A one-stop embroidery shop for cops and other Collier workers
By: Liz Freeman
Published by: Naples Daily News – March 14, 2015
Photo Credit: Scott McIntyre
Video Credit: Liz Freeman
NAPLES, Fla. – Wear a uniform?
Sew Shore is so sure it can outfit you.
Since 1986, the year the locally owned uniform and embroidery business opened in Naples, it has been the go-to place for many who must dress a certain way on the job in Collier County.
Walk in the store at 3845 Beck Blvd., in East Naples and racks of law enforcement shirts in black or white with big letters saying “sheriff” jump out at an unsuspecting browser. Forget those thoughts about next year’s Halloween costume.
Store owner Steve Sherman, a former Aspen, Colorado, police office, and his sales manager, Jason Marshall, aren’t selling law enforcement apparel to average Joe’s.
“We say, ‘If you have an ID,’” Sherman said.
Law enforcement personnel must show their agency identification to buy gear stocked for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Naples Police or Marco Police Department. The store also outfits Collier County EMS, the Naples Airport Authority and state agencies like the Florida Marine Patrol.
Another room is a maze of color where the selection of scrubs for nurses and health-care workers seems endless, from solids to patterns.
“We see a lot of regulars,” Marshall said. “All of these people get a discount. Our clients, they are crazy loyal.”
For years, Sew Shore supplied employees with the NCH Healthcare System but the hospital system went out to bid out last summer. NCH contracted with an out-of-state uniform company for the two sets of scrubs it provides employees, Marshall said.
There are no hard feelings because NCH employees who want extra uniforms can still buy at Sew Shore, Marshall said. The business also caters to Physicians Regional Healthcare System and other medical groups, he said.
“We stock the store like we won the bid,” he said. “We offer payroll deduction, which is huge. That makes it a lot easier for people.”
The location at Beck near Tollgate Boulevard, just south of Interstate 75, is convenient for workers who live in Golden Gate or elsewhere in eastern Collier, Sherman said.
The uniform industry is huge nationally with both rental and sales. A half a dozen major companies dominate the U.S. market, which are ARAMARK, Cintas, G & K Services and UniFirst in the United States, according to Hoovers industry reports.
What’s making work wear more competitive are a combination of fabric advancements and designer style features, according to a 2013 market analyst report by Frost & Sullivan. Uniform revenue in the U.S. was around $9 billion three years ago and is expected to surpass $10 billion in 2017, according to Frost & Sullivan.
In Sew Shore, popular uniform makers are Grey’s Anatomy and Koi, Marshall said. A higher-end shirt can run $25 to $30, but someone also can get into a top and undershirt for $40 with a discount, Marshall said.
Germ-resistant fabric used by Cherokee in its Infinity and Code Happy uniform product lines are gaining traction. Bodily fluids like vomit or blood bead up and rolls off the uniform, he said.
“These aren’t your throw away scrubs anymore,” he said.
FROM ASPEN TO NAPLES
Sherman, 60, was a police officer in Aspen, Colorado, in the mid 1980s and earlier in Washington, D.C. In Aspen, he was given the job of taking care of the department’s uniforms. That’s when he was introduced to an embroidery machine.
“I had absolutely fallen in love with one of the embroidery machines,” he said. The sound of the machinery captivated him.
“I call it embroidery hypnosis,” he said.
He realized he had found his calling and set out to open an embroidery factory. Market research directed him to Naples.
“It was time to have a grown-up job,” Sherman said, adding that the name of the business happened when he told someone he was “so sure” Naples was the place for him and his family.
“We had to stick with it,” he said.
He first opened the uniform and embroidery business in the former Grand Central Station near downtown Naples, which no longer exists, and later moved to a storefront off U.S. 41 East and moved a few years ago to the current location.
Today he’s got 15 to 18 employees, including some part-time high school students. Sherman is active locally with Kiwanis International and Bikes for Tykes as his way of giving back to the community that has been good to him.
One recent morning, Collier County Sheriff Cpl. Mike Nelson popped in to pick up a couple of shirt stays that help dress uniform shirts stay tucked in and looking professional.
“These guys are awesome,” Nelson said. “They have been supporting us (the sheriff’s office) for 15 years.”
Sheriff spokeswoman Michelle Batten said the department has been doing business with Sew Shore since 1996.
“We use Sew Shore for embroidery, alterations, silk-screening, affixing patches and to purchase uniform accessories such as collar extenders,” Batten said. “We currently do not have contracts or agreements with them. Recently, they have lowered their prices on some uniform apparel so we have been purchasing some polo shirts and pants.”
Marshall has been expanding the retail side of the business while Sherman oversees the embroidery and printing, which includes special orders for events.
Sherman said he created a monster with the embroidery business and getting special orders done quickly. Embroidered giveaways with company logos always seem to come in at the last minute.
“If they give us 10 days, we can do anything,” he said.