January 24, 2007 in Business

Fashion’s cutting edge

By The Spokesman-Review
Christopher Anderson photo

Ariahnna McCall-Smith keeps a computerized embroidery machine loaded and busy last week at Kimmel Athletic while making merchandise for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
(Full-size photo)

Where to buy

Official skating merchandise is available at three locations: The FanFest area of the Spokane Convention Center, free and open to the public; the Spokane Arena, ticket holders only; and the Spokane International Airport, with shops in both public and secured areas.

Countless television viewers could get a glimpse of Ariahnna McCall-Smith’s handiwork this week and she’s on pins and needles about it.

She’s among 10 women who’ve been working overtime at the local Kimmel Athletic Supply Co. For weeks, they’ve been running computerized sewing machines, stitching logos on official apparel for figure skaters, officials, television journalists, attending physicians and fans of the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in town through Jan. 28.

Three television outlets will air 17 hours of skating events. Chances are good ABC, ESPN and KXLY sportscasters, Group Health physicians or others sporting the sewn–in-Spokane logo will get split-second cameos.

The signature logo uses 15,000 stitches and 14 thread colors to depict the Monroe Street Bridge, the Spokane River and the championship’s formal name, year and host city.

“We’re going to see these on TV on the network crew,” predicted McCall-Smith, clamping an embroidery hoop to a vest. “It’s really cool.”

Kimmel beat out numerous area competitors and two national suppliers for the right to embellish apparel and gifts with the Spokane-centric figure skating logo. They’ve turned out everything from T-shirts to parkas, jackets, vests, leather coats and nylon totes, retailing for between $10 and $250.

“We chose Kimmel because they’re battle-tested,” quipped Toby Steward of Star USA, the local company organizing the championships. “They did Skate America (merchandise) for us in 2002.”

Frank Dalke, a commercial salesman for Kimmel, said the job has seamstresses hopping.

“January is usually our slowest month, but this job’s increased our commercial business by about 40 to 50 percent,” Dalke said. The staff has “worked their hands off and they’re ready to kill me.”

Tuesday morning, fans of the junior ice dancing event eyed the trademarked clothing in the Spokane Convention Center’s free FanFest area.

“I’ve gone to some of these things and they have really ugly stuff. But we like this merchandise,” said Lois Lugg of Bremerton, who’d already purchased a blue fleece vest.

Her friend, Pam Odam, debated between a powder blue woman’s ski parka and a vest like Lugg’s. “We went to Portland (site of the 2004event) and didn’t buy a thing. I think these are much prettier.”

Star USA hired Spokane’s Megan Freehan to oversee the skating-related merchandise. She had already worked for years as marketing and sponsorship manager for the city’s annual Hoopfest basketball tournament.

On Tuesday, Megan’s mom, Carole Freehan, volunteered in the FanFest store. She said merchandise is selling well. The skaters are snapping up sleek, black jackets with logos on one sleeve. “It’s fitted and it looks really nice on them,” she said.

If there are runs on clothing, Kimmel seamstresses are standing by this week to whip up more goods, said Dalke.

If duds aren’t your deal, check out the posters, pins, stuffed animals, coffee tumblers and programs.

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