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The Riley Hopkins Story

Riley Hopkins had never been afraid to take risks. So, when he snuck into the garage that afternoon to get a glimpse of his father’s factory team Aston Martin, his first thought was not whether he should do what he was about to do, but rather, whether he could. Even though he knew the award-winner was capable of hitting 8000 rpm--he hadn’t personally seen it go beyond 5,000. Eye-balling its sleek profile, and the custom twin exhaust pipes his father had installed himself--he knew just where he would take it to find out.

The engine roared as he opened up the throttle on the highway to Bainbridge. Third gear. 128 miles per hour. The sound echoed off the Bay. His heart started beating wildly. When he shifted into fourth, he thought it might explode. And then, there he was. In full flight. 160 miles per hour, 8000 rpm. And it was then that Riley knew. No risk, no reward.

From that moment forward, Riley would never slow down. He went into advertising to fund his passion for racing--combining things he learned watching his father build cars from the ground up with a flair for design to fabricate his own. By the time he was offered a commission to develop a new screen printing press, Riley had amassed both lithography skills from his day job in advertising and shop prowess from his side occupation building custom vehicles. So it was with confidence that Riley took another risk and accepted the challenge of creating a machine that could print four colors in tight registration, with wet on wet printing.

It wouldn’t be easy. T-shirts were a whole different animal than advertisements. He agonized over how to solve the problems of imprecise rubylith hand-cut stencils and poorly-stretched mesh on rickety wooden screens. How to reduce the weight of the press to ensure the carousel could move consistently, while handling the demands of the materials. How to turn a beast of a machine into something light, precise, fast. Something less like the screen presses of old and more like...a racecar.

And there it was. Inspiration. The Riley Hopkins press had been in his garage all along. With hacksaws, files, a torch, and race car parts from his very own shop--Riley assembled his prototype, with a custom hand-fitted wide base registration system and a nice light stand. Now for the hard part, would it work? He chose Hippopotamus, the most successful print shop in San Francisco, to test drive his new design. Months after entering his workshop for the first time, he stood in awe as Bill Graham carefully lined up the four screens and his press jumped to life. “It’s not a race car yet, but it drives,” he thought, as he watched the Grateful Dead’s album cover stamped on shirt after shirt. Over the next several years, Riley worked tirelessly to fine-tune the machine, adding improvements like the very first rotary load and signature joystick registration--turning it into the Aston Martin of presses that it is today. Engineered for excellence.

Riley Hopkins cared about quality. And he wasn’t afraid to take risks or think differently on how to get there. To take things out of the garage and put them to the test on the road. It’s a tradition we’ve continued over 30 years, as we honor his legacy of crafting fine machinery that’s built to last.