President of Monarch Trophy Studio
By Antonio Gutierrez | Photography by David Teran
With Fiesta set to kick off April 20-30, Charles “CJ” Drago and his intrepid team at Monarch Trophy Studio have long been prepared to make sure Fiesta revelers will have their prized possessions in hand – and on time. We’re talking about those shiny, clinking and clanging, colorful Fiesta medals dangling from sashes, guayaberas, gowns, and T-shirts we love to adorn during the Alamo City’s biggest bash of the year.
“It’s Fiesta season, so we have a ton of medals coming in now,” Drago, president of Monarch Trophy Studio, said. “It’s one of the biggest times for us. But traditionally, in the trophy world, May is the busiest time because it’s the end of the school year and for school sports. We start getting busy in December, and it doesn’t slow down until the end of June.”
But Drago isn’t sweating it. He welcomes the challenge of handling multiple major orders, whether it’s Fiesta medals, sports trophies, corporate awards, and more. He’s been groomed for this ever since high school when he first began helping out with the family business along with his two brothers, Jason and Cody, after their parents, Charlie and Kathy, purchased Monarch Trophy Studio in 2001 from company founder John Bradley.
Today, Drago, who took the helm of Monarch Trophy Studio a few years ago, oversees daily operations, although Charlie Sr. is still involved with the business, albeit part-time. Kathy recently retired.
Drago credits his father for expanding the business by introducing a wider selection of novelty products for customers to choose from. It also required relocating the company from its original 10,000-square-foot location on NW Military Highway to a 30,000-square-foot facility in Hollywood Park to accommodate the plethora of products stored at its new home.
Drago took time recently to talk about some of the newer products customers might not be aware are available to suit their special occasions, a second business involving Yeti cups, and a bit of advice to businesses planning to order Fiesta medals next year.
What’s it like dealing with an influx of Fiesta medal orders each year? We try to get customers to start sending us Fiesta orders in July because there are a lot of samples going back and forth, and some have early release dates to the public prior to Fiesta’s official kickoff. We want to get large orders early. With the Chinese New Year each year, it can impact orders. We always have an extra team on hand to help out.
Why do you think Fiesta medals are so popular? What we see in the community is it’s a great fundraising opportunity for a lot of good nonprofits and programs. It all goes back to good causes.
What do you enjoy about your role as company president? My favorite thing is interacting with customers. Having grown up in San Antonio, we know a lot of people from our family business and school days, and we get to see them regularly, including principals, coaches, and athletic directors. We provide a unique product, and there’s a psychological effect when you are the one receiving a trophy or award. There’s also the reward of seeing the impact it has on those receiving a trophy.
How is business at the new facility? It’s been great for our presence in San Antonio but also for storage needs because we were busting at the seams in our other facility. A year ago, we opened a second business where we do customized Yeti Tumblers. At one time, we were running three shifts, 24 hours a day, filling tons of orders for Yeti Tumblers.
Monarch offers much more than trophies. Talk about your other services, such as personalized wine and spirit bottles. We can put a name or logo on just about anything. The sky is the limit on what we can offer our customers. We also have cool gifts for Christmas or Valentine’s Day and gift sets for Father’s Day, like a customized grill or cutting board. We also have a whole candle line we can customize.
Monarch is definitely a niche business. What makes us unique is a customer can come in on Thursday and let us know they have a weekend event and need 100 pieces of something. We can provide them with a whole list of options of items we have in our facility and the staff who can fill that order quickly.