With baseball season in full swing, it might be easy to forget about a significant piece of the game that’s evolved over time, but without this key item, the game would be all but unrecognizable. This key component is the modern baseball jersey. Evolving from the baggy, heavyweight garments of the past to the ergonomic and branded athletic designs they possess today, the modern jersey set forth a new culture in team merchandising, and steady business for apparel decorators. One shop in particular, Bimm Ridder in Cedar Rapids, Iowa enjoys the business boom from this season every year.
“Probably 85 percent of our business is from minor and major league baseball,” says Dave Filip, production manager at Bimm Ridder. Filip adds that during this season, he typically has more temporary workers on hand to help the demand of the jobs coming in.
During off-peak season, the Bimm Ridder staff consists of roughly 25 employees, including 14 production team members. Filip says with the heavy demand of clients like the baseball teams, company production jumps as much as 800 percent. While the shop does have a list of local clients, Filip says the client list is generally around 200 minor and major league baseball teams, and affiliated concessioners. Because of the heavy demand, the shop is all automatic, Filip explains.
Curiously enough, the roots of Bimm Ridder didn’t originate in the screen printing world. In fact, back in the late 1980s when Filip and his associates ventured into the screen printing industry, they were in a whole different business.
“We used to own a bar, and we were trying to find ways to expand,” says Filip. During that time, Filip and his partners were interested in offering college apparel at the bar but had little luck tracking down the merchandise they were looking for. After coming across an engraving and screen printing shop that was for sale in the Cedar Rapids area, Filip and his partners bought the shop to expand their endeavors. Within the first year, Filip says, the early version of Bimm Ridder landed their first sporting goods client, a local minor league basketball team.
Since 1988, the company has grown significantly, largely in part due to the nature of the baseball industry. The shop establishes relationships with team buyers, who often become long-time clients of Bimm Ridder, regardless of the career changes they might make.
“The beautiful thing in baseball is that the buyers move from team to team, and they take us with them,” notes Filip. Oftentimes, he adds, an outgoing buyer will also recommend Bimm Ridder to the incoming buyer, helping sustain relationships with existing teams.
The steady business does come with some long hours. During peak season, the shop typically runs 10-hour shifts, five days a week, with the occasional half-day on Saturdays. Regarding production, the shop runs anywhere between 35–45 jobs a day. Despite the heavy volume and full schedule, Filip stresses that the company avoids outsourcing work as much as it can. His team just recently installed a fourth automatic printer to keep up with demand.
“We just don’t want to send our work out for someone else to do,” insists Filip. “We’ve tried that before and we weren’t happy with the results.”
Looking towards the future, Filip sees the sports world as a constant for Bimm Ridder, on both a large and small scale. On a local level, the company heads up fulfillment programs for local baseball and hockey teams. Outside of the steady flow from the baseball market, the company also has clients in the NHL and minor league hockey world, as well as the occasional NBA team.
“When we started out, I didn’t even know what a squeegee was,” jokes Filip. “Now my partners and I have been in the business for more than 20 years.”
Filip says while the shop might still be smaller than some other larger, multisite sports apparel decorators, he enjoys the size Bimm Ridder maintains, and the fact that the company has been able to “control its destiny” as the years have progressed.
For more information on Bimm Ridder, visit: http://bimmridder.com/