T-shirt makers work 'nonstop' to meet demand of Final Four-bound Big Blue Nation

jpatton1@herald-leader.com,By MeApril 3, 2014 

The Herald-Leader and InkSpot have teamed up to create a T-shirt to honor the Cats' smokin' run.

  • TO BUY OUR T-SHIRT

    The Herald-Leader and the Inkspot have created a T-shirt featuring staff artist Chris Ware's "Only you can prevent couch fires" illustration. T-shirts will be on sale for $15 starting Friday in the lobby of the Herald-Leader (100 Midland Avenue, hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. only), and at The InkSpot (545 South Limestone, behind Pizza Hut; hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily) and a pop-up shop at 2398 Nicholasville Road (10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily). T-shirts are 100 percent preshrunk heavyweight cotton and are available in adult sizes small to XX-large.

If you haven't gotten your Final Four T-shirt to wear when the Kentucky Wildcats play the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday, don't panic. There will be more.

Stores around Lexington were nearly sold out of several popular styles by Thursday, but more will be coming, just in time for folks returning from spring break.

"We've sold thousands," said Carol Behr, general manager of Kennedy's Wildcat Den on South Limestone, across from UK's campus.

About 20 minutes after the Cats beat Michigan on Sunday night, the store sent out an email blast to about 29,000 people, letting them know the styles of shirts and hats available.

"When we came in Monday morning, there was already a stack of mail orders," Behr said.

Since then, they've shipped out so many that they had to temporarily remove the "locker room" shirt with a logo featuring a basketball net — the one the Cats wore on the court — from its website because they're running short on so many sizes, Behr said.

The store is getting another shipment Friday, Behr said. So there will be plenty when fans stop by for temporary tattoos, pompons and Final Four programs.

Kentucky is unusual, she said: Fans might have an old lucky shirt they wear for watching the games, but they still want all the new ones.

Larry Lambert, president of JCS Enterprises, the parent of Kentucky Korner, likewise has been scrambling, pulling shirts to ship to his 10 stores around the state.

"It was unexpected by fans, so that makes it so much crazier," he said of the team advancing to the national semifinals. "We ordered what we normally order, then turned around and ordered 11/2 times that. And it wasn't enough."

Should — "when," Behr said; "we say 'when'" — the Cats win Saturday, Kennedy's will have a new shirt ready, featuring Kentucky and whatever team the Wildcats play in the finals. There will be even more for Tuesday morning, if the Cats go all the way.

Brandon Daniels, director of store operations for Wildcat Wearhouse, said the T-shirt makers have shrugged off what they expected to be a slow spring and are calling all hands on deck.

"As soon as UK flipped the switch, we flipped the switch on the presses and have been going nonstop ever since," Daniels said. His store's big seller: a black Final Four shirt with a basketball rising like the moon, known as "Moonball."

The store's managers have already discussed what to do for Monday's potential title and have designs in the works.

"If we end up winning on Monday, we'll already have T-shirts at stores on Tuesday," Daniels said.

In fact, really big fans won't even have to wait until Tuesday. As soon as the game ends, he said, all Wildcat Wearhouse stores except those in the mall will open.

"No matter how many overtimes. Could be 1 o'clock in the morning," he said. "Our Broadway location, which is the original store location, people know they can line up right at Broadway's door."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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