Fred “Pappy” Vineyard, daughter Misty Denman and granddaughter Faith are familiar faces for customers at the family-owned and -operated Pappy's Custom Ts.
The sign still reads “Custom Choppers” at 244 East Main Street in Downtown Kingsport where store owner Fred “Pappy” Vineyard successfully reinvented a motorcycle shop into a screen-printing business 35 years ago.
Pappy kept the sign in homage to the building's 'hog' roots along with some related styles of clothing and other small merchandise he and daughter, Misty Denman, sell at Pappy's Custom Ts.
“We started out in 1973 as a motorcycle shop selling motorcycle accessories: parts and jackets, coats and all that stuff like that,” Pappy explained.
The idea to create a screen-printing company came five years later when Pappy and crew began custom making their own shirts for the motorcycle shop to reduce overhead costs. Once this became public knowledge, fellow business patrons asked,“Could you make shirts for us?” Pappy saw the opportunity to embark on a new artistic venture, so he permanently resigned from his position as motorcycle shop keep.
Pappy's Custom Ts began screen printing shirts for other businesses in the late 70s, Pappy said with a smile. “And we're still doing them today.” Products of Pappy's seasoned printing skills can be seen on the backs of local church goers, restaurant servers, cancer awareness race teams, motorcycle clubs and film crews to name a few.
The longtime custom service company offers direct screen printing on items like T-shirts, bandanas, hoodies, aprons and much more. “Pretty much whatever will lay flat on the machine, we can screen print on,” Denman assured. Prices start at $6.05 for one print and one color, but up to six colors can be used in a design. There is a minimum of 24 items per print order and a two-week turnover rate (or less) depending on the complexity of the artwork.
Pappy and Denman are working toward making Pappy's Custom Ts solely a screen printing enterprise. The store is presently hosting an “inventory reduction” sale on articles like leathers, T-shirts, and hats. There is 25 percent off selected items and reduced prices as low as $1 on others.
In every sense of the phrase, Pappy's Custom Ts has been a 'family owned and operated' establishment since the beginning.
“Misty's been in here ever since she was born,” Pappy said of his daughter.
Denman nodded in agreement, adding, “My mom worked here and I came here instead of daycare.”
Now married and working full-time at her dad's store, Denman can be found at Pappy's Custom Ts on any given day, often with her own 2-year-old daughter, Faith, who Denman said likes to help customers in their purchase decisions.
Looking back, Pappy said many neighboring companies have come and gone since he first set up shop on Main Street. However, he and Denman agreed that they have experienced more walk-in customers with the recent resurgence downtown and hope many more long-term businesses like theirs move into the area in the future.
“We want to see more people shopping downtown,” Pappy said. “Every time a business goes in, it helps everybody else down here too.”
Pappy's Custom Ts is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. For more information, visit them on Facebook or call 423-817-5555 for an appointment.