By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Athens Athletics, located at 701 US-31 S in Athens, was started after Randy McKinney had worked at Steelcase for two decades. He had always longed to own his own business, and strongly considered going into construction or just sporting goods. Instead, Randy put himself through a crash course on how to produce T-shirts, and it was a brutal learning curve. However, he prevailed, the shop has thrived, and the last twenty years have literally flown by as he has served the people of Athens-Limestone County. The official opening of Athens Athletics was June 1, 2003, and the shop has been “pedal to the metal” ever since.
For their 20th anniversary, Athens Athletics is going to have a customer appreciation day that will feature food, fun, fellowship and a free T-shirt. The “big doin’s” are going to be on Friday, July 21, and you are invited.
When you come into the shop, you’ll readily see that Randy loves baseball. There are old posters of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth on the walls, and one of the things Randy enjoys doing when he actually gets a well-deserved break is travel to baseball stadiums all over the country. He and his family are down to under 10 that are still on their “to-visit” list, and his favorites so far have been Wrigley Stadium and Fenway Park. Randy spent several years on local teams playing slow pitch, and his three sons love the sport as well. He also enjoys the beaches of Alabama because that is where he can just “chill and not do nothin.’”
Athens Athletics specializes in several types of sporting goods and T-shirts. They are well-known for their timeliness as well as quality, and can produce shirts that have up to six colors, which (thankfully) rarely happens. He is able to do one shirt clear up to thousands, and I know for a fact that he has also graciously come to the rescue of others that are technically competitors when there have been equipment issues.
Randy is a longtime member of the Limestone Leaders Business Network International chapter, and has given several presentations explaining how he does what he does. I have taken more than one tour of his shop, and am impressed with the care he puts into everything he and his team create. I have also heard several testimonies of how he came to the rescue of people who have been given a deadline for “custom merch” that seemed impossible. For over ten years, Athens Athletics has been one of my favorite Athens Now clients, and I am personally looking forward to ten more!
While T-shirts for everything from teams, businesses, causes, or family reunions are the mainstay of Athens Athletics, they offer several other services as well. One of their most popular is custom embroidery. Randy showed me the computer-driven machine that produces and embroiders the logos for shirts, jackets, hats, and more, and he has made several custom hats for my husband. Randy especially loves doing the embroidery, but doesn’t get to do it as much as he would like because of the demands of producing T-shirts. The shop also has an engraving machine that can do wood, metal YETI-style cups, and plastic. You can see a local example of the wood laser-craft work on the wall of Frame Gallery Off The Square on Marion Street, and they can engrave all manner of trophies which can be seen throughout the shop. “If it can be decorated, we’ll decorate it,” he says.
Another custom personalized product offered by Athens Athletics is what is called sublimation. An example of sublimation is a shiny front license plate with names, dates, and hearts, which would make a great anniversary gift. Sublimated items are created by a heat process where the design materials actually go into the metal and bond with it. The result makes the colors bright for years, and they stay free of rust and corrosion.
One of the things that turned out to be a blessing for Athens Athletics during COVID was the fact that they are a U-Haul rental franchise, (which early in 2020 was deemed an “essential business”) so they didn’t have to shut down. I can tell you that we have used their U-Haul services to go pick up people and their stuff more than once, and they have always treated us like VIPs.
I asked Randy why I should come to Athens Athletics for all my U-Haul, T-shirt, embroidery, sporting goods, laser and sublimation needs. His answer was simple: “We have always tried to make the customer number one, and we want people to leave here satisfied.” I can say from experience that this is what they do, and I invite you to come and celebrate twenty years with them on Friday, July 21!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner