The hockey history in Minnesota is fairly well documented dating back to the late 1890's. Along with several hockey stick manufacturers, Minnesota has seen many jersey companies some of which are dearly departed, where others continue today producing hockey jerseys [sweaters] outfitting teams from Mites to Pros, from Olympics to on camera cinema jerseys, and also outfitted a 1980 Miracle squad. From a small western Minnesota town who has had several jersey companies on the shores of Lake Koronis, to Little Falls, Blaine, Minneapolis, Edina and an Indian reservation in Mahnomen - countless created uniforms have been, and continue to be created in the land of 10,000 lakes. Many of the below listed companies are now only history in the neck tags & hem embroidery of what once was, only today located in collectors closets that have since departed from the snowy Minnesota landscape - where others continue to produce jerseys and ship around the globe today, all while employing Minnesota seamstresses, skilled laborers, digitizers, and embroiderers alike to produce and create not only proud Made in the U.S.A. tagged jerseys, but produced in the State of Hockey.
Starting in 1979, in an old bank building, the small company made custom uniforms for softball, basketball and other community sports teams. At the time, Don and Maurine Pederson hoped their dream business would break even in three years - but things didn't happen that way. They landed an account with the Minnesota North Stars, producing jerseys using the North Stars emblem and colors for concession stands and retail sales. The company also produced copies of official National Football League (NFL) jerseys for retail sales. The football jerseys at the time, accounted for about half of the companies business in early 1980's. Meanwhile, while retailers and sports teams were swamped the smaller companies like Pedersons with orders for custom-designed jerseys, those orders often surpassed their ability to fulfill them all.
In late 1979, Pedersons began adding employees to meet the demand and as Maurine quoted "since early 1979, the work force has grown from three to 19". Although Pederons Unlimited began as a husband-and-wife operation, the couples two sons joined the business in 1980. Each son then assumed control of a different aspect of the company. Maurine was General Manager, and husband Don, who was part time teacher at the time, watched the books as an accountant.
The sales growth at Pederson's caught the family members by surprise, Maurine at the time age 50 stated; "what originally began as a nice little family business nearly grew out of control. We expected it to get big, but not this soon" she said. "At the end of the three years, we wanted to have 12 employees and be doing about $100,00 in sales, but last year it was close to double that in sales". "Two years ago, a jersey that other athletic garment manufacturers sold for $8 or $9.00 was sold at Pederson's for $4 or $5.00, and Pederson's was producing better quality products. "We sere selling our quality stuff for the same price these other companies were selling their cheap stuff at," he said, noting that Pederson's has since raised their prices. In 1981, concerns about productivity in the companies old small quarters of the old bank building caused some issues, even despite removing an interior wall, Pederson's began looking for property to expand. In early 90's a large addition to the back of their personal residence rambler style home on Washburne drive - that hardly looked anything resembling a jersey company outwardly from the street - but within lied a space to cut, sew, assemble uniforms with many, many bolts of fabric among hand cut jersey patterns and sewing machines that became Pederson's new world headquarters.
In 1981, Pederson's made a large purchase of none other than a - computer. They decided to add this to the business to keep more complete records of production, and to predict production schedules for new accounts. "Now that we have a computer, we are going to use this as an additional source of income to market the computers services to other Paynesville businesses and local farmers so they too can organize their personal services using our computer". In 1980-1985, Pederson's landed contracts with the Minnesota Vikings to sell football jerseys at the H.H.H. Metrodome, and were looking for a similar arrangement
with the Minnesota Twins, and created game jerseys for Minnesota Gophers Hockey in early 1980's. Before the 1983 season, the Minnesota North Stars had the teams on-ice jerseys made by Pederson's - [which today to collectors are a unique, but also odd looking era of North Stars jerseys that featured a much wider front logo, an odd looking wide/fat back and arm numbers, that were nothing like the others in the history of the Minnesota North Stars]. "Sewing jerseys for a professional hockey team has it's benefits, we always know two to three days before the press knows who the new players are, because North Stars officials call Paynesville to order new jerseys with players names and numbers"- Don Pederson.
