Rivals Custom Gear- Local company outfits the bachelor

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Shanna Hamann, co-owner of Rivals Custom Gear in Strawberry Point, stands in front of a very oversized t-shirt used by the business as a promotional item.


By Kim Hurley


Register Freelance Writer


Step into Rivals Inc. Custom Gear at 109 Commercial Street in Strawberry Point and you will see the main attraction—a size 50XL t-shirt!  Co-owners Shanna Hamann and Heidi Bohr use this super-sized t-shirt to promote their printing business.

The retail store is filled with clothing attire and accessories of every color and size, on which the Rivals employees have custom printed. Among the clothing lines for retail sale are those of local school districts, area towns and businesses, and Shanna’s personal line called Rural Route 1.  The graphics of the Rural Route 1 line utilize images similar of vintage feed sacks and are intended to promote the pride in our agricultural industry and tourism of Northeast Iowa.

Also for sale in the store are clothing and accessories licensed by the three state universities: University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa.  “In the spirit of our name, Rivals, we try to carry something from (each of) the state universities,” Shanna says. “It’s pretty fun to hear the comments people make when they see their school or their rival school’s apparel and gear. We’re such a competitive society these days and I think it’s fun to be a die-hard fan.”

Behind the retail store, Shanna and her three employees can be found in the actual printing shop filling orders from schools and companies as well as individuals and families.  Shanna points out that families often want shirts and caps for reunions, whereas individuals and groups order personalized gifts for special occasions.  In fact, the Starmont Booster Club ordered personalized vintage class jackets, along with stadium blankets and chairs, as gifts for Chris Soules, ABC TV’s The Bachelor, and his date, Jade Roper, who last October attended a Starmont football game.   

As these gifts exemplify, Rivals Inc. doesn’t print only clothing and accessories.  They also customize awards, calendars, office supplies, sporting gear, drinkware and houseware, and technology as well as items for outdoors, leisure, and travel.  Although Shanna and her staff all have their hands in nearly every facet of the business, each has their own specialty. Shanna and Macy Rhines do the graphic designing.  They are also often operating the heat press and the t-shirt sized dye sublimation press.  The heat press is used for adhering vinyl lettering and graphics to items.  

Shanna explains how a light-colored garment is processed through the dye sublimation press.

“Dye sublimation printing is my favorite technology. The ink goes right from a solid to a gas when it is heated and adheres to anything synthetic it touches.”  Shanna and Macy design the entire t-shirt on the computer, print it to paper at full scale using a wide format printer that uses special dyes, and  make a “t-shirt sandwich” with the paper and the t-shirt. They then slide it under the press which crunches it against a 400 degree heated metal plate and in one minute, you have a dyed t-shirt. “The dye is permanent and will stay brilliant in color wash after wash,” Shanna assures.

Ann O’Brien and Deb Recker, who is also the bookkeeper at Rivals Inc., operate the computerized embroidery machine.  Having four heads, each with the ability to embroidery an item in 15 minutes, the machine can produce 60 pieces in an hour. 

Rivals Inc. grew out of a cottage industry that Shanna began operating out of her home in Y2008, whereby she did printing on a contractual basis for schools and businesses.  Prior to that, she was a graphic designer for a sporting goods and custom print shop in Decorah.  When the ownership changed hands during her tenure there, Shanna had the opportunity to learn how to operate all the machines.  This added to the knowledge she acquired at Iowa State University where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design.

Shanna’s business partner, Heidi Bohr, operated K & H, a business in Ossian that did screen printing.  In Y2013, Shanna and Heidi merged their two businesses together, incorporating as Rivals, Inc. “The merge of businesses allowed us to cover more area for schools and businesses so it was convenient for them to order custom goods without having to travel so far,” says Shanna. “We are also able to share equipment and be experts in our areas of strength. Heidi does most of the screen printing work and I do the dye sublimation and embroidery.” They have a courier who delivers items between the two stores twice per week. 

This March, they will be having a grand opening for their new location in Ossian at 115 East Main Street. “We’ll have retail for all the area school rivalries, high school and collegiate,” Shanna points out, “The more convenient location will also allow patrons to stop in and order their custom gear,” says Shanna

Shanna and her husband, Aaron, reside in Strawberry Point with their children, nine-year-old, Dakota, and four-year-old, Jenna. Aaron is a high school math teacher at the Edgewood-Colesburg School District.



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