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GFX Graphics opens in West Duluth

Ivan Harmon says it's word of mouth that grew his business. Try line of sight. GFX Graphics recently set up shop in Spirit Valley, if you couldn't tell by the new signage and snowmobiles outside 5831 Grand Ave. That's just a taste of what goes on...

Owner Ivan Harmon pulls off a sheet of decals off the laminator at GFX Graphics in Duluth. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com
Owner Ivan Harmon pulls off a sheet of decals off the laminator at GFX Graphics in Duluth. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com
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Ivan Harmon says it's word of mouth that grew his business. Try line of sight.

GFX Graphics recently set up shop in Spirit Valley, if you couldn't tell by the new signage and snowmobiles outside 5831 Grand Ave. That's just a taste of what goes on inside.

"It's what we work so hard for - we work our jobs for our toys," Harmon said. "Then you can make it beautiful for less than the price of a lift kit."

GFX creates, prints and installs custom designs for snowmobiles, ATVs and other motorsport vehicles - think bright colors and wild geometry and anything else you can dream up - and after starting small last year Harmon quickly found a market hungry for this kind of service.

"One job got us five," he said. "The next five got us 20."

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In other words, business has been going great. And it's the custom side of things that folks are flocking to.

"We haven't sold anything through Amazon," he said, despite several designs sitting on the site. Social media has been key to finding new customers, however. Harmon said one posted his updated ride on Instagram, which drew a bunch of requests to the GFX Graphics Facebook page.

"It's that unique product they want," he said.

He's now getting custom requests from as far away as Ohio and New York. The designs are printed on ultra-adhesive vinyl that is thicker than typical car wraps, and Harmon says they can take quite the beating out in the elements.

Not long ago, Harmon, 40, was trying to balance managing The Rathskeller with growing GFX, but his artistic passion needed all of his energy. He got a business plan together with help from the Entrepreneur Fund, trained a new manager at the Rathskeller and moved his business from downtown to Grand Avenue this fall to focus on it full time.

"I've been really happy with Spirit Valley, I think the community here has been really good so far," he said. "We have a few new businesses with Bailey Builds down there and others - the location is perfect."

And if the family business grows - his wife, Emie, is an installer - they plan to grow in the area. There's no if to that equation, though. The five-year plan calls for "hiring employees and growing."

"I already need another designer," Harmon said.

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GFX can also handle clothing, trucks, banners and more, but the focus will be on motorsports for the time being. Even with another printer on the way, the snowmobile season is just getting started, and there won't be room for much else.

"Around here we're the only ones doing this - it's a very specialty product," Harmon said. "Right now it's our prime season."

Related Topics: WEST DULUTH
Brooks Johnson was an enterprise/investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune from 2016 to 2019.
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