Good for: Everyone
Price: $5/children (ages 3-12), $7/adult (ages 12+), under 3 is FREE
Features: Tour of working factory, company store
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I really enjoyed collecting stickers. From scratch ‘n sniff to iridescent to liquid ones that changed colors when you pressed them (called oilies) – I liked them all. Every week, I would walk to the stationary store (or ask my mom to drive me there, I can’t remember) and see what new rolls of stickers had come in. I’d use the safety scissors tied to a string to cut off one or two perforated chunks. What I didn’t realize then was that I was helping to support a small local business, Mrs. Grossman’s.
Mrs. Grossman’s was only located about 50 miles north of my home at the time. That factory was where many pieces of my prized collection originated from. Those rolls of stickers with bright color san clever designs once filled my sticker books and now they make a good portion of my daughter’s stash of stickers. After 23 years, I finally went to visit the working sticker factory in Petaluma, CA along with my family.
Touring the Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory
The tour began right on time. We joined another 10 or so visitors to watch a 5-minute video of how the company began and the basics of the manufacturing process. Mrs. Grossman started out as a freelance graphic designer for stationary and her first sticker was a simple red heart back in 1979. Now there are some 3000 designs with about 5 million stickers being printed daily. We were also warned of the strong ammonia smell that saturated the factory. It was pungent but harmless, and aided in the drying of ink. Photography was prohibited during the majority of the tour due to privacy of the wine companies they make labels for as well.
Next, we felt some rubber “plates” which are fitted on rolls to print the design on blank sticker paper. Each color has to be printed separately so the same sticker may pass through a press several times before going onto the next step. After the ink dried, the designs were cut out and the excess sticker paper was removed. Intricate designs are cut with Laserweb, which uses a 1000°F laser to make precise cuts. Finished stickers are cut into sheets, and assembled with a cardboard backing and shrink-wrapped at 350°F.
But what about all that unused paper that was cut off? In 2009, Mrs. Grossman’s was the first printing company to be Certified Greenfor their environmentally-friendly business practices. Paper gets recycled into egg cartons and cereal boxes. A lot of water is needed in the sticker-making process but much of it ends up containing metal bits. So, this used water is encapsulated in clay and then used in asphalt. Did you realize that you just might be driving on used sticker waste?
At each station, visitors were given some stickers. The tour concluded with one last grab bag of stickers and a postcard to decorate being handed out to everyone. All this was worth far more than the $5 (child) or $7 (adult) admission we paid. Plus, if you spent $30 or more in the company store, you got a $7 discount. Of course, we had to take advantage of this deal and my daughter happily obliged in picking out a few of her favorite items to buy.
Visiting Mrs. Grossman’s
Mrs. Grossman’s is still running strong. In fact, the company just celebrated its 35th anniversary in June. Tours run Monday through Thursday at 10am, 11am, 1pm, and 2pm. You must call to reserve a spot.It’s 50 minutes of well-spent time with the family and is enjoyable for sticker lovers of all ages.