When Kansas City firefighter Joe Eddings and his wife Dawn decided to get into the screen printing business back in 2011, the basement of their home was the perfect place to start. No rent to speak of, a single screen printing machine, and the opportunity to make some additional money for their growing family.
Now, 12 years, three moves and over 10- million printing impressions later, the team at E2 Embroidery and Screen Printing is gearing up for the home team on their biggest print gig to date, printing over 11,500 Super Bowl T-shirts if the Kansas City Chiefs win this coming Sunday.
“It was all hands on deck last Sunday after the AFC Championship game,” said Dawn, standing in front of one of the nine pallets of Super Bowl shirt blanks. “We came down immediately after the game and worked 16 hours straight to get 9,000 shirts printed and out the door, and up to the distribution center by the airport.”
From there, they go to sports merchandise retailers such as Dick’s, Academy Sports and Rally House locations all over the Midwest.
And that Super Bowl call? Eddings said it was just a random, over the transom call.
“Someone called and asked if we had the capacity and I said yes,” Dawn said. “The next thing we knew, pallets of shirt-blanks started arriving for the AFC game and we were off and running.”
While it might sound random, printing, stickering and tagging shirts for the National Football League is an exacting process that’s closely monitored by the team at E2, the distribution company and the league itself. Each shirt is tagged with an official label, then an official NFL hologram is affixed to each piece before it’s folded, boxed and palletized for shipment.
“I don’t have a lot of respect for the pop-ups on the street corner that sell bootleg merch,” Dawn said. “We do it right, that’s not the kind of business we want to be known for.”
For the Eddings, it’s a family affair. Dawn does the admin side of the house while husband Joe, now retired after 27 years with the fire department, handles most of the operational duties in the back of the house. Both daughters, Bri and Lexi, are part of the team and even grandson Grayson gets into the business on A-shift days when his father is on duty at the fire station.
“He’s the big boss,” said Dawn. “When it’s his lunch time, it’s his lunch time and that’s it.”
For both Joe and Dawn, community is at the heart of their business. Joe grew up in Northeast, right down Scarritt Avenue from Indian Mound, and Dawn is a Columbus Park native, growing up right down from Gillis Sundries, now Happy Gillis Café. Both attended parochial school in the neighborhood, Joe going to Holy Cross and Dawn being one of the last classes to go through St. John’s on the Avenue before heading to St. Pius X High School.
“We both had such great experiences in the old neighborhood,” Dawn said. “Joe’s folks still live in the family house on Scarritt and they love it.”
At the onset of COVID, even before anyone knew who needed what, Dawn organized the Firefighters Auxiliary to hand sew masks for the fire department.
“I was president of the Auxiliary then, and we just started sewing masks so the firefighters at least had something for protection,” Dawn said.
In just a week, firefighters and EMS personnel had over 2,000, hand-sewn masks delivered to their stations.
The business grew rapidly from their basement, moving to a 1,500-square-foot storefront on North Oak Trafficway in 2012. After outgrowing that, they found a larger spot in the Executive Park area of the East Bottoms in 2013. More business means more space and another move in 2015 to a larger space in the same complex was made. Even during the pandemic, business grew exponentially, and in 2020, the family business moved into a 10,000-square-foot space across the street.
“We can do roughly 4,000 shirts on a daily basis,” Eddings said. “As a Union print shop, we do all the contract work for fire, police and some other departments, but we can do political campaigns and smaller jobs, too.”
E2 also has a small retail area in their lobby selling all sorts of branded merchandise such as hats, stickers and the now famous, “Burrowhead my ass” t-shirts, along with fire, police and custom branded Kansas City wear.
This weekend – if the Chiefs win on Sunday – the Eddings and their team of 14 will burn the midnight oil to provide Kansas City Chiefs fans Super Bowl championship t-shirts as soon as the morning after the big win.
“If the Eagles win, we stay home,” Dawn said. “If the Chiefs win, it’s game on and we’re here until we run out of shirts!”
Then there’s the parade.
But for the Eddings family and their team, it’s just another day at the shop.