CENTERTOWN, Mo. — Melissa Mertens stacks colorful T-shirts promoting local sports teams, school programs, charity events and the like in a building where bullets and bombs were once stored.
She is still getting used to her new home and workplace in the old Centertown armory.
"It's definitely very weird," she said. "It's kind of worn off; but sometimes I'll step back, think about it and wonder."
Melissa and Lake Mertens, owners of Broken Ink Screen Printing, are settling into their new location, providing custom-printed clothing to the people of Centertown, Jefferson City, California, Rolla, Columbia, Lake of the Ozarks and Holts Summit areas.
The Mertens help customers create logos and layout designs before bringing their vision to life on T-shirts, pants and other clothing apparel for orders of ten items or more.
"It's all custom," Melissa said. "We actually just did the California Pintos baseball shirts, which is awesome. We are very family-oriented, and I like to make more friends with clients than I would be able to if I was working somewhere else."
Lake is a Jefferson City native who met Melissa in high school, after his family moved to Nova Scotia. The young couple transitioned back to Missouri after they married, and Lake brought his screen-printing business with him, opening up shop ten years ago in Wardsville to help pay for his engineering studies at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla.
The screen printing business became so successful, the couple decided to operate full time after Lake graduated.
"It was definitely a big decision, but we realized he was making enough to pay for it, so we might as well both be able to work from home," Melissa said. "I do most of the marketing and customer relations, and he does the printing and all the complicated stuff in the background."
A video of Lake's screen-printing process is available at brokeninkprinting.com/about.html.
The business began to require more space as it grew, and the Mertens decided to find somewhere with enough room for their home and workplace. Their interests were peaked by the old armory, for its available space and location in a small community.
"When (the armory) came up for sale and we noticed it, it was just perfect," Melissa said.
The building is still being converted into more of a home and less munition storage facility, but the screen printing work is already underway. After everything is complete, the Mertens plan to hold a grand opening ceremony.
Melissa said one of the great things about the screen printing business is getting to know people in many different area organizations and helping to promote their accomplishments through clothing.
She has greatly enjoyed becoming a part of Centertown and learning about the residents, fellow business owners and new customers.
"They've all been very welcoming," she said. "I like the whole small-town feel."