Putting Your Message on Display
by Beth Steury
Pam Bergdall took advantage of many opportunities over the past twenty years to learn the finer points of the apparel embroidery business, while also dabbling in screen printing, decals, banners, wall graphics and the like. “I’ve been in the business with different companies for 20 years,” says the owner of the new-to-Decatur business, Bear’s Den Embroidery & More.
When Pam learned that Hotcakes in Bluffton, Indiana—where she’d been employed the last three years—would be closing its doors in May of 2017 with the retirement of the owners, she faced a dilemma. “It was either look for a new job, or go into business for myself.”
Pam made the decision to launch her own company in the field that she not only loved, but one in which she had gained a level of expertise and a recognized reputation. The next decision was where to locate the business. Pam says she and her husband Don concluded, “We live in Decatur and thought it would be nice to have it close to home.”
The final decision—what to name the business—came easily to Pam. “Anyone who knows me, knows that I like and collect bears. I knew the name had to have the word bears in it.” She’s also fond of visiting Tennessee, where her favorite species, the black bear, is common.
A location on Second Street became available, and Pam and Don purchased the building in May of 2016. With the help of family members, they restored the flooring in the portion of the building that would house their store back to the original floors.
Pam continued working at Hotcakes, and the Bergdalls spent many late evenings and weekends making the necessary improvements, taking advantage of their own and family members’ carpentry skills. On August 19, 2016, Bear’s Den Embroidery and More opened for business.
“I bought the embroidery equipment from Hotcakes,” Pam says, pointing out the electronic automatic embroidery machines. Business logos and all manner of patterns are digitized via an embroidery program on the company computer. It’s the designing and application of these embroidery designs that Pam enjoys most.
Apparel featuring the names, logos, and mascots for area schools make up a large portion of the ready-made inventory in the store’s showroom. Letter jackets are also available.
A huge “orders” board on the wall keeps the staff on track. Many of the embroidery and heat transfer orders are for custom apparel decoration work that covers the gamut, from business logos on polo shirts or jackets, to hats and t-shirts for local youth sports teams to baby blankets and onesies commemorating births and first birthdays.
“People love personalization. We can personalize almost anything, even ties and suspenders,” Pam shares.
“Can you do something like this?” customers ask, often toting a picture of a design or customization they hope Pam can create. “That’s the fun part of the job.”
The “more” portion of the business offers a variety of signage applications, including window and vehicle/equipment decals, banners, and lettering for corrugated plastic signs. Vehicle or window decals can be self-applied by the customer, or Bear’s Den staff can install them.
Basic alterations are also available for any type of apparel. “We had people asking us three to four times a week to hem jeans, put in a zipper, or some other type of alteration.” So, Pam gladly added those services at The Bear’s Den.
“We’ve taken off so fast,” says Pam with a slight shake of her head and a big smile. Word of mouth circulated the news that the experienced embroidery designer and signage creator had opened her own shop. Past satisfied customers followed Pam to The Bear’s Den.
While the winter months tend to bring a slow-down for this type of business, she reports they noticed only a slight decrease this past January through March. The first signs of spring brought the usual flurry of orders for youth sports team apparel.
“I hope to expand more into wall graphics,” Pam notes. Graphics cut from a special material that will not damage drywall have become a trend in home décor, one that Pam sees as an area of expansion for the business.
As they catch their breath from the business’s promising launch, Pam and Don are also considering the addition of screen-printing for apparel and signage options.
While Pam once held aspirations to be an elementary school art teacher, she is content to let her artistic flare blossom in the area of apparel decoration and signage—an outlet that has served her well for two decades and counting.
Currently, one side of the building on Second Street is rented by DZ Gaming, while The Bear’s Den occupies the other side. Future plans for the 4000-square foot upstairs include several apartments.
The operating of the business continues to be a family affair. Don handles much of the heat transfer work, as well as the bookkeeping, in addition to holding a full-time job. The Bergdalls’