Family Threads: Ozark, MO kids’ apparel manufacturer maintains workforce as pandemic cuts into sales and alters product line

February 22, 2021 – Springfield Business Journal – With 35 years as a local family-run and operated company making collegiate licensed apparel for children, Third Street Sportswear Manufacturing Inc. is used to stability.

That position was shaken last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the Ozark, MO-based company owned by husband and wife Brad and Julie Thomas and their daughters turned its attention heavily toward face-mask production.

The pivot to make double cotton-woven face masks was born out of necessity, as stay-at-home orders forced college bookstores – Third Street’s primary customer base – to temporarily shut down last spring. Daughter Becky Thomas says the mask production helped keep the company’s 40-employee workforce employed even as many colleges and universities across the country were closed for months.

“Nobody has lost their job here with the pandemic. But, obviously, the pandemic has impacted our business,” she says, noting the company, which opened in 1986, traditionally manufactures children’s clothing, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, jerseys and cheerleader outfits.

Year-over-year revenue was down around 40% from 2019, Becky says, declining to disclose figures.

“What sustained us in 2020 is that we had such a strong first two months of the year,” she says. “2020 was on track to be our strongest year in my recent memory. We had very strong early bookings.”

Third Street’s customers stood by the orders made in January and February, but few more came in over the following months, Becky says. The company made face masks almost exclusively between April and July – and will continue to produce them as long as there is demand.

The company also was aided by funding through the Paycheck Protection Program. While the Thomases declined to disclose the total, the loan amount was in the $150,000-$350,000 range, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration website.

Read more at Springfield Business Journal.