By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
The new year is upon us, and Athens Athletics is getting ready to start its 19th year with hardly a breather, even after having endured the pandemic as well as training a new crew prior to the Christmas rush. For the last several months, owner Randy McKinney has practically lived at the shop, and soon will be preparing for the spring and summer sports seasons. In addition, they will be providing shirts, caps, and merchandise for new businesses that are flooding North Alabama.
Athens Athletics, located at 701 US-31 S in Athens, was started after Randy had worked at Steelcase for two decades. He had always longed to own his own business, put himself through a crash course on how to ply his new trade, and the last near twenty years have literally flown by as he has served the people of Athens-Limestone County.
Upon entering Athens Athletics, you will quickly see that Randy especially 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 about 10 that are still on their “to-visit” list, and his favorites so far have been Wrigley Stadium and Fenway Park.
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. Recently Target ordered 2,000 shirts, and their quality and service stay the same whether it’s one shirt, or 2,000 and one! Randy is a long-time 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 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. 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.
Another custom personalization 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 Valentine’s Day 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.
Getting through COVID was a challenge for Randy and his crew, as it also was for the rest of the businesses in our area. Randy had to get really good at attending Zoom meetings while steering the shop through unchartered waters. One of the things that turned out to be a blessing for Athens Athletics during that time 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 in 2022 to let them serve YOU!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner