Mary and I really enjoy meeting and talking with people in the garment decorating business when we travel. This past summer, we had the chance to meet so many of you during the Great Race. And last weekend, we were so thrilled to have met Kevin Fitzpatrick on our ferry back from Pelee Island. Mary took the time to follow up with Kevin via email and he sent us a lot of photos and told us more details about his heat printing business and how he and his wife got started. I wanted to share his email with all of you. If any of you out there reading this are inspired to tell YOUR story, we would love to hear it. Just leave a comment here on the blog and I will tell you how you can send me your photos and YOUR story.
The story of Kevin and Heather Fitzpatrick, Bluewater Sport Hockey League, written by Kevin Fitzpatrick:
First a little island history – Heather and I started our life together on Pelee Island in 1979. I was the manager of the Pelee Island Transportation Company. Once the kids started elementary school we left the island to live on the mainland. After raising our six kids we went back to the island for a visit for the first time last summer, we quickly fell in love again with the island and decided to purchase a house…a fixer upper.
A little mainland history – once we came to the mainland – life was different, especially for our two oldest – we set them up in a bilingual school with 600 students, a big difference from the English school they left on Pelee with 14 students! They adjusted as we did and quickly became “mainlanders”. Heather stayed home with the kids while I worked for the local school district as their transportation officer/manager. While raising a family of six kids (5 boys and a girl) we became heavily involved in church, sports and other child related activities. It was this involvement that would seed our relationship with Stahls’.
I wanted to help/coach my boys in hockey. I grew up in a VERY large family (21) and never learned how to skate or play. So, along with my oldest boy, we signed up in a “learn to play hockey” program. We loved it – but after the program…I still couldn’t skate that well, let alone play. When looking for an adult team to play with I found that you had to be on a team AND fairly skilled, neither of which I qualified. So with a few guys from the hockey program we just completed – we started to play late at night together. Soon a few others and a few more. We soon had four teams of guys that couldn’t play hockey but loved trying. In the early years we ordered our jerseys from a local sports retailer. But I wanted something more professional – like the big leagues. We may not play very well but we are gonna look great! I found a lady locally who did jerseys, with your name on the back and semi-custom numbers. We began ordering from her but they took forever – by this time we were up to 12 teams and growing. We needed to find a solution – enter STAHLS. Heather did some research and found your company on the web – the more she researched the more we realized this is what we needed to do to keep up and maintain the quality we wanted. By 2006 Heather was in charge of all the jerseys and playing hockey herself with a group of 50 other ladies. We bought our first cutter (Ioline 100) and heat press – Hotronix (the pad pulls out not sure of the model, but as far as I’m concerned the best one ever). We began with simple logos but soon began developing difficult designs with a variety of mediums, vinyl, twill, embroidery and recently rhinestones. The league has since expanded to 42 teams in three cities – we have even sent three teams to Europe to play Czech Republic, Austria and Germany (Heather, our oldest Barry and I played as well). We offer all levels to both genders with one core mandate – “play the way you play” It works for the novice and the pro. Not only has the league expanded, so has our “business” from word of mouth about our design jerseys, tee shirts and sports apparel. Heather was real excited about the recent rhinestone set we purchased at the Imprint show last February. She is currently in the process of expanding into a safety wear line.
This past spring a former colleague’s daughter on the island was off on maternity leave – they were looking for a replacement so I jumped in with open arms – a great way to get back in the know and I love getting to know everyone again. We had not been back for almost 18 years. And what a treat it was to see you and Ted – I couldn’t believe it! It’s odd – when I had seen the name on the vehicle manifest, I noted the spelling and thought, “I wonder if they are related?” That spelling is rare in this neck of the woods other than STAHLS’ the company – what a shock – on little Pelee Island. We are planning to open a shop on the island for tee’s and summer apparel and will be looking for another heat press and cutter – in fact we may expand into embroidery as well, since we will be spending more time on the island next year. www.bshl.ca
Kevin, thank you so much for sharing YOUR story with Mary, me and everyone who reads this! We wish you the best of luck expanding with your safety wear line, embroidery services and the purchase of your next heat press. As always, if there is anything we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks again and we’ll be in touch.
Thanks Ted and Mary for sharing our story. One note that readers should know – many of the original jerseys we made in the beginning are still being used by teams today – a testament to the quality of heat transfer materials and application equipment from Stahls – not to mention the online training we took advantage of in the application of these products – keep up the great work and look forward to seeing everyone on Pelee Island some day in the future – and don’t forget to pick up a “Pelee Island Waves” tee shirt!
Thanks again for sharing your story and we do encourage people to visit Pelee Island. You have to experience the “waving” phenomenon, and of course buy a t-shirt. All the best, from Ted and Mary