Lazer Graphics: 48 years of adapting to customer needs and ideas

lazer walking into building


Wes Barker leans back in his chair at 3001 State Street in St. Joseph and tells us the Lazer Graphics story—the story of his family’s 48 years in the screen printing and promotional products industry. It’s a story with ups and downs, but one that has left Barker, as a second-generation company President, with a vision for success going forward. And a pride in the accomplishments past and present that have positioned Lazer Graphics to grow into its second half century.

Wes chuckles that he wasn’t even born when Dennis and Debbie Barker started their tee shirt printing business in 1976 in the laundry room of their home. By the time Wes came along, they had expanded to take over the entire basement. It wasn’t long until Debbie quit her fulltime job and ‘D & D Sports’ was born in a storefront in Baroda. Success soon led the Barker’s to open a bigger storefront on Niles Avenue in St. Joseph, cranking out those tee shirt and ball cap printing orders.

The 80’s were the era of the indoor shopping mall in America. The Barker’s followed the trend and opened ‘Sporty’s’— a local version of ‘Footlocker’—in Benton Harbor’s Orchards Mall, in a strip mall in Mishawaka and Marquette Mall in Michigan City. Business was booming—until it wasn’t! Wes says the family escaped the Sporty’s experience with little, but lessons were learned: focus on what you know and what you’re good at. And the Barker’s were very good at screen printing and delivering a quality product for a fair price.

When the financial dust settled, Dennis and Debbie opened ‘Lazer Graphics’ in a building on Pipestone Road in Benton Harbor… and Wes began helping out in the shop, learning every aspect of the business while in elementary and high school, from printing to operations, electronic graphic design and their new production equipment and computers.

The Barker’s continued to grow Lazer Graphics into a regional screen printer and embroiderer. Next, the growth eventually spurred several building additions at Pipestone Road over 15 years. When Wes returned from college, he re-engaged, getting more involved in the sales and design aspects of the business. The focus changed over the years from a lot of small-order walk-in consumer work to larger business projects: logoed merchandise for resale or employee wear/uniforms.

screen printing

Wes says that more than 90 percent of Lazer Graphics sales volume today comes from businesses, organizations, clubs, non-school teams and special events. High Schools often have special deals utilizing national ‘glitter’ brands that kids want to wear, so their business is rarely done locally. However, other teams in many sports are frequent visitors to Lazer Graphics headquarters on South State Street, next to Schroeder Furniture.

When customers walk in, Wes says they are drawn to what he calls the ‘Selection Wall.’ Running almost the depth of the building, the Selection Wall displays samples of dozens of clothing and promotional items available for customization with your logo or symbol. The Selection Wall is designed to ignite your imagination, and that’s exactly what it does. Someone who comes in thinking ‘tee shirts’ may discover three or four other items that are a perfect depiction of their business or team logo.


Wes explains that Lazer Graphics’ goal is to create something that employees or team members WANT to wear—not just something they are required to wear. Through experience, Lazer Graphics has found that quality, perfectly printed or expertly embroidered items help instill pride in those who wear them. This is particularly important in the hospitality industry and can translate into better customer service provided by the employees wearing the official merchandise or uniform.

At the same time, Barker is sensitive to pricing and budgets. He feels his prices are competitive with anyone offering quality merchandise. However, he acknowledges that you can always find a cheaper item somewhere—probably online.

If the item is a tee shirt that will be worn once and discarded after a party, he says, “Go for it. I understand.” On the other hand, if the goal is to have the wearer feel good about the item, take care of it and wear it repeatedly by choice, Wes invites you to come in and meet him in front of The Selection Wall to choose and design items that both you and the wearer will feel great about!

As an added service offered to customers, Lazer Graphics can create custom online mini stores allowing employees or customers to choose from various pre-approved styles and colors, adding to their acceptance of the products. (It’s almost as good as meeting Wes Barker in front of the Selection Wall!)

lazer graphics merch stores

Lazer Graphics has full-time sales/design consultants ready to help create the promotional wearables or products you need, whether in person, by phone or online. They are part of Wes Barker’s ten-member team that keeps Lazer Graphics humming in its 16,000 square foot facility on South State Street, turning out thousands of superior products daily.

The operation has evolved and changed over the decades. Through it all, co-founder Debbie Barker has maintained her leadership role in the company and continues today as the CEO/Owner.

The family was challenged in 2012 by the unexpected passing of Dennis Barker, prompting Wes to step into the leadership role he now feels is a natural and comfortable one. As they approach 50 years in business, the Barker family is confident in Lazer Graphics’ readiness to adapt and change, focused on the needs of customers. They pledge that the Lazer Graphics team stands ready to ‘wow’ you whenever you afford them the opportunity! To learn more about Lazer Graphics, visit or call 269-926-1066. You can also watch an episode of Moody on the Move where Debbie and Wes talk with Pat Moody about why they love what they do.

To engage with Lazer Graphics President Wes Barker, email:



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