PARIS — Several weeks before COVID-19 made its way to Maine, one Paris business felt the economic fallout from the coronavirus with suppliers in China and Italy unable to fill orders, and the owners report things have only gotten worse as the global pandemic grows.

President Linda Englehardt and Vice President Dave Kelso co-own Wicked Water Graphics at 45 E. Main St., which also houses their second business, Ship n Run. Wicked Water Graphics specializes in hydrographic printing and uses a liquid transfer method to get graphics and prints onto objects, such as cups, guns, golf heads and many things in between.

Kelso declined to name his suppliers and customers to protect their identities. It’s not only the supplies – such as the patterned films that are transferred to products and many of the products themselves – that come from China, but even the water heater they use for the dipping and printing is made in China.

Engelhardt noted they go through three to four heaters in a year and a half. And even if Wicked Water Graphics was able to load up on the films for printing, it wouldn’t do them any good.

“It does have a shelf life so it’s not like we can buy a ton of it,” Englehardt said.

Kelso called Wuhan, China, – where COVID-19 originated – “the plastics capital of the world” and noted so many parts and pieces, along with electronics, are produced in China.

“My golf head company I do work for, they get their heads molded here in the U.S. but the shafts come from China,” he said, adding his client was in the Paris shop on New Year’s Eve and ordered 8,000 golf heads for 2020. “Both Linda and I were like, ‘Oh my god, this is going to be a great year.’”

Dave Kelso and Linda Englehardt, co-owners of Wicked Water Graphics in Paris, prepare a film to be hydrographically printed on a golf club. Their business has slowed to a crawl as they can’t get the supplies they need from China and Italy due to the coronavirus. Erin Place

Kelso said he and his client are not sure how they’re going to produce 3,000 golf clubs, which is the order Wicked Water Graphics filled last year.

“Now we’re like, ‘Uh, now what?’” he said.

Italy has been hard hit by the coronavirus and is also where some of the gun parts come from that Wicked Water Graphics prints on.

“When I heard it heard it hit Italy, I called one of my customers [and said,] ‘We’re all set,’” Kelso recalled.

Two days later he received a phone call with unwelcome news.

“’We’re closing the factory today. You’ve got 55 more units coming and that’s going to be it for a while,’” Kelso said he was told. “Oh my god, the hits keep coming.”

“So right now the least of our worries is getting sick,” Englehardt added.

He knows that he and Englehardt aren’t the only Maine businesses being affected by economic impact of the coronavirus fallout. But bright spots among all of this is the help they received from Community Concepts Finance Corporation (CCFC) and their shipping business, Ship N Run.

“If it weren’t for Community Concepts, we’d be shutting the door pretty soon here,” Englehardt said.

CCFC President Glen Holmes said in an email that his organization wants to help its clients and that is what they were able to do for Wicked Water Graphics.

“CCFC originally funded Wicked Water Graphics a few years ago now and they have been doing very well and have even been named Rising Star by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce last year. When they called to inform us they were being affected by the coronavirus we were surprised,” he wrote. “We extended additional funding and allowed them to modify their payment structure in the short term.”

And other local businesses are reaching out to CCFC for help.

“Now with this crisis continuing to grow, we are seeing more clients that need our support. … This is going to be difficult but we will get through it,” Holmes said, adding CCFC is working with several clients by either modifying their payments or supporting them with additional funding.

“We are assisting business with navigating the new programs being announced and really just pitching in to help out neighbors,” Holmes said. “The best advice I can give any business is call your lender the moment you know you might have a problem. Don’t wait. We want to help you through these times.”

As for Ship n Run, Kelso and Englehardt bought the business from Terry and Sandy Swett in January and moved it to their East Main Street location. They did have a lot of walk-in traffic with customers needing items shipped until recently as gathering restrictions and the call for social distancing intensified here in Maine.

“We’ve got no walk-in traffic now,” Kelso said.

He added for the time being they will remain open Monday through Friday.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. I’m “trying to keep my head above water.”

Wicked Water Graphics demonstrates how gold club head is made

 

 

 


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