Our Story

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Lakeshirts is a wholesale supplier of custom-designed apparel located in the heart of lakes country. We are proud to call Detroit Lakes, MN our home where we grew up spending summers on the water and winters at Detroit Mountain. Our customers are our friends; we collaborate with them to develop great products creating relationships that last a life time. You’ll find our garments at resorts and gift shops across the country. If your favorite t-shirt was purchased while you were on vacation, chances are, it’s one of ours.

The Lakeshirts story starts more than 30 years ago when two childhood friends, Mark Fritz and Mike Hutchinson, started printing shirts in Mark’s parents’ basement to sell on Detroit Lakes mile long beach. At that time, the company consisted of two teenagers, a couple dogs, a homemade plywood printer, two secondhand kitchen ovens, and cookie sheets for curing the ink. The product line included a handful of screen-print designs that were sold at the small beach store and custom artwork for local resorts, restaurants and businesses. We didn’t have many rules back then other than no beer until after 8 pm, no Frank Zappa while customers were around and lastly, no leaving until the orders were out the door.

We have a few more rules now, but we’re still focused on wowing our customers. Today, Lakeshirts has grown to over 350 team members, 6 dogs, one super hero and more than 10,000 satisfied customers. What started in that basement next to the lake has grown to a 275,000 square foot production and warehouse facility. The single plywood printer has been replaced by 31 automatic screen print presses, 26 multi-head embroidery machines, six 60-foot laser appliqué bridges, three sublimation presses and a digital direct-to-garment press.

After 32 years of business, our goal is to be an exceptional company. Exceptional companies are very rare. There are thousands of good companies, but very few exceptional ones. We strive to exceed not only our customers’ expectations, but bring value to all our stakeholders - customers, employees, vendors, owners, and the community we call home.

milestones

1984

It all begins In Mark's parents' basement

1989

First building constructed at 840 Randolph Road

1991

Teamed up with Terl Lynne Nelson and Paul Brenden to distribute shirts to multiple states

1994

New building constructed at 750 Randolph Road

1996

Added first addition & Doghouse Dyeworks, Inc.

1999

Second addition completed (90,000 sq. ft. total)

2000

Expansion of Doghouse Dyeworks, Including a new 16,000 sq. ft. warehouse

2004

Lakeshlrts 20th Birthday

2006

Step Ahead Sportswear (now Blue 84 College) Introduced to collegiate market

2007

Third addition completed (200,000 sq. ft. total)

2009

Blue 84 Spirit Introduced to community and high school markets

2013

72,000 square foot expansion complete

2014

Lakeshirts 30th Birthday

2015

Office remodel underway

Our Lakeshirts team knows a thing or two about designing and manufacturing excellent custom-designed apparel.

You Gotta Have Great Art

We are passionate about great art! It’s what excites us. Working collaboratively with our customers and 30 plus artists makes us happy. We strive to continually stay on-trend, creating over 10,000 new designs each year. Our techniques include sublimation, rhinestones, foil, shimmer, glitter, moondust, water-based discharge printing and pretty much everything else under the Minnesota sun. Whew!

We’re the Color Company

We own our very own private dye plant, dyeing more than 70 different colors and over 2 million garments a year. Because of this we are reactive, adding colors mid season and keeping you in stock with the latest trending colors. All the dyes used in our dye house are earth friendly and certified organic based.

Ordinary Garments Won’t Do

Everyone has a favorite shirt. We are focused on building the best, most comfortable garments on the planet. We seek out trends in the marketplace, continually bringing in new looks. In fact, we introduce over 30 new garment styles every year, keeping our line of 100+ body styles fresh and exciting.

Made in the USA

We remain firmly committed to high quality products Made in the USA, despite a growing trend in the industry towards imported garments.  Though we do work with partners overseas, a large portion of our products are still produced domestically.  In fact, we source around 2 million garments per year in the USA!  Helping to keep machines humming in 8 other factories which provide close to 500 jobs for hard working Americans is pretty exciting!

Fast & Reliable Delivery since Day 1

Since the early days when we turned Gertie’s orders in three hours, we realized fast turn times were important. As a result, we’ve created a world-class production facility like no other. In order to serve our customers better and remain quick and nimble, production runs 20 hours a day with the capacity to ship up to 40,000 units a day. We are committed to turning orders quickly! With a 70,000 square foot warehouse packed full of inventory, we can keep you in stock. 60% of our designs are available for “quick ship”, produced and shipped in less than 24 hours. We know that fast, reliable delivery equals happy customers. And that makes us happy.

Teamwork is Everything

Our customers make us strive for excellence, be creative, and allow us to make a living doing what we love. Exceeding their expectations motivates us every day. In order to succeed, a strong team is key. We have been focused for over 30 years on building a team of individuals that are committed to continuous improvement and making our customers experience better. We believe in open book management and are pleased to offer profit share to our employees. Families are important to us and our employees, which is why we encourage employees to take the time to attend family events and school functions. This helps create a stronger team.

Community – Giving Back – That’s Where it’s At

We feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to build a company in the community we grew up in. We believe it is our responsibility to be leaders in our community by giving back and making a difference. It’s common to see our involvement in the form of monetary sponsorships and donations, apparel, and employee participation. By doing so, we help create a better place to be.