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Q&A with Joe Castellano, president of Color Reflections Las Vegas

Joe Castellano began his printing career in 1987 as an outside sales representative for the Houston office of Color Reflections, an imaging and printing company specializing in large-format digital graphics.

“In 1994, the office sent me to an exhibitor show in Las Vegas,” he said. “As soon as I saw all those light boxes in the airport, I called my boss and told him if he was thinking of opening up another location, it had to be Las Vegas, and if he decided to do it, I wanted the job.”

A year later, he was packing up his minivan and heading west to open the Las Vegas office of Color Reflections, which now has six facilities across the country. Starting with just seven employees, Castellano has overseen the transition from traditional printing to digital and has expanded into a larger facility with more than 50 employees. He serves as president of the Las Vegas office.

What changes have taken place in the industry since Color Reflections started in Las Vegas?

The main change has been the switch to digital. We started out as a conventional photo lab, using negatives, photo enlargers, et cetera. We bought our first digital equipment in 1997. Around 2000, when we realized that a billion digital cameras had been sold at Christmastime, we saw the handwriting on the wall. We closed our conventional printing department, switched completely to digital and ended up donating our old equipment to the museum at UNLV.

How has the switch to digital affected your business model?

We used to buy equipment on a five-year lease, then sell it and upgrade to a newer model. Now, a piece of equipment becomes obsolete in two years. Luckily, Color Reflections has group buying power because of its large size, which lets us get the newest equipment at reasonable prices. Most of all, technology has improved the quality and speed of the product we deliver. We can currently print vehicle wraps at about 1,000 dots per inch, and very soon, digital will approach photo quality, so you won’t be able to tell the difference, even with a loupe.

What types of clients do you serve?

We’re real strong in three areas: gaming, trade shows and conventions, and retail. For gaming, we do signs, vehicle wraps, banners — whatever they need. We’re open seven days a week for trade shows, events and conventions. For large retailers, we can print multiples quickly, then package and ship them to 50 different locations if needed.

What kinds of large projects have you done?

We can print panels 16 feet wide by 150 feet long, and piece them together to make up an image as large as the client wants. For the World Market Center, we made eight banners that were each 52 feet by 56 feet. We’ve wrapped 18-wheelers and boats, and we even wrapped a bullet train that was shipped over from China. It was so large that it took up an entire hangar at the airport.

What are your plans for the future?

In 2008, we bought our present location, a 25,000-square-foot building on Valley View, but we leased out 6,000 square feet to a tenant. We’re bursting at the seams now, so in March 2014 we’re going to expand into that space, which will give us room to create a new finishing area.