It gives the phrase “wear your heart on your sleeve” a whole new meaning. For those of us whose hearts belong to Tacoma, T-Town Apparel’s locally themed clothing line is a perfect way to show your pride in our city.
Perhaps you’ve seen the whimsical mermaid or octopus design sported around town. Or maybe you’ve spotted the cool T-Town classic logo on a hoodie or t-shirt and wondered where it was made. T-Town Apparel not only makes a full line of custom clothing and gifts, but they are Tacoma’s go-to source for custom screen printing and embroidery, outfitting everyone from sports teams to businesses. And they’ve just started a website hosting business, too. This unique small business does it all.
Owned by Pat and Gail Ringrose, T-Town Apparel’s motto is “Made in Tacoma, for Tacoma.” And they walk (or print) their talk. Housed in an historic 1906 building on Market Street, in the heart of the brewing district, their shop is a charming alcove of T-Town Apparel’s products, from shirts to mugs to pillows. (Make sure to take a picture with the “You’ll Like Tacoma” photo mural out front – it’s becoming a must-stop for tourists and locals alike.) Gail and Pat and their staff are ready to greet you and help you find just what you’re looking for. And if you can’t make it to their brick-and-mortar location, shop the full range of products on their online store.
All their designs are created by Gail and made in-house. In fact, touring their warehouse and production room, one can literally see all the work that goes into making their products. Whether helping a start-up with branding or supplying an established client with shirts for a fundraiser, they provide attentive service to everyone, and aim to help their clients keep costs low by printing on-demand.
They recently partnered with the nonprofit South Sound Together to help bring “South Sound Proud” gear to the community. You’ll find some upbeat “Live Like the Mountain is Out” (and “Run Like the Mountain is Out”) tanks, mugs and more at T-Town. (Read more about South Sound Proud here).
Pat and Gail are long-time residents with true pride in our city. Pat is a second-generation Tacoman, born and raised in the North End. Gail moved here from Colorado many years ago and absolutely calls Tacoma “home.”
They took over T-Town Apparel in 2010. Pat worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years, and Gail was a veteran employee at Regence-Blue Shield. Both had an interest in making promotional products, and they started the business in their home, working nights and weekends while holding full-time jobs. Soon, with their hard work and community-minded spirit, their business was taking off. When the space on Market Street became available, they took it as a sign. “It just evolved,” says Gail.
Gail is the creative force behind T-Town’s designs. She has always had an artistic streak. “I took art classes in school, and I would design business cards for friends,” she says. She now puts her creative energy into coming up with unique logos for T-Town Apparel’s customers and business clients.
Even though they started their business during therecession, a combination of faith and hard work has given them staying power. “We took fate in our hands,” says Gail. “We have kept growing through word of mouth and building strong customer relationships … We have a loyal customer base who have become good friends.” They love helping local start-up businesses and watching them as they grow to the point they are printing t-shirts for their annual events. “These relationships are the reason we’ve been able to stay and keep growing, too,” she says. “I never dreamt we’d be here.”
Gail and Pat make a point of giving back to the businesses that support them, and they enjoy being active in the Tacoma community. You might find them enjoying the Proctor Arts Festival, the Hilltop Street Fair, Art on the Ave or Metro Parks Tacoma’s Tacoma Food Truck Fest as some favorites.
The couple love that they see their products on everyone from babies (a bestselling baby onesie reads “Tacoma Aroma” on the rear) to 90-year-olds. Their styles are universally appealing for customers of any age and gender to wear. They also make it a priority to keep a reasonable price point. Their wares make great everyday items and terrific gifts for anyone looking for a truly “253” souvenir.
What’s next for T-Town Apparel? Gail has been enjoying collaborations with local artists – for example, she recently created a line of pillows and mugs from Over Tacoma’s aerial photography – and plans to keep expanding to feature more local talent. As Tacoma grows and changes, the Ringroses will no doubt keep serving up local pride.
There are two ways to shop T-Town Apparel. Their online store is fun and easy to browse. Or bring a friend to their storefront at 1934 Market Street, open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.