportunities are encouraged to contact Blue Steel, says Sherri.
Blue Steel Imaging is located at 4476A Marine Avenue, above Westview Bowling & Billiards, accessed from the parking lot to the rear of the building off of Courtenay Street. The business is open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday.