A New Life
The new owners of Carolina Shirt Company in Calabash love running a business in Brunswick County.
Sometimes a New Jersey resident becomes a North Carolinian when she’s met her future husband in college. That’s exactly what happened when Jennifer Driscoll met Dan Krawiec at UNC-Greensboro. After college, they got married, moved to High Point and started a family. In 2008, the Krawiecs relocated to Hickory for Dan’s job.
Both Jennifer and Dan loved the coast and the ocean since they were kids, and Jennifer knew deep down that someday they would live there. They were married in Wrightsville Beach, but after visiting Dan’s parents in Ocean Isle Beach over the course of several years, Jennifer and Dan fell in love with Brunswick County – with the mild climate, proximity to the beaches and laid-back feel of the area. They decided to find a way to make living here possible, and becoming business owners was how Jennifer thought they should go about it.
“For years I worked for other companies doing copywriting and marketing,” Jennifer says. “Then in the summer of 2020, while visiting Dan’s parents, I thought that it was a perfect time to look into what businesses were available in the Calabash/Sunset Beach/Little River areas and considered what might work for all of us. I wanted the flexibility of being my own boss and being able to grow the business in a direction I saw.”
Spotting a listing online for Carolina Shirt Company, Jennifer and Dan researched the details of the business and realized that the possibility could become a reality. Once the details were all worked out for the purchase of Carolina Shirt Company in September 2020, Jennifer and Dan rented a condo in Sunset Beach, where Jennifer and their son, Matthew, stayed. They later bought a house in Brunswick County.
Carolina Shirt Company had been in existence for almost 20 years, and approximately three years ago the business moved to the commercial complex on Koolabrew Drive NW in Calabash.
“This company already had a good reputation before I took over in mid-September 2020,” Jennifer says. “The 3,000-square-foot building has three sections of machines – embroidering, screen printing and Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing. My son, Matthew, is a co-owner and the operations manager at Carolina Shirt Company and he does all of the screen printing and Direct-to-Garment printing jobs.”
Jennifer says Matthew is excellent at this line of work because he’s familiar with operating the printers and accessories, and he’s got an understanding of clothing, color palettes and basic operations of technology. “Plus, he’s a detail-oriented person,” she says. “All of that comes naturally to him.”
Jennifer handles customer service orders, inventory, marketing and long-range planning. Savanna Cain is the full-time embroidery machine operator at Carolina Shirt Company.
“Properly setting up the garments requires attention to detail, and operating the embroidery machines takes skill and talent,” Jennifer says. “And it’s not just t-shirts and sweatshirts – we embroider polo shirts, jackets, hats, tote bags and more. With our three different sections, we’ve got a team effort going on. The finished product is something all of us are proud of.”
On her summer break from college, Jennifer’s daughter, Mary, worked in the shop full-time helping with garment printing and embroidery.
Jennifer notes that the majority of customers at Carolina Shirt Company is small business owners.
“Our customer base covers a range of industries including home service and home improvement professionals, Realtors, schools, community organizations and more,” Jennifer says. “We help dress the staff of several area restaurants, and when I happen to be eating out with friends or family, I enjoy seeing the waitstaff and employees in the t-shirts, golf shirts and aprons that we helped create.”
She says it’s also nice to see the stacks of t-shirts or sweatshirts that many local restaurants and businesses carry for customers to purchase at the checkout counter as souvenirs.
Jennifer adds that the majority of their business is local. They have many customers in the medical field plus in some retail outlets. They also cater to some county and city offices including several fire and police departments. A few corporate customers are located outside of the county and state, but most of the revenue from Carolina Shirt Company is locally generated, that is from several cities and towns in North Carolina and South Carolina within roughly a 100-mile radius.
For Matthew, being a co-owner of Carolina Shirt Company is ideal because it allows him to apply some of the skills he learned while studying mechanical engineering at UNC-Charlotte. And he likes working in a small business team.
“Focusing on doing my job every day and not sitting in a cubicle in a large corporation is what I like,” Matthew says. “Each one of us brings different strengths and talents to the business.”
In designing their logos, customers often come up with creative ideas.
“In creating custom garments, we use the client’s artwork and/or logo and either make a screen for the screen print press or an image for the Direct-to-Garment printer,” Matthew says. “I’ve had a chance to sharpen my artistic skills, and it is rewarding to see the customers’ ideas come to life. Our new garment printer is capable of photo-quality, full-color images. The final product is pretty impressive.”