Prior to the start of the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey games in Sarajevo, the U.S. Olympic committee selected Pederson's to make the teams uniforms after their sales representative made a convincing pitch and showed them samples. This ruffled some feathers with "a Canadian jersey manufacturer [likely CCM] who at the time had the Olympic contract with the then unnamed Canadian company "challenged us to our right to produce them for the team, but we continued to supply the jerseys. I raised a little fuss, and I said wouldn't you want an American company making U.S. jerseys instead of a Canadian one?" Maurine said. Curiously, the team jersey photo though featured Cooper tagged jerseys, but their clearly was produced 1984 Olympic Pederson's tagged jerseys that for sure were worn in the pre-Olympic tour, and later sold with player autographs on each jersey [as shown].
"We never intended to do hockey [uniforms], which is strange because hockey is now our biggest line, it just kind of happened. Hockey was the one sport we weren't going to do because we originally didn't know anything about it" - Maurine Pederson
While visting their son in Mesa, Arizona on Valentines Day February 14, 2004, former local educator and businessman Donald Pederson sadly at the age of 76 passed away.
Following Don's passing, Maurine carried on with the Pederson's torch and renamed the company Maurines Inc. a division of Pederson's for many years. Maurine continued to run her company the last few years of her life through her loyal group of ladies that helped her cut, sew fabric for assembly for many years out of the 119 Washburne Drive, Paynesville residence, then assembled them out of their personal homes.
Maurine was moved from her rambler residence, into nearby Koronis Care Center, where years later - Maurine lost her battle on August 12, 2018 at age 87 and was layed to rest next to her husband Don where they are likely still creating jerseys together in heaven. Many Minnesota Wild NHL front office staff, including curator of history Roger Godin attended her celebration of life services in Paynesville to pay last respects to a small business owner, and a strong woman that outfitted so many in the State of Hockey.
Thanks for everything Maurine from us at VintageMNHockey - you are missed by us, and your loved puppy Prince. God bless you.
The William R. O’Connor Company was the outfit up one flight of steps to the Finch Building, northeast corner of Fifth and Wacouta streets, in downtown St. Paul. The steps were steeply pitched. Just inside the door, to the right, was the O’Connor Co., manufacturer of Norcon hockey sticks and equipment.
The memory of that stick - maybe one of the first to feature a curved blade, competed with the likes of other Minnesota made stick manufacturers: Northland, and Christian Brothers.
“When I saw that you mentioned Norcon, I couldn’t have been more surprised,” said Sheila O’Connor-Smith, Bill’s daughter. “Dad went from the Finch Building to what is now the Galtier Plaza Building and then out to Forest Lake,” Sheila said. “In Forest Lake, he set up a manufacturing plant. He sold all kinds of equipment, including the jerseys worn by the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, and several other local teams including the Minnesota Gophers - Bill was quite the self-made man”.
Bill O’Connor passed away following the Olympics in 1980. If only he knew today what the going value for one of his Norcon produced 1980 Miracle On Ice game-worn jerseys of $66,000+, which could be considered one of the most influential jerseys in the history of hockey, with inside and outside Norcon tagging. Herb Brooks always stayed true to his St. Paulite roots, and it was known that he was friends with Bill and demanded that the USA jerseys be produced by Norcon for his team. Bill O’Connor was from frog-town area of St. Paul, and had his first job at Kennedy Brothers Arms before starting Norcon.
