Back in 1989, the country was in the depths of a recession, at a time when many young people were emigrating to find opportunities.
Rosie O’Hara and Gary Robinson met when they were studying in art college and, soon after graduating, despite the challenges facing them as young artists, decided to persevere with their passion and set up Grey Wizard Design.
To set up a business during a time of economic difficulty is, in itself, no mean feat. But to have it not only succeed, but thrive, and continue to thrive three entire decades later is an achievement not every business gets to enjoy.
Originally, they operated from a converted flat on the corner of Connaught Road and St Michael’s Road. Three years later, they purchased a premises on Richmond Street and they’ve been there ever since, providing a high standard of design to businesses across the county and further afield.
“When we started up initially, it was 50/50 screen printed t-shirts and signage but, over the years, we’ve expanded our offering to provide a wider range of services than we would have done at the outset,” said Rosie, looking back on the last 30 years in business.
“Essentially we're in the business of promoting other businesses and services, so we work right across the board,” Gary agreed.
“From logos to shop front signage and colour consultation, point of sale products, vehicle lettering, pop-up stands, banners, flags, we cover all means to help our customers stand out from the crowd.”
In the beginning, everything was hand drawn, cut or painted, the couple explained, before digital technology came into play. But they’ll still do hand painted designs if that’s what the customer wants - nothing is ruled out .
“Some aspects are still hand painted for more traditional signs and it’s great to see the art of the traditional sign writer making a comeback,” Rosie explained.
“Murals were a big part of what we used to do then too,” Gary recalled.
“We painted a lot of murals for different pubs. There was a spell where we did them all over in Longford, Athlone, Galway, Mayo… another art form currently enjoying a renaissance. ”
The staff at Grey Wizard like to keep things fresh and, with every job being different, it gives them an opportunity to really express their creativity and to work with clients to make something that suits any individual, business, group or organisation.
“Over the years we've built up a large customer base from the private and public sector, as we’ve always had the idea that no job is too big or too small, so we cater to all requirements and budgets,” Rosie continued.
“So from a job that costs €5, right up to the more corporate work , each gets the same attention. We don’t differentiate. That’s always been a thing with us. and because each one is different, it’s always fresh, always a pleasure to work on.”
Rosie and Gary take every job very seriously and deliver their work with a level of professionalism that has kept them in business for so long.
And, with a dedicated and talented staff on their side, that professional standard is very easy for them to maintain.
“We’re lucky to have Caroline Rogers and Dermot Igoe work with us. They’re really great at what they do, so from concept to design to production it’s very much a team effort,” said Gary.
Over the years, Grey Wizard Design has supported a number of local charities, and have been active members of many local community groups, including Aisling Children’s Arts Festival, Longford Chamber and Tidy Towns.
Rosie and Gary are also founding members of Cruthú Arts Festival and Engage, an artist led group who have recently developed artists’ studios in Longford town.
“It’s important to us to give a little back to the community, so we try and support as many local groups and events as we can,” Rosie explained.
A lot has changed over the years for Grey Wizard Design, but the biggest change to the industry in general was the arrival of digital printing, which has allowed the local business to work faster and more efficiently.
“We can do a lot with digital printing, so when that came out, things changed. But we do a lot of other types of work,” Gary explained, listing off a number of services that Grey Wizard provides, including gilding and lettering for glass, vans, signage, t-shirts - anything that could possibly require it.
“Any job that comes in, we’ll have a consultation and work through a concept and develop a brief and then work through that with the client through to a finished product,” said Rosie.
But potential customers can also go in with a blank canvas and still come out with something beautiful.
“A lot of our customers are from the business sector so most will have a clear idea of what they want. Others sometimes aren't so sure. Instagram and Pinterest can be a great resource and make things a lot easier, although it can be a double edged sword in some ways and probably responsible for the current grey/white palette taking over many streets,” Rosie continued.
“We’ll always listen to what the client is asking and translate that to paper, make changes until the customer is happy with it, then we’re happy too.”
Rosie and Gary would like to thank the many customers who have helped make their business a success over the past three decades, and look forward to seeing many more over the coming years.
Grey Wizard Design are based on Richmond Street, Longford Town. For more information, call in or phone 043 33 45732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.