German Township plant produces souvenir shirts, jerseys for sports fans

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, June 28, 2014, 3:51 p.m.

While Pittsburgh Penguins fans were celebrating their team's Stanley Cup victory over the Detroit Red Wings on June 12, 2009, a group of workers in a Masontown area plant were going crazy as well, producing thousands of T-shirts proclaiming the Penguins as the champs of the hockey world.

Imprinting the Stanley Cup logo onto T-shirts, Stahls' DFC in German Township produced between 17,000 and 20,000 shirts proclaiming the Penguins as the champions of the National Hockey League. They were able to fill the order, working nonstop, within 48 hours, said Lisa Leone, client services director for Stahls' DFC.

“Your team really has to pull together to get it out” in that short of a time, Leone said.

The team at the Stahls' plant works in a decorating fulfillment center that is part of the imprinted sportswear industry. The Fayette County plant uses heat-print, screen printing, embroidery and digital technologies to decorate jerseys, T-shirts, blankets, ball caps and other items with logos, a player's name, a customer's name or the name of an organization. It also provides sports trophy shops with equipment and materials — such as letters, numbers or logos — to adorn shirts and jerseys, said Daniel Robinson, Stahls' DFC operations manager at the local plant.

Stahls' also has a plant across the Monongahela River in Carmichaels, where it has an imprintables warehouse along with equipment that heat presses the garments, Robinson said.

Stahls' DFC receives the shirts, jerseys and other apparel at the plant, decorates them and then ships the finished product from its facility just off Route 21.

Worldwide operation

Stahls' DFC is one of GroupeSTAHL's 26 companies, with its headquarters in the Detroit area and its business empire spreading across four continents. The privately held company does not release its annual revenue and production figures.

With its workforce of about 100 that increases to 150 employees during the busy season, Robinson said that the typical turnaround for the products is between three to 10 days, but they move quickly and add evening work shifts when necessary.

“Our competitive strength is that we can turn around our products really quickly, relatively speaking,” Robinson said.

Stahls' licensing agreement with the National Football League, National Basketball Association and the NHL allows them to produce Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys for the fans, as well as the Penguin jerseys. Stahls' DFC receives the team jerseys from China and then affixes the names and numbers of particular players. That means the high-quality jerseys carrying the names of Penguins star Sydney Crosby and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which are sold at concession stands at Heinz Field for Steeler games and Consol Energy Center for Penguin games, are made locally. Robinson said the plant does not produce jerseys with the names of the teams' retired legends — the Steelers' Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Terry Bradshaw, as well as the Penguins' Mario Lemieux.

For this year's Stanley Cup finals, Robinson said the plant was busy fulfilling orders for Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers jerseys. The concessions at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Staples Center in Los Angeles ordered the jerseys to fulfill customer demand, Robinson said.

“When the teams go into the playoffs, we go into the playoffs with them,” Robinson said.

The actual game jerseys worn by the players on the field or on the ice are produced by other companies, Robinson said.

NFL Draft Day

This was the third year that employees from Stahls' DFC were at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the first round of the NFL draft on May 8. They were under the gun to heat print players' names onto the jersey of the team that selected them so that the player received the jersey when he was presented to the fans in the hall and watching on live television.

“Sometimes we had only 45 seconds to put the name on the jersey and sometimes only 15 seconds” to imprint the player's name on the team's jersey once the team announced its pick, said Lisa Leone, director of client services.

“When it really becomes tricky is when the clock winds down and they (football team) trade up or down” their draft pick, Leone said.

To prepare for the event, Stahls' employees worked several days in advance. They received a list of potential draft picks from Nike and cut out the letters for the names of the players they anticipate will be drafted.

The Stahls' team also made customized shirts for fans who were at the NFL Draft and wanted a shirt with their team's logo.

“All the cylinders have to be shooting ... perfectly” for the draft day to go well, Leone said. “It was a really fun and awesome experience,” Leone said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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