Norcon was the combination of Bill O’Connor and his wife, Nora, and when he struck out on his own, Bill came up with Norcon. The O’Connors had three girls, Sheila in the middle. And Sheila and her husband, Wally, have four children - Wally (a former head hockey coach at St. Paul Academy), Elizabeth, Hart and Kiley, all of whom played hockey in St. Paul. They grew up in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood. “He went to Canada and bought the raw sticks,” Sheila said. “Well, I suppose he ordered them on buying trips and they were delivered to him downtown.” “This would have been in the 1950s when he formed his own company”, Sheila said “He took the sticks down to the basement, and that’s where he curved them,” Sheila said. “He never let me go down there, but the fire department came around every once in awhile and gave him a ticket.”
Probably a rudimentary steam box. It sounds like he was ahead of the times. He stamped the name on the shaft, configured different lies and had them all in a rack. Then later added tape, pucks, hockey gloves and a full-line catalog of Norcon equipment.
Source in part: Joe Soucheray: Art and the memory of hockey sticks in the ancient river town article.
INFO COMING SOON
Gemini started in 1994 upon a mere thought of owner and CEO Chris Bonvino about beginning an apparel business, after he declined to go to law school post being accepted, and graduating from college – Chris discussed with his wife about beginning an apparel company to initially create Starter style jackets that were popular of the era, warm-up suits, and cheerleader outfits. Gemini was born initially in Eden Prairie, MN in none-other than the closed Good Sports business location and was an Incorporated business in late 1994.
With a $2500 per month rent location, one embroidery machine, and only one employee to begin, Gemini at the time had hopes to someday get into hockey jersey manufacturing, as Chris himself – an Edina Hornet 1984 State Champion under history laden coach Willard Ikola, and he himself a former Minnesota Fighting Sioux football and hockey player – that hope soon came to reality under a man named Dean Blais (then Head Coach of Sioux Mens Hockey). After struggling to get off the ground with warm-up suits, “Blais changed the course of my life, and truly our company when he asked us to make a jersey for the Sioux in 1995”. Chris knew that of the era, larger companies CCM and others were using much, much heavier knit ultrafil materials for hockey jerseys, and he as a player could recall the heavy Edina East jerseys [before Edina split to become x1 school in 1982], and understood a player would want something more light-weight in game play, and something that would wick away sweat and water from the athlete. “Dazzle cloth at the time was being used predominately in football uniforms, but under the bright friday night lights, the sheen of dazzle had a nice look to it on the field, so why not on the ice”?
Chris knew that this would be popular in the hockey market – and it was!
Post creation of the first dazzle cloth jersey for North Dakota [1st ever geometric head Sioux logo jersey in school history], Geminis business took off, and really set Gemini apart from every other jersey manufacturer in the world, “I guess you can say we pioneered the dazzle cloth hockey jersey” said Chris. “We were so proud when [local high school hockey power-house in the mid 1990’s Bloomington Jefferson], Tom Saterdalen "Sats called us to make one of the dazzle cloth jerseys for the high school hockey team, becoming the 1st ever boys high school hockey teams that ordered from us”. With Gemini logo proudly embroidered onto the jerseys front that has become a trademark of all Gemini uniforms even today, in what Chris described “the logo was initially two guys with locked arms as a nod to the Twin Cities, I decided to later change that to the current G-A logo, as those guys looked like a couple of spoon heads”.
