Before John McArthur opened NJSpiritWear (formerly YOJMAC), he worked for high tech companies such as Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, and Motorola. While working, McArthur was also continuing his education, earning a master’s degree in business to couple with his degree in mechanical engineering.
When McArthur was laid off, he didn’t know what to do.
“I went to the mall one day, and I bought a sweatshirt and a hat for my dad,” McArthur said. “It was like $80 for a sweatshirt that said ‘Pop Pop’s Crew.’ I came home and said to my wife: This is it.”
McArthur thought back to all the companies he worked for, and he thought about something they all had in common: Custom embroidered shirts.
“The embroidery machine is very mechanical,” McArthur said. “With the engineering degree, I was kind of intrigued by its mechanics. I bought a single head embroidery machine, and I began working out of my basement.”
Soon after, McArthur’s cousin approached him with an opportunity.
“My cousin worked for Formica,” McArthur said. “He told me how they do this stuff all the time, so he had the safety manager call me. Long story short, I got an order for 1,600 jackets. I ran them one at a time on a single head machine. It took me two weeks, 12-hour days non-stop. I worked Saturdays and Sundays by myself, one jacket at a time.”
With the profit of the 1,600 jackets, McArthur bought himself a four-head machine and moved the business out of his basement and into his garage.
A little while later, McArthur saw a for-sale sign for a commercial building. He decided to take a look. “I drove past it, then I came inside, and I had a vision,” McArthur said. “I just thought this would be the perfect place to run the business, and that was it. I bought the building and spent eight months renovating it.”
Now NJSpiritWear is designing and creating shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, magnets and more that can be seen all over the area.
“I would say the most rewarding part of this business is seeing the designs that we work on around in the community,” McArthur said. “We went to the Mercer County Tournament basketball game. It was Notre Dame against West Windsor-Plainsboro South. We saw all the Notre Dame players wearing our embroidery, and the coaches and fans wearing things we designed.”
McArthur said they don’t do as much work as they would like to in the Hamilton school district. He said they are seeing more work out of Steinert High School, but they hope to begin working more with the other schools, as well, in the near future.
McArthur said what sets NJSpiritWear apart is its creativity. “We come up with custom designs,” McArthur said. “One of the complaints we hear about spiritwear is that schools get tired of that same-looking design year after year. You can bring us anything. You can bring us a hand-drawn sketch. We can basically work with any design.”
NJSpiritWear is flexible to better meet customers’ needs. While most places have a 12 piece minimum with their orders, NJSpiritWear will create a single shirt for its customers if needed.
“We do one T-shirt for people all the time,” McArthur said. “Somebody can come in and get ‘I’m a big brother now’ on a little youth large T-shirt, or have their name sewn on a backpack. When we do stuff like that, we’re not really making money. We do it because I feel a duty to the community. We’re here as a business, and I’m not going to say no to someone who comes in and asks for something like that.”
Though McAthur admits his products aren’t the cheapest around, he says their quality is worth it.
“We don’t want to be the cheapest, that’s not our business model,” McArthur said. “We want to build a business based on people, not so much worrying about the price, but worrying about the quality, the service, and working with someone dependable who they know they can count on.”
NJSpiritWear also takes pride in its ability to make recommendations for its clients to help promote their business. The firm does vehicle magnets, signs and all types of banners. It also does promotional items.
“We can basically do anything with a logo,” McArthur said. “That’s important to us. We want to be that one-stop shop. If a business comes in says they need polo shirts, but also were looking for printed water bottles or coffee mugs, we like that we can do that, too.”
NJSpiritWear, 2565 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Hamilton. 609-588-8884 or NJSpiritWear.com.