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Making T-shirts in his basement led to small business for 2014 OSU alum

Credit: Sallee Ann Ruibal

Chad Campagna inside the business he co-owns with OSU alumnus Austin Pence.
Credit: Sallee Ann Ruibal / Lantern reporter

The same year Chad Campagna was born, his dad, John, bought Cold Duck Screen Printing in East Palestine, Ohio. Chad said his dad would go to work at 6 a.m., come home, sleep in a chair for three hours, get up, go to bed and then go to work again.

No one in town knew how Cold Duck got its name, but they knew that it was the place to get T-shirts printed.

Now Chad and childhood friend Austin Pence, co-founders of Pop’s Printed Apparel, want to make their shop the place to go for local printing needs.

“We’re excited to go out and be the community’s T-shirt printers,” Pence said. “We want to bring that hometown hospitality here.”

Pop’s, located at 1758 N. High St., opened in mid-January. The shop is located on the second floor with the printing taking place on the first. All the presses were previously used at Cold Duck.

Campagna graduated from Youngstown State University in December with a degree in graphic design. Pence graduated from OSU this past spring with a business degree.

Pence also has experience from making T-shirts in his basement throughout college. One of his roommates still sometimes helps him print shirts at Pop’s.

An advantage of getting a shirt design printed through Pop’s, instead of online sites like Custom Ink, is the ability to sit down and discuss a design in person with a designer as opposed to email feedback with a website. Every design is custom-made for Pop’s customers.

“We take the guesswork off the table,” Pence said. “We show you, ‘This is what you’re going to get,’ and if you want something changed a little bit, we’ll do that. We don’t get offended very easily.”

In the shop, every garment is available in every size they offer for customers to try on and decide which material and size works best for them.

“When you go online,” Pence said, “you don’t get to feel the material, so it could be that really heavy, scratchy, uncomfortable material, which sometimes if you’re trying to cut costs, it’s fine. But a lot of people don’t want that.”

Campagna added that “spending $12 on a shirt you like is better than spending $8 on a shirt you don’t.”

Pop’s has a program called “Pay to Pop’s,” where if a customer is placing a large group order, the design can be put on the store’s website so members of the group can order it there as with any other website.

“It relieves everybody of the stress of collecting orders,” Pence said. “It all goes in the group order and we deliver them all at once. If you’re doing something with alumni … they can go online and they can still order without having to ship money to someone … and we’ll ship it out to them.”

Campagna and Pence said their prices are competitive with other local businesses and are aware of college budgets.

“I never had money,” Pence said. “I was trying to sell T-shirts to make money.”

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