Following both North Dakota, and local Jaguars of Jefferson, Gemini received a call from Colorado College for programs 1st Gemini uniform, and fast forward to today, Gemini has done in some capacity either hockey jersey orders, track and warm-up suits for almost every college team in the country in some capacity, “we were lucky, when three consecutive years in a row in I believe Providence, Union, and Yale all won Championships in our jerseys, this made our product very noticed nationally, but we produce more DIII and high schools uniforms is really our businesses bread and butter”. – Chris
“We hang our hat on using some of the best non-imported materials as much as we can, and that everything is being produced here in the U.S. and Minnesota” – Bonvino. We have worked with so many great people over the years, amazing coaches, directors and my employees really are a large family to me. It was, and continues to be his work family that Chris takes a lot of pride in, and he and his staff all have similar values about giving back to others. “You know, as much fun as we have here on a daily business about being hockey guys working together, I have to say this story”, recalled Chris. "We had this loyal dedicated employee who was a skilled seamstress named Maria who was mostly Spanish speaking, but one day she showed up to work and was crying. Upon asking of Maria to what happened, she had lost her car”. Chris asked upon his staff and everyone from the top person in the company, to his laborers, and all pitched in for Maria so we could get her a car and she didn’t have to ride the bus.” It’s that same sentiment that Geminis culture is built upon, when in January of 2020 Gemini created donated jerseys for Waseca, MN police officer Arik Matson – who was shot in the line of duty while responding to a call of a suspicious person in quiet Waseca community. Gemini went to work creating jerseys with Matsons namebar on each player uniform, his badge # affixed to front, and logo reading WASECA Police with blue-line through Waseca that were due to be worn for remainder of season by both boy’s and girl’s teams, then auctioned off at season ending with all proceeds going to Matson family. After the MSHSL found out about these jerseys, they blocked them sadly from being worn in game play due to league rules [as quoted by league]:
" The Minnesota State High School League and Waseca Public Schools deeply appreciate the involvement of the Waseca community, its boys and girls hockey programs and other athletic programs in honoring and supporting Officer Matson and the Waseca Police Department. The MSHSL and Waseca High School administration have been in communication this past week in identifying ways in which appropriate recognition can be demonstrated. This includes following the National Federation of High Schools uniform rules and policies which limits the size of alterations to commemorate individuals or events within competition.
"Waseca also appreciates the support and creativity of Gemini Athletic in supplying commemorative jerseys for this important endeavor. The MSHSL will continue to work with all member schools and support them in ways to honor and commemorate individuals in their communities."
the jerseys were still proudly hung from the glass at each home game and still yet auctioned off supporting the schools D.A.R.E. officer that has done so much for the community. “The night we presented the jerseys to the community, over a 100 police officers were in attendance, and it was quite touching” – Bonvino
“Our staff and I have made some pretty cool jerseys over the years here, and some pretty terrible ones too” (laughing about it today). Hockey jersey collectors within the State of Hockey have heard of the infamous ‘Hankinson jersey’ that then employee, and Edina Hornet graduate/then Gophers hockey player Casey Hankinson mocked-up while working at Gemini to then Coach Doug Woog. Woog seemed to be ‘less than thrilled’ about them, but allowed them to be worn on a few occasions. Ryan Kraft also worked for me, and drew up the ‘Kraft numbers’ that were worn by local Holy Angels hockey team, and by future 1st round 1st overall draft pick Erik Johnson then with Angels, and were on the "terrible soccer jersey style uniforms also worn by University of Minnesota” recalled Chris. "We had fun, and those college hockey boys [Ryan Kraft, Casey Hankinson, and Peter Armbrust] got the work done for me, but played jokes on each other".
Fast forward to today, Gemini is proud to offer the pro-elite numbering system, which just as Gemini looked to do in 1994 with dazzle in making the uniform lighter weight - is doing the same today. “The jersey breathes better, and when the player bends down to take a face-off, they don’t feel the stacked twill [of the jersey numbers] on the players back, it bends better and really dries much, much quicker. Without giving away any trade secrets, we are using our proprietary materials with twill kiss-cut edges, but these jerseys can last up to 8, maybe even 10 years”. Recently, with COVID world-wide pandemic, “we have produced and shipped out over 100,000 masks after we re-tooled our machines to do so”, we figured it was a need in the world and I had the capability to make this happen”. – Chris
“I really went into this line of business because I recall pulling on my Edina jersey in the early 1980’s - and not feeling all that excited about it. I want each boy, and each girl to be proud to wear our uniform when they make the team. The tangible experience of pulling that school sweater over your head for the 1st time, that feeling of I made it, getting goosebumps, I want the athlete to be stoked and excited of THAT moment in their life, and if we achieve that, then we are doing [our uniforms] right” – Chris Bonvino
(Today Gemini is located at 7525 Washington Ave. South in Edina, located directly across highway 169 from history laden Braemar Ice Arena, and is a $2.5-3 million dollar a year business)
Special thanks to Owner/CEO Chris Bonvino for phone interivew with VMH for this page conducted on: 10-9-2020
In 1974, Hooter began as a pro shop that sold hockey related items in a Twin Cities Arena. Soon owner Dave Larson opened more pro shops, and from there the business grew to Hooter Sportswear – later renamed Tough Jersey began in Blaine, MN. Larson was looking for a line of sportswear that he could personalize, and for or a quality line that he could stand by and his customers would be proud to wear. What Dave found was that all the good brands were unavailable, and what was left wasn't of good quality
That's when Larson started laying the plans to begin manufacturing custom made apparel of the same quality of the big brands. “Today it sounds ridiculous, but back then I was too young to know any better, and I had just enough energy to make it work”. Since then we've created patterns for our own hockey jerseys, warm up jackets, warm up pants, pullovers and much more. We've had a chance to work with youth associations of all ages, college and high school teams from across the country. We've worked the pros and semi pros. We've worked with Americas Fortune 500 companies, and we've even had a part in major Hollywood motion pictures in locally shot: Mighty Ducks I, II and III films” – Dave Larson
[Hooter, producing not ALL of the on-camera jerseys as some were made by CCM, but the Hooter insignia with iconic Owl behind a large H was embroidered on the Blaine, MN produced jerseys for the three films].
“No matter what the order, we still build all of our apparel one at a time. It's all made to order with an unyielding commitment to quality. Our goal is to make the kind of products you would make, if you could do it yourself. Our Promise to you is to always provide you with a unique, functional product that you will be proud to wear for years to come”. – Dave Larson
Around 1993, Larson received some criticism regarding his long-time company name that came LONG before the Hooters restaurant. "Every time there is some adverse publicity about Hooters, I can expect harassing phone calls as well. Our corporate logo has always been an owl's head peering over the letter H. Even our customers are asking us whether we're going to change our name". "The answer is, well, we're NOT. We are proud of our company name". said Larson. As well as he should be. The 1974 started company, a custom manufacturer of hockey apparel, employed some 50 citizens and annually does more than $1 million in annual sales. The company has created both warmup jackets to the likes of the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Cloud State and numerous collegiate on-ice hockey jerseys, and it's jerseys were prominently featured in the Mighty Ducks series. The principal market for Hooter however is high schools, youth groups and corporations. In both 1995 and 1996, Hooter made hockey jersey history with what is thought to be in the hobby of jersey collecting, the 1st ever professional hockey league Turn-Back-The-Clock throwback hockey jersey for the IHL Minnesota Moose. The Minnesota Moose donned a white Fighting Saints throwback in 1995, and a blue away Saints throwback in 1996 - both games vs. the Houston Aeros, who also wore vintage uniforms for each contest (see game-worn jersey images below).
The name Hooter is not - repeat, NOT a smarmy reference to any part of the female anatomy, Larson said. Rather it's the result of his longtime fascination with owls and the decision he and his partner Rod Rockler made to adopt the bird as a unique, easily remembered corporate symbol they began in mid 1970's. Nevertheless, Larson isn't blaming Hooters the restaurant, "I've been to Hooters [at Mall of America], I had good food, good service, and an attractive waitress. I have nothing against them".
Fast forward to today, the website and insignia prominently displayed is Toughjersey.com, and only a few remnants of the original Hooter Sportswear owl and H logo remain on their on-line business platform - likely associated to the business calls to change the name for some 25+ years.
Since beginning business some 45+ years ago, Hooter/Tough Jersey has called the various communities home: Blaine, Little Falls, St. Paul and Oakdale.
After building his K1 Sportswear business from one sewing machine in a basement to the No. 1 hockey jersey manufacturer in the U.S.A., Cloquet's Marty Ketola has sold the business.
