Monvera Glass Decoration innovates, expands at Richmond’s Ford Point

Monvera Glass Decoration innovates, expands at Richmond’s Ford Point
Alexandra Gomez, employee at Monvera Glass Decoration (All photos by Mike Kinney and Mike Aldax).

By Mike Aldax

The historic Ford Point has been a symbol of innovation on Richmond’s waterfront for nearly a century, and Monvera Glass Decoration, which has operated there since 2011, is keeping that tradition alive.

Launched in December 2007, Monvera screen prints directly onto glass bottles, helping brands stand out from traditional paper labels. Clients can include large and small wineries, breweries, or those bottling cosmetics or specialty foods – pretty much anyone storing their products in glass containers.

Monvera’s President Hossein Farahi purchased the company, previously called Monarch Studios, when it was a relatively small operation in East Oakland with a couple of clients. Today, Monvera’s staff of nearly 80 full time employees and roughly 10 seasonal employees operate within 80,000 square feet of space at Ford Point. They print about 50,000 to 80,000 bottles daily and can exceed 100,000 on busier days. The business has evolved to the point that Farahi is eyeing further expansion. A majority of Monvera’s staff reside in Richmond, and the company is outreaching in the local community to hire more.

Their path to success, however, wasn’t all Rosé.

From left to right — Jose Polanco, Production Manager, Hossein Farahi, President, Caitriona Anderson, COO, and Erika Madsen, Human Resources Manager.

“Back then it was ultra-premium brands that screen-printed, and we were going into the recession,” noted Monvera COO Caitriona Anderson. “And most importantly, we didn’t know much about the business. Everything was a learning curve.”

Attracting new clients is difficult enough, but Monvera’s client-base at the time provided seasonal business, since traditional wineries do most of their bottling from May through August.

“So we had a situation where we’d have a busy summer, then nothing to print,” Anderson said.

In 2009, Monvera moved to Emeryville, a short-lived relocation as their building would be turned into condos. In searching for new digs, the company considered locations in San Leandro, Pittsburg and at Ford Point in Richmond. Monvera selected Ford Point in large part due to its proximity to wine country, the freeway and port.

When they moved there in 2011, Monvera’s space at Ford Point was roughly 40,000 square feet, double what it needed at the time. But in the spirit of the historic former Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, which converted to a highly-productive wartime assembly plant during WWII, Monvera systematically evolved its printing technologies to expand its production capacity and diversify its client base.

“Back then we didn’t have the equipment to accommodate larger wineries that do more consistent printing year-round,” Anderson said.

Today, Monvera can do runs that go weeks on end. And it has diversified – roughly 40 percent of its customer base isn’t in the wine industry, but in cosmetics, fancy food brands, olive oils, craft beers and even in the fast-emerging CBD wellness industry.

Monvera has on occasion printed on growlers for one of Richmond neighbors, East Brother Beer Co. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is another customer. The company has also diversified within the wine industry, serving a wide range of customers that includes the large players as well as small-volume enthusiasts, family estate wineries, or wine négociants who source materials to produce their own wine.

All of this activity leads to a bustling, albeit more complex manufacturing operation that suddenly needs more space, not less.

Anderson doesn’t attribute this positive evolution solely to technology and capacity.

“The reason we are here is truly because of Hoss,” she said, speaking of Farahi. “He wouldn’t give up.”

Farahi is described as having a can-do spirit befitting of a factory located within the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

Another driver of Monvera’s success has been employee retention.

Juan Pastor of Monvera

“Our employees stay here a long time,” said Erika Madsen, Monvera’s longtime human resources manager who is also a Richmond resident. On-the-job training and a good work-life balance are among the benefits of working there, Madsen said.

As the company eyes expansion, it is looking to bring on more talent and is offering apprenticeship opportunities for printers. It is for this reason principally that Monvera reached out to the Standard, as Monvera aims to hire locally.

For those interested in learning more about Monvera Glass Decoration, visit its website here. As of this writing, Monvera has open positions for apprentice screen technicians and apprentice machine operators. Visit this career page for information on perks, benefits, current openings and how to apply.

Mae Boyer Jackson of Monvera