By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — What started as out as a hobbyist’s venture and a local fundraising effort has quickly become a widely recognized Rockford T-shirt brand.
Yackle Tees, 1706 Rural St., is a full-scale print shop owned by former physical education teacher Jason Warner. While printing shirts out of his house almost 10 years ago, he first rolled out his logo, a monkey named Gordon Ferguson Yackle, at local festivals. Before long, the demand for the “G.F.Y.” brand was at the center of a plan that allowed him to leave his teaching job to work for himself.
“I taught in the Harlem district for 13 years,” Warner said. “I literally burned the midnight oil. I’d go home, coach my kids in basketball and do all my family stuff. At about 10:30 at night, I would come to [the shop] until 3 or 4 in the morning. I did that for a long time.”
In addition to printing tees at the shop, Warner has a remote service he brings to events and festivals and offers a streamlined custom apparel supply operation for schools, teams, companies and organizations.
Yackle is also rooted in the community through a host of fundraisers that started while Warner was still teaching. They saw him print tees for a local 10K run and raise more than $25,000 for Parkinson’s disease.
“All of the sudden everybody was asking me to print T-shirts,” Warner said.
Because the company was primarily only selling its brand then, Warner turned down those requests–until the day he could no longer ignore the demand.
“I woke up one day and accepted the first order,” he said.
Yackle’s streamlined online operation as has allowed Warner to not only handle such volume but the company is continuing to grow. Bulk orders are filled at the same time, but each piece of apparel is packaged individually.
The company uses a combination of manual and automated machines, allowing them to churn out hundreds of pieces per hour. Led by head printer Jared Hermann, Yackle often has its hand in helping other companies meet their deadlines, something Warner says allows him to stay active in the community and remember the days when he was just a one-man operation.
“Helping small, artistic screen printers make a few extra dollars a year allows us to support them and form good, working relationships. I enjoy teaching people how to do this well.”
Warner is planning screen printing classes in the future.
Starting in a small area inside the Rural Street location, Yackle eventually assumed the entire space, including the storefront that also houses the embroidery operation. Once dedicated to an ambulance company, the garage that opens into the Rural Oaks parking lot is part of the automatic and manual printing area. R.