New owner and St. Paul native Tony Fisher said the base of operations will remain in Cloquet, along with the company’s other facility in Paynesville, MN, and a warehouse in Proctor, because he knows a good thing when he sees it. Ketola hands off a company that just had its best year ever, something Fisher points out is rare. “A lot of times businesses like this get sold when they’ve flatlined or need restructuring, but it’s actually quite the opposite,” Fisher said. “Marty is selling at a high point, and it’s a unique opportunity for someone like me to come in and focus on growth. This is not a business that’s struggling - the team knows that and I know that - it’s a business that just delivered a record year in both profitability and sales.”
Ketola said it was the right time for him to go, after nearly 30 years in the business (although he is staying on to help with the transition). Like Ketola, a hometown hockey legend who helped lead Cloquet to the state hockey tournament in 1982 and played four years for Colorado College, Fisher was a standout athlete in high school at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul and played baseball at the University of St. Thomas. He then played three years for the Texas Rangers organization before getting a job with Target Corporation.
Ketola was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins but said he went to camp after college and said he “only lasted a short time” before returning to Cloquet. That’s when Ketola got into the business of selling uniforms. He was playing softball and started selling softball jackets to local teams for a mom-and-pop operation out of Wisconsin. Then he hooked up with a company in Tamarack making practice hockey jerseys in a barn. Pretty soon, he had so much business coming in, the folks in Tamarack had a hard time filling orders. “I hired some retired ladies to make jackets; those were the first things we made under the K1 label,” Ketola said, revealing that the name was suggested by a fellow softball player during a post-game bar conversation.
In 1989, he hired Aune Lane to sew jackets and warm-up pants out of her basement in Proctor. The K1 style of putting the team name down the leg of the warm-up pants became very popular in Minnesota and was a No. 1 seller for years, Ketola said. As the business grew, next he hired Mary Krause from Superior and bought a company sewing machine. With help from his family and his wife, Lauri, Ketola managed the company at the same time he was working full-time for the Cloquet Fire Department; he would work a 24-hour shift there, then work the next day on K1 business. After four years of working two jobs, K1 was doing well enough that Ketola went full-time. He rented a building on Washington Avenue in Cloquet along with space on the second floor of the Masonic Lodge in West End Cloquet. “I had cutters and sewers upstairs there for one season,” he said. “My brother Corey and I hauled fabric upstairs.”
They quickly outgrew that space and next moved both parts of the business to a building in downtown Cloquet, a former hardware store which is now home to Cloquet Abstract and the Rudy Gassert Yetka & Pritchett law firm. K1 remained there for a number of years before Ketola purchased the former L&M building at 1309 Avenue C (behind Cloquet City Hall) when L&M moved to its current building along Highway 33 and Doddridge Avenue, 15 years ago or more, he guessed. “When we moved into this building, we had probably 30-35 workers,” Ketola said. “Now we have between 70 and 72.”
K1 also employs 15 people at a facility in Paynesville that Ketola purchased nine years ago when a company K1 had been sewing for went out of business [Koronis].
For a time, they also did screen printing and some sewing in Proctor. However, he moved the screen-printing business into the former dry-cleaning building next door when he purchased it several years ago and the Proctor building became primarily a warehouse.
Having a background in hockey has been helpful, he said. “We sell across the country so it’s very easy for me to go into a hockey shop or store and start talking hockey with people,” Ketola said. “The hockey world is a small world, and someone knows someone within a few minutes of talking. Understanding the uniforms is helpful. I’ve been around hockey since I was 7 years old.”
