“A Business With A Social Mission”


Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center opened their doors to the community

Cleaning the printing screens.
(Photo by Julie Prisco)

On Monday, May 15, Spectrum Designs hosted an open house to show gratitude to the Port Washington community and for residents to learn more about the non-profit’s mission. Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center work together to create inclusive and meaningful employment opportunities for people on the Autism spectrum.
Spectrum Designs is a custom apparel and promotional items business. In addition to Spectrum Designs, they also have Spectrum Bakes and Spectrum Suds. At Spectrum Bakes, granola bars and chocolate goodies are made and sold. Spectrum Suds is a drop-off laundry service. All three businesses provide jobs for individuals on the Autism spectrum.
Employees of Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center operated the massive open house, and co-founder Stella Spanakos joined the event. At the open house, attendees participated in raffles, received Spectrum Bakes goodies and free t-shirts before being taken on a staff-guided tour of the facility.
“We work with state business and New York sports teams, but local business is so important to us,” said Tim Howe, Spectrum’s Chief Managing Officer. “Port Washington is such an important part of our story…We have support from local officials and businesses.”
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena and Councilmember Mariann Dalimonte attended the open house.
With Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center’s growth, they have opened a facility in Pleasantville in Westchester.
“When we found Pleasantville we were looking for something in Westchester that feels like Port Washington,” said Howe. Port’s strong sense of community is one of the many things that makes the town so special, he said, and finding other locations with the same qualities is important to the people at Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center.

An embroidery machine in action.
(Photo By Julie Prisco)

The open house provided an opportunity for the organization to celebrate being from Port Washington and showcase all of the amazing work that the town has supported. The ample space located on Main Street houses different workspaces where different machines create custom apparel and items.
There are large screen-printing machines, embroidery systems, and heat-transfer presses where the pieces are created. Spectrum Designs offers t-shirts, water bottles, towels, hats, frisbees and anything else a logo can be printed on.
“Almost everything the Town of North Hempstead wears comes from us,” said Howe. “The safety vests and t-shirts; right now the whole top floor is stocked with sweatshirts for the Town of North Hempstead.”
“People don’t think of us doing 20,000 to 40,000 piece orders,” said Howe. “But people who like our mission find us.”
Not only do local businesses and organizations use Spectrum Designs, but national companies such as Chipotle and Bethpage Federal Credit Union order through the company. Shipments are made to neighboring states such as Connecticut, or states hundreds of miles away like California.
Every hard-working employee is guaranteed minimum wage, to create an environment where employees and the economy can prosper. During the tour of the facility, Howe explained how work days are tailored to the individual and their needs.
The Nicholas Center works with the new employee to determine how much they want to work and what they excel at to be placed in a position where they can thrive and make connections with peers. Howe explained that an employee can work 10 hours a week or 40 hours a week. Breaks are not set in stone or limited to a specific amount of time, each aspect of the job caters to the individual.

Upstairs workspace. (Photo by Julie Prisco)

Jobs can range from folding shirts and packaging boxes to coordinating shipments with shipping companies to working the intricate machines to create items. With guidance from The Nicholas Center, individuals are placed into a job that suits their strengths and abilities.
Throughout the open house, employees were bustling around to finish orders and get shipments ready to go out. Howe noted that Spectrum Designs is currently in their busy season.
“Changing seasons is always busy,” said Howe. “As soon as it starts to become t-shirt weather, every business comes around and it happens to be at the same time as playoffs for the NBA.”
The open house attracted many local residents and visitors from the city who wanted to learn more about how Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center provides support and independence to autistic individuals.
Check out spectrumdesigns.org and tncnewyork.org to learn more about the efforts of Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center.


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