By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
On two separate occasions, Gotcha Covered, located near Jimmy Gill Park at 389 W Sanderfer Rd. in Athens, has made me into a returning raving fan customer. The first time was several years ago when I had a dozen Athens Now T-shirts made for our crew. Now due to the fact that newspaper ink comes off on everything, and because we wanted to look as professional as possible in the middle of being “inky and stinky,” (which just goes with the territory when you are delivering 4,000 newspapers) we decided to go with black as the color of the shirt. We also knew that we needed to be easily identified as “Athens Now-ers” when we came striding into a business to drop off bundles. So, Gotcha Covered used a large version of the font that is the header for the paper, put the letters in white, put the website on the back of the shirt, et voilà, we were in business! We had worn the shirts out, and I had happily come back for more.
Recent,ly I spoke with Michelle Hartsfield, the office manager, and Rachel Lauderdale, the office assistant, screen printer assistant, and sales manager for Gotcha Covered while they were between customers coming to place or pick up orders, and in my case, getting a “goober” taken care of completely to my satisfaction. More on the “goober” in a second, but first, a view into the world of custom-printed T-shirts and what sets Gotcha Covered apart.
Michelle, Rachel, and screen printer Dakota Ball were sent by the new owner out to Vancouver, WA, for an intensive weekend workshop at Ryonet, Inc, the premier trainer and supplier of all things screen print. There they learned about inks, temperatures, graphics, screens, fabrics, what works with what, and how to fix goobers. It was lecture as well as lab, and as part of their training and certification, over the course of the weekend they made about 20 T-shirts as well as other “screenables,” which were scrutinized by their trainers. All three are certified, and all three are able to be a part of the production process as needed; however, Dakota is the one who produces the lion’s share of the shirts. Ryonet also remains available to their graduates to advise and troubleshoot when problems arise. “They want us to succeed,” Rachel told me.
In my case, the capital “A” on one of my new shirts had a bubble in it. It wasn’t the end of the world; I just knew that over the course of time that “A” would be the first to have its ink break up, and I was hoping there was something that could be done before that became a problem. I showed it to Rachel, and with a confident smile she went over to the heat press, inserted some pressing fabric between the plates, pressed the shirt for just the prescribed time, and when she was finished, the goober was gone. It was as smooth as silk. “We really try to get the ink in the shirt, not just on it,” she said and went on to tell me this was one of the things they learned at their Ryonet training.
So, how was it that these three got involved in “screening” the folks of North Alabama? Michelle had worked for years at Champion Chevrolet, loved it, and eventually it became a challenge to her health to be on her feet all day long. Rachel says the job came to her. She was approached about working for Gotcha at a baseball game. Dakota is kin to Michelle, and together they have built a great team. Michelle does all the art and graphics through CAD (Computer Aided Design) and makes it printable. Rachel wears several hats between helping Michelle in the office, Dakota in the “screen room” and doing outside sales. Dakota is the one who produces the shirts, and as stated before, they are all cross-trained and can assist each other when needed. It is obvious that they enjoy each other’s company, which is a plus in any small business.
I asked them, as I always do, why, when I have choices in this area, should I come to you? Here are their collective answers: “We offer 5 color process, which is unusual, and is not often available at a reasonable price. We are local and are very involved in our community. We treat customers like they are family, and we take every order personally, like it’s our own shirt that is being made. We are in tune with what our customer wants, and we thrive on customer service. The prices and the quality can’t be beat, and we want to be everybody’s screen printer.” I say, “Amen” to all of it, and strongly suggest that you get on down to Gotcha Covered to find out what I am talking about.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner