Oct 24, 2022
BATAVIA — T-Shirts Etc. owner Brian Kemp has moved the business multiple times in the last quarter century since starting it in 1997. Having been at 37 Center St. for the last several years, he doesn’t see any reason to move again.
Celebrating 25 years brought Kemp, T-Shirts staff, family and friends,and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce together at the business Thursday evening.
“We hope to keep building here. We have room to grow and we’re just figuring it out as we go,” he said. “We’ll see where Batavia takes us, but I don’t think it’s going to take us out of Batavia. We’re hopefully here to stay.”
Kemp thanked everyone for coming to the celebration.
“It’s a real privilege to be in business in Batavia. It’s been a long time coming, 25 years,” he said. “I started out in the industrial center, made a couple of moves. We finally bought this building about seven years ago. It’s been a dream come true.”
With his three sons — Parker, 20, Myloh, 10, and Aslan, 9, with him, Brian Kemp introduced them to the gathering. Parker Kemp is the production manager.
“I’m a super-proud dad that I’ve got these awesome little men around me and my biggest one running the show over here,” Kemp said. “I appreciate everybody. I see I’ve got a lot of customers in the building.”
Kemp said he was out of high school for three years when he started T-Shirts Etc.
“It was amazing. I’ve got a lot of different people in my life that have come along and made an impact. One who isn’t here tonight, my partner, John, who started out with me,” he said. “We were partners for seven years before I bought him out and took it over. I was able to meet John with, at the time, my girlfriend, Heather ... Heather actually started the company basically with me, with John, who we knew together.”
He credited his ex-wife, Beth, for her help with the business.
“Beth helped me turn the business into where we are today. We moved the company three times, so she was a very integral part of the business,” he said. “All these relationships, whether business, personal, have all impacted on my life. We own our little piece of Batavia. It’s been fantastic.”
Tom Turnbull, interim president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the turnout Thursday night was really good.
“It’s their 25th anniversary, which is hard to believe. I remember you starting ... it was three or four years ago, wasn’t it?” he joked with Kemp.
“Thanks for having us here. You can see all the things they do here,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull presented Kemp with a certificate.
Brian Kemp also took time to speak about the 50-50 raffle to support the toy drive named in memory of Don Carroll, who Kemp said was an integral part of his life when he was growing up.
Later, when he opened T-Shirts Etc., he said, Carroll wanted to start a toy drive to provide toys for kids at Christmas.
“We started it when I was 20. Don passed away, I think about six years ago now,” Kemp said. “My ex-wife, Beth, and I we ran it with Don maybe for almost 10 years. Beth and I continue to run this toy drive together. We raise money and purchase new toys for kids. We actually go to the schools and find these kids through the schools. We send a letter home with them, asking what the kids may like. One of our things we like to do is figure out what the kid likes, not just give them toys.”
Kemp said a letter goes to the kids’ homes so their parents can tell Brian Kemp and Beth Kemp what the kids like.
“We also involve the parents. We give them unwrapped toys. The parents, hopefully, are going to wrap these toys to give them for Christmas,” Brian Kemp said. “Typically, we raise enough money to support 40 to 50 kids per year. Anybody who bought 50-50 tickets, that’s what that is going to go for.”
Alisha Osika of Batavia, owner of Dream Media Design, a Chamber of Commerce member, was making her first visit to T-Shirts, Etc.
“It’s a pretty cool setup. I saw the screen-printing demonstration when they were doing multiple colors,” Osika said. She said she enjoyed the embroider demonstration also.
“I got a notification from the chamber saying they were doing a network After Hours. I like to attend these events. It’s nice to check out new places in Batavia,” she said.
Later, Brian Kemp said T-Shirts Etc. does more than just T-shirts.
“We do mostly apparel, but we do promotional products like pens, Frisbees. We do design work too, if you need a design, he said. “We start from an idea, or if you had it. If you have an idea or a sketch, we’d make it into something.”
How has the business changed the most since Kemp started it 25 years ago?
“The biggest thing for me is the automatic machine and then the embroidery machine,” he said. “When I started, I literally just had a little screen printing press, manual. We added the automatic machine about six years ago. That’s been the biggest change. Other than that, the chemistry and the workflow’s almost the same.”
When T-Shirts Etc. began, it had a stat camera, its owner said.
“When I started doing this, to make these screens, we’d have to blow the artwork up in a darkroom on this big, 10-foot camera,” he said. Now, I just literally print it off a computer onto the film. That’s probably the biggest technology piece of it. We literally had to go in a darkroom and put the film through the chemical and let it dry and all that.”
Embroiderer Melissa Flint said she’s worked at T-Shirts for about eight years.
“I do everything — embroider, screen print, heat seal/transfer,” she said. “Any type of sewing they need done, like patches, I do all that.”
Flint said T-Shirts Etc. has grown since she started.
“We definitely specialize in custom goods. It’s been that way since I came here, which is really nice,” she said. “Trying to keep it as local as possible. It’s family-owned and operated. Since I’ve been here, Brian’s family has been a big part of this.”