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When he was a student at Pasadena High School, Manuel Marquez (aka Manny) enrolled in the Graphic Communications Academy (GCA) at the school, which was part of the Creative Arts Media and Design Pathways Program. During his time in the program, he developed his graphic design skills and signed up for an internship at Cantu Graphics, a South Pasadena business that had been around since 1987.

While there, Marquez worked under the original owner, Carlos Cantu Sr., and was eventually promoted to a manager role, later leaving to earn his college degree. Then in 2008, Marquez had the opportunity to buy Cantu Graphics from the new owner, who had purchased the business two years earlier from Cantu Sr. He decided to go for it and hasn’t looked back since.

“I was 23 at the time and decided to just run with it,” said Marquez. “Here we are 11 years later and we’re still running with it. When I took over, we began to expand our services and update the equipment that we were using in order to create more opportunities for our business and the community we were in. As things have gone more digital, we’ve continued to adapt and evolve with the industry.”

Cantu Graphics offers a wide variety of design, print and web services, which run the gamut of everything from logo design and web layout to printed materials that include business cards, brochures and signage, as well as silk-screen printing on promotional materials such as T-shirts and hats.

“There’s very few limitations to what we offer,” Marquez pointed out. “One of our popular services is short run printing, because a lot of times people don’t want thousands of copies. That’s where we found our niche—being able to offer smaller print runs at a reasonable price. Nowadays people don’t want to waste a lot of paper and are more conscious about how much they consume.”

A staple in South Pasadena, Marquez and his team have worked on a large number of projects for City Hall, local businesses and non-profit organizations. Their work can be seen all along Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street, although their services extend to other cities as well. Cantu Graphics has worked with the University of Southern California, The Valley Hunt Club and many others. Cantu Graphics also prides itself on the quality service that it offers, along with the close relationships it has established with customers over the years.

“We’ve managed to stay in business this long because of the relationships we’ve built,” explained Marquez. “While we are also planning to offer e-commerce in the near future, maintaining that connection and direct contact with customers is extremely important to us and sets us apart from other businesses out there. I try my best to make sure that everybody leaves here with a smile on their face. Customers are comfortable with my staff, who are available to help them with everything they need. I’m glad that a lot of the times when people come in, they have nothing but good things to say about my team—that’s all I could ever ask for.”

Marquez also likes to encourage the next generation by offering internships to students at various high schools, including Troy Tech, a magnet school located in Orange County. Graphic designer Kevin Brittenum Jr., who works at Cantu Graphics, came from the GCA program, which Marquez also attended years ago.

“Kevin is definitely at a level where we’ve seen the growth change within the last couple of years,” said Marquez. “We’re always open to supporting and encourage others who are interested in pursuing this field. It’s how I got my first experience and I always try my best to participate. I enjoy seeing the people that have worked for me in the past grow and move forward in their careers—it’s something that I’m very proud of.”

More than a decade after becoming a business owner, Marquez is grateful for the journey he has been on and looks forward to continuing to serve the community that has provided Cantu Graphics with various opportunities over the years. 

“It was definitely a big risk that I took at a young age but I’ve always had the support of those around me,” said Marquez. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to own a company where I’m always happy to come into work. There are always new things happening in this industry that I’m excited to learn about. I’m glad that I’ve been in South Pasadena for this long—it’s a great place to learn and grow my business, and I look forward to helping anybody that I can. It’s definitely allowed me to create a better future for my family, and I know that as long as I work hard, I can better the lives of the next generation after me.” 

Cantu Graphics is located at 1421 Mission St. in South Pasadena. It is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (626) 441-5631 or visit cantugraphics.com.   

Cantu Graphics Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 8.23.19. Support Local Business.

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Kamala Kirk is a contributing writer for the South Pasadena Review, San Marino Tribune and The Quarterly Magazine. Kamala formerly served as Managing Editor of Beauty Launchpad Magazine, West Coast Editor of American Salon Magazine, and Digital Editor for E! Online. A native of Hermosa Beach, California, she is a proud USC Trojan and pug mom to Wrigley the Pug (@pugofpasadena).

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