Both Ketola and Fisher were exceptional athletes in school. Both men also used that background in business - Ketola into manufacturing hockey apparel and Fisher in his job with the Target Corporation. “In my first job at Target in 1999, I was responsible for the licensed apparel business,” Fisher said, referring to licensed team jerseys, shirts, etc. sold by the Minnesota-based retailer. Over the next eight years, Fisher’s career with Target saw him tackle a number of different roles, but he came back to licensed apparel when the retail company was going to get rid of that part of the business. “I felt very strongly about it and I convinced them to let me take it on again,” he said. “They did. I put together a plan to help drive the business and we ended up doubling the business the first year. I think it tripled a few short years later. “I’ve always been passionate about sports apparel,” he added. Thus, when Fisher started thinking about what he’d like to do next, the timing was serendipitous. “Marty was looking to sell and I was looking to get into sole business ownership,” he said. The two men met through a mutual person who was helping Ketola sell the business, then Fisher spent the next several months doing lots of homework, before deciding that buying K1 was the right thing for him. “Everything I saw pointed to full speed ahead, this is a go,” he said. Nov. 16 was Fisher’s first day as the owners of K1 Sportswear, Inc. There were many reasons that it was a good move for him, Fisher said.
He was attracted by the idea of owning a sports apparel business and the license side of things, he said. He was impressed and happy with the company’s strong financial performance. And the team at K1 is “fantastic,” he added. Ketola agrees wholeheartedly. On a tour through the Cloquet facility, he repeatedly talked about how skillful the employees are. He stopped in a part of the building where several people were working on “cut and sew” hockey jerseys, which can have as many as 32 different pieces. DuAnne Sarvela was sewing a jersey for a Moundsville team. She’s been with K1 for 20+ years. “You could go across the U.S. and you’re not gonna find probably anyone who can sew a hockey jersey faster than DuAnne,” Ketola said. “We actually had a sewing contest a few years ago and DuAnne won the trophy. We had a big sew off.” DuAnne said it was only because someone made her mad - that got her going. “She’s lightning fast,” Ketola added. “Everyone back here has been here a long time. They’re expert sewers. I’d put them up against anyone.” There’s a lot less sewing to be done with the sublimated jerseys because stripes, for example, can simply be dyed into the fabric rather than cutting and sewing strips of different colored fabric. It’s faster and offers a lot more flexibility in terms of fabric designs. “That [sublimation] is the direction the company is going,” Ketola said. “It’s really exciting, I think. It’s hard to get out here at the peak because I know how good it’s going to continue to do, but it was just time for me, I guess.” While one printer is printing a girl’s lacrosse jersey design, a second sublimation printer is just printing a solid roll of green, which Ketola says is a special color green that the Dallas Stars want for an alumni game. K1 will dye a whole roll “Dallas green,” and then make the jerseys from there.
While Fisher wants to expand the company’s offerings - baseball jersey samples sit on a shelf in his office - he said he isn’t planning to do anything that’s really outside the company’s current mission. “People always ask me, what changes do you want to make?” Fisher said. “If I made any changes, the company would probably go downhill. The first priority is to continue to keep things moving as they are. We’re at the end of our peak busy season and the team has to stay focused on that.” He wants to continue to find ways to optimize productivity, he said, and focus on growth in the future. “I absolutely believe we have a tremendous amount of market share to pick up in our existing business of hockey, and I’m also very excited about the potential in sports like baseball and lacrosse.
I believe what we offer - cut and sew, screen printing and sublimation - can really be transferred to basically any sport. We have a very talented team that can do that … I know this team, the 70 people we have on board, from what I’ve seen and what Marty says, are the best people in the country [if not the world] at creating custom hockey jerseys.
“Lastly, I want to continue to focus on the team and growing the team. I did not buy this business with the intent of having it be status quo and flatlined for the next 20 years. I bought it to continue to take advantage of the growth of the K1 brand in Minnesota and the U.S. and I anticipate a continued need for new talent.”
