‘Hannah Montana is big right now,” says Ashish Doshi. Neither a pulp magazine publisher nor a star-struck teen, he is nevertheless in a unique position to rate the popularity of “right now” pop icons. Doshi is the warehouse and production manager of Freeze, a manufacturing company with licenses from Disney, Warner Brothers, and others to turn out T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and casual wearables of all kinds featuring the likenesses of American’s current idols.

Freeze, unlike the Tiny Little T-Shirt Company, the subject of this week’s cover story, on page 41, does not worry too much about editing messages, but rather is building a fast-growing business around giving customers what they want.

Freeze has just consolidated its United States operations on Ridge Road. Formerly, the company’s offices had been on Saw Mill Pond Road in Edison and its United States manufacturing plant had been in Passaic.

The company has “400 to 500 people” working in two shifts its new facility to meet demand from its retail customers, says Doshi, who has been with the 20-year-old company for 18 years.

A native of India, Doshi learned the T-shirt manufacturing business from the ground up. He says that he has no formal education in manufacturing, but rather joined Freeze, which is owned by partners Lou Shalam and Charlie Tebele, and learned along the way.

Freeze is not the largest t-shirt manufacturer, says Doshi, but it does produce a lot of casual clothing. Just how much? “Ten thousand dozen pieces a day,” says Doshi. And that’s just in the Ridge Road facility, which purchased some new, high-tech equipment when it moved.Other production takes place overseas.

Where? “Everywhere,” says Doshi.

But why do any production in New Jersey, when it is so much less expensive to outsource overseas?

The reason is speed, says Doshi. “It’s what the customers want. We always do what the customers want.”

If Hannah is suddenly eclipsed by a new star, retailers will want the new icon’s footed pajamas and tank tops on its shelves ASAP. Manufacturing in the United States helps to speed the merchandise to consumers before they grow tired of their new hero.

But manufacturing overseas, the lower-cost alternative also has its place, particularly when speed is not as important.

Freeze ships some of its merchandise in its own trucks, but some of it leaves the Ridge Road facility in retailers’ trucks. “It’s their choice,” says Doshi. Again, it’s whatever the customer wants.

Freeze’s customers are retailing’s own rock stars — the really big chains, including Wal-Mart and Kmart.

Keeping these big customers satisfied is the heart of Doshi’s job, and it consumes his life. “My hours?” he says. “I have no hours. I come early, I leave late.”

Freeze Inc., 473 Ridge Road, South Brunswick; 732-329-2009; fax, 732-355-0233. Ashish Doshi, warehouse and production manager.

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