A little STL Shirt Co History

A lot of people ask us about how we got into shirt printing and embroidery so we figured a little story telling could be fun.

We started printing shirts in 1975 and we have really come a long way since then. My dad, Mike, bought is first, 4 station manual press in ’75 when he owned Gaffney’s Sporting Goods so he could offer screen printed shirts and uniforms for baseball and soccer teams in the area. Now, just like anyone who first starts out screen printing, he had no idea what he was doing… First thing he decided to do with his 4-color manual press was to cut off 3 of the 4 press arms because he really didn’t see a need for them. He’d print the first color, flash it, then bring the platen back to him for the 2nd color. Now those of you that have screen printed know that this is not the best way to print a multi colored shirt, and my dad soon figured out that hacksawing those 3 arms really wasn’t the best decision. He made the best out of that press, though and eventually purchased another 4-color, manual press.

When he started printing, he was doing it in the back room of the sporting goods store. They’d sell retail goods like shoes, bats and more during the day and print custom apparel during the night. And as word got out that Gaffney’s was printing t shirts, the screen printing operation began to grow like wildfire. He soon outgrew the backroom of the sporting goods shop and had to find another location. And then another, and then another! I’m fairly sure the print shop has been moved 10 times since the beginning of the screen printing adventure.

After sometime, Mike realized that the shirt demand was too high for the manual presses to keep up and it was time to invest in his first automatic screen printing press. He went with a Lawson trooper XL and it was a game changer. He went from printing 100 shirts a day to 100 shirts an hour! And this was a turning point for the screen printing side of the business. He realized that he could print exponentially more shirts per day with this new automatic press and make much more money doing that compared to selling sporting goods. Also, at this time retail was getting a bit harder due to the entry of ecommerce giants like Amazon so the decision was made to stop selling sporting goods and focus on printing shirts.

STL Shirt Co was formed in 2011 and we’ve rolling shirts ever since! We now operate 4 automatic presses and 1 manual press and have the ability to produce over 6000 shirts a day! (and most days we do just that!)

We are extremely proud of our beginnings as a sporting goods shop with a side hustle of screen printing and are even more proud of our shop today!

We’d encourage you to stop by and take a tour of our shop and learn what it takes to produce thousands of high quality, screen printed shirts every day.