Source in part: Pine Journal Article December 2, 2016
The story of Koronis Sports Apparel is not yet widely known, as we are unsure of the original ownership of the company located in western Minnesota Paynesville, MN - 2nd to that of Pederson's Inc. in the same town, but we are looking to speak with anyone involved with the relatively short lived company. What we do know is that Kononis was named after Koronis, MN Lake, where the population town of 2500 in Paynesville lies alongside of in western, MN. Koronis Apparel was born in 1990, and was located alongside the old Koronis bowling lanes, with printed busniness location of: 119 1/2 East James Street in Paynesville, MN. "We at Koronis Sports Apparel Inc. have been producing quality sports apparel since 1990. It was likely this quality that appealed to collegiate programs across the country, and local team alike when the University of Minnesota Bulldogs had their on ice jerseys created by Koronis on Paynesville.
"In that short period of time, we have become one of the elite custom manufacturers in the country. With our specialization in hockey, we provide many retail stores across the US with collegiate licensed hockey jerseys. In addition we produce on-ice jerseys for many of the top teams in all ranks of college hockey. Our product lines do not stop at hockey. We at Koronis can produce any type of clothing from wind suits to baseball and basketball uniforms for our customers. We also offer state of the art computer graphic design for logos, as well as custom digitization for embroidery all in-house". - old Koronis website quote
Koronis by many hockey fans and jersey aficionados are widely remembered for producing some of the higher quality mid 1990's sewn re-production jerseys for the University of Minnesota Gophers and Bulldogs featuring tackle-twill sewn on embroidered logos and numbers - that of the era, were of any other jersey manufacturers licensed jerseys available on the market, and were closer to that of the official on-ice jerseys, especially at a time when NCAA teams were not selling their game-worn jerseys, or anything resembling that of what was worn by the team on-ice to the keen fan. We today at VMH are also unsure what officially caused the demise of Koronis, and if they had any affiliation with the 1st Paynesville jersey company in Pederson's in any way? What we do know is that around 2005-07, Maurine told us in person "I purchased quite a bit of liquidation of his, namely HIS, jersey materials fabric that he had left in inventory, and Marty at K1 (then owner at K1 in Cloquet) also purchased some of his inventory.
**If you were the original owner or an employee at Koronis, and read this page/know more about the companies origin and demise, please contact us**
Nor-tex sportswear was formerly located within White Earth Indian Reservation in Mahnomen, MN. Beginning in the fall of 1982 in an abandoned farm, Nor-tex quickly grew to 30+ employees in the companies first year. Most of the employees were residents of the White Earth Reservation, a vast 1,296-square-mile expanse of timber and prairie, some 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis. “We’re all glad of it, we need the jobs here. A lot of people have had to move to the Twin Cities to get jobs,” said Nona Townsend, a former production supervisor who worked at the factory since it opened. Mahnomen County at the time had the lowest per capita income in the state, “so every bit helps, we’re making a difference here, there’s no doubt about it. We’re the largest private employer in the county, and being that it is a tribal business, I try to exercise as much preference for American Indians that I can, but I will hire other when necessary”. – Bill Osborn, Manager of the White Earth Garment Company Inc.
Under the Nor-tex label, the factory produced sweat suits, hockey and softball uniforms, nylon jackets and other sportswear. The garments are sold to sporting good stores throughout Minnesota, North & South Dakota’s, Iowa and Wisconsin. The companies Lintex division sold hospital and nursing home supplies such as bibs, gowns and pillow cases all over the country. “We are quite pleased with the remarkable success in the short time we have been in operation, we expect to do over $1 million in business next year, the factories payroll is about $250,000 a year” – Osborne.
The company got a boost last fall when it received a two-year $130,000 grant from the Northwest Area Foundation to train Indian employees to move up to management positions. The foundation provides grants to economic development and community revitalization in eight states.
The factory was a popular place to work, and operated on a four-day, 10 hour a day work week schedule that was popular with the employees. The key word in this sentence is – was. Upon researching the history of this company, that did so much for the White Earth Indian community, we are unsure as to what happened to this proud jersey company?
**If you were the original owner or an employee at Nor-tex, and read this page/know more about the companies origin and demise, please contact us**