SPRING GROVE – A Spring Grove company that makes custom sports team apparel would have closed its doors in early May and 85 jobs might have been lost if not for the company’s former owners taking over.
Accounting manager Patti Farley, who has worked at Sportdecals in Spring Grove for 14 years, said there had been a sense of uncertainty in recent months. She worried about losing her job.
“We knew something was going on,” Farley said.
Later, Farley learned that the original owners were going to buy back the business.
“The staff became energized when we found out,” she said. “They make it feel like a very family-oriented company, and it’s nice having that back. They care about the people who work for them, and it’s always been that way with them.”
On May 5, original owners Don Metivier, Paul Metivier and former CEO Chris Gagnon announced their reacquisition of Sportdecals. Don Metivier founded the company about 50 years ago.
Sportdecals decorates more than 2 million articles of clothing and produces more than 700,000 helmet decals on an annual basis for high schools, colleges, clubs and organizations across the nation. Sportdecals also gives free memorial decals to help players and schools honor the passing of a fellow teammate as a way to give back.
Over the years, the company saw growth and eventually moved from Crystal Lake to Spring Grove about 15 years ago to be in a larger facility. But with Don Metivier getting older, Gagnon said he bought out the company so Don Metivier could enjoy his retirement.
Gagnon then sold the business about four years ago to a venture capital group out of Chicago.
Gagnon was a minority shareholder at that point, and he eventually left in June 2015.
Gagnon and the two Metivier brothers recently were made an offer to buy back the business from the private equity firm for “seven figures” and “much lower than what the company’s valuation was four years ago.”
“Based on our due diligence, we knew the doors would close on May 5 if we did not intervene,” Gagnon said. “Given the livelihoods of so many people, as well as the overall opportunity to rebuild, we jumped at the chance to buy it back.”
Two weeks later, the deal was done. By reacquiring the business, Gagnon said Sportdecals’ 85 employees were able to keep their jobs.
“We just didn’t want to see all these people lose a job,” Gagnon said. “And the reason why we’re successful is primarily because we take care of the customer and we take care of our employees, and if you do that, it’s amazing what you can get done.”
Although Sportdecals sells to thousands of schools and companies across the nation, the company has a strong local presence as well, selling to Johnsburg High School, McHenry East High School, McHenry West High School and Crystal Lake School District 155.
Crystal Lake South cross country coach Rich Eschman said he has used Sportdecals for many years to get shirts and sweats for his runners.
“I’ve never had any issues with Sportdecals under Don and Paul and got my stuff on time,” Eschman said. “I’ve enjoyed dealing with Sportdecals and the products they put out. They’re timely, cost-effective and provide good quality.”
Don Metivier started the company about 50 years ago in his kitchen, seeing a need for custom decals for helmets.
“It amazed me that so many companies didn’t understand the need to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer,” Don Metivier said. “We saw the opportunity to add tremendous value by filling the need, and we ran with it. But after being gone just a few years, you now see the same poor attitude and lack of commitment toward the customer. That’s why we’re back.”
Gagnon resumed his services as CEO and president of Sportdecals and its sister companies – Absolutely Custom, Galapagos Studios, Procals and TeamWear1. He said what makes the company special is it gives kids an opportunity to look their best while playing sports.
“The team-building aspect, the camaraderie, the personal growth that these kids get from participating in sports is tremendous, and while they’re doing it, we want to make them look as good as possible,” Gagnon said.
After regaining ownership, Gagnon said future plans consist of reconnecting with customers.
“We want to get back to a level of service that customers should expect, and frankly, demand,” Gagnon said.
What: A local company that sells custom team uniforms, spirit wear and decals
Where: 2504 Spring Ridge Drive, Spring Grove