By Tess Goldblatt
A customer zips in and out of Tidewater Team Sports, but the Oyster Point location is not a retail space. A package of printed shirts waits in a chair in the front so the customer can dash in for it. Busy print shop workers toward the back wave at folks at the front door. The hum of embroidery machines, skillfully juggled by staff member Vernice Richardson, gives the brightly lit shop a busy feel. Friendly exchanges flow among customers, employees and co-owners Dave Chubb and Terri MacNamara.
Staff member Jim Gipson says of his work environment that they care about the product, quality and price for their customers and “we care about each other. We are a production shop so we always look for ways to make the process easier on each of us at each step.” The shop members will show Chubb and MacNamara the first garment that is checked and double-checked for quality and accuracy to the work order.
“My most memorable decision was not to do retail. We were about 10 years ahead of the curve, and now many other businesses like ours follow our format,” says Chubb. MacNamara adds, “They mimic our team sales force.”
Not all customers drop in and grab their screen printed T-shirts or embroidered hats. Chubb recalls with a smile another memorable moment. A middle school administrative person called to say the school had not received all their boxes. Missing were 150 shirts, “so we re-printed and delivered two boxes of shirts at no charge,” Chubb says. “The customer is always right, and we always make it right. Maybe four months later, the athletic director himself called to say they found those two boxes of shirts shoved in a closet. He asked us to send them the invoice. Integrity is key. If we get double-paid, we let the customer know. We pride ourselves on under-promising and then over-delivering — and it always comes back to you.”
“We will tell a customer when they have a better deal than we can offer them. They know we’re not just going to take their money. And then they come back to us because we were honest with them,” MacNamara says.
MacNamara reminisces about the $584 tax refund she had available to open the company’s first bank account in 2002. She and Chubb were surprised that a bank loan came through. Then a location came through. They realized it looked like they had a business to build. Today, they have customers all over the state and eastern seaboard. Business employees and sports teams throughout Hampton Roads wear shirts and hats made by Tidewater Team Sports.
Chubb struggles to come up with the hardest order they ever had to fill, but he says, “These days with everyone having computers and access to graphics, everyone thinks they are graphic artists… yet they have no clue what it takes to set up a screen print. Customers don’t understand the difference between sign printing and cloth printing, but they have a seven-color design and want it tomorrow.”
Chubb knows the difference. He started his first shirt business when he was 14 years old, using handmade equipment and air-dry ink. He always had older friends who encouraged his entrepreneurial spirit. “In fact, I had lunch today with a friend who is now 90 years old,” Chubb says.
In his off time, Chubb loves to scuba dive. His wife Carol is a travel agent. His favorite dive is at the Caribbean island of Utila, where one can even walk off shore to dive.
For her free time, MacNamara pauses and thinks. She parents a college junior and runs a busy business. “Yard work maybe?” Then she realizes, of course, “Rest!”
TO THE POINT:
Tidewater Team Sports
Address: 11839 B Canon Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: David Chubb and Terri MacNamara, co-owners
Business: Screen-printing; embroidery; equipment