Business prints football fan shirts
By Greg Seubert
Only 14 high schools have teams participating in this week’s WIAA State Football Championships.
Two of them are less than 20 miles apart and also compete in the same conference.
Having two local teams playing for a state championship means this is a busy time of the year at Amherst Spirit Wear in Amherst, where owners Dale and Deb Jastromski and their employees were busy printing custom T-shirts only hours after Amherst and Iola-Scandinavia qualified for state.
Amherst handed Grantsburg a 35-6 loss in Stanley Nov. 10 in a state semifinal, while I-S overcame a 15-0 deficit and beat defending state champion Regis 27-26 in Stevens Point.
Iola-Scandinavia and Amherst will play in the Division 6 and Division 5 games, respectively, Thursday, Nov. 16, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Iola-Scandinavia will face St. Mary Springs at 1 p.m., while Amherst will play Lake Country Lutheran at 4 p.m.
Amherst Spirit Wear has printed shirts to mark Amherst’s conference champion and state-qualifying athletic teams in the past, including the 2015 and 2016 state football championship seasons and the 2014 football team that finished second at state.
Iola-Scandinavia hasn’t played for a state championship since the Thunderbirds fell to Stratford 28-7 in the Division 6 title game 10 years ago.
Having two Central Wisconsin Large Conference teams playing for a state championship gave Amherst Spirit Wear an opportunity to print a special shirt that features both teams.
“I never really thought about it until a couple of Iola people asked, ‘Hey, are you going to be able to make us some shirts?’” Dale Jastromski said. “I said, ‘I certainly think we could.’”
Jastromski also coaches Amherst’s softball team, but has a connection to the Iola-Scandinavia area. He played BABA baseball in Scandinavia with I-S football coach Scott Erickson.
“This is really my first venture into doing anything with Iola,” he said. “Iola was just a natural for my wife and me. We’ve been connected with that town for many years.”
The teams played during the regular season, with Amherst coming out on top 32-14.
“As much as they’re rivals, they’re still very supportive of each other,” Jastromski said. “I don’t think we’re the best of friends on game day, but other than that, it’s been a spirited rivalry since back in the ‘80s, when I was playing.”
Besides printing individual shirts for each team, Jastromski also came up with a shirt featuring both teams.
“It’s a nice, simple shirt for fans that want both of them on it,” he said. “I came down to the store at 6:30 this morning and somebody walked into the store and said, ‘This is what I’d really like to have.’”
Jastromski went to work on designing new shirts as the Falcons and T-Birds were still on the field.
“For Iola, we had to wait until the last second,” he said. “For Amherst, once it got to be the fourth quarter, we started. We design everything, but we won’t print it because we’re superstitious. Anyone in sports knows you don’t ever do that.”
Shirts were ready to be sold at the store less than 12 hours after the games ended.
“We make our shirts one at a time and probably had two or three dozen ready to go this morning,” Jastromski said. “We started printing last night and we were here until about 10 last night. We knew he buses weren’t going to get back until late, so we came back this morning to start up again.”
Amherst Spirit Wear typically sells 50 to 75 shirts for a team’s tournament run.
“Every year a team goes back, there’s not quite as much hype,” Jastromski said. “There is for the game, but for Amherst, you already have three years worth of shirts.
“I remember when the Badgers went to the Rose Bowl (in 1994),” he added. “You couldn’t keep shirts on the floor, they were gone. The next year, you sold a third of them because everybody had one from that first time.”
While some fans want a state qualifier shirt, others wait until their team wins a state championship.
“It’s not a big a deal as a state championship,” Jastromski said. “We’ll make enough to have some in stock when people come in.”
The store has three employees besides the Jastromskis.
“We do a lot of promoting of our stuff on social media,” Jastromski said. “We have a website, amherstspiritwear.com. When the new logos come out, we put them right on Facebook and then they’ll message us, ‘Hey, I need two of these or three of these.’”
The business competes with companies that sell similar products online.
“There are so many places where you can buy online, but you don’t know what you’re getting until it arrives,” Jastromski said. “There are a lot of people that appreciate the fact that they can come on in and try it on. We don’t even have a lot of our Amherst stuff printed up. You come in, point at a logo on the wall and we put it on for you.”
Amherst Spirit Wear started out as DJ’s Speedzone.
“Our business was a NASCAR-driven business for many years,” Jastromski said. “I told my wife, ‘You know, it’d be nice to open a little Amherst shop some time.’ It’s a very small store and I said, ‘Let’s do it, we’ll put a little Amherst stuff in it.’ The next thing I knew, the whole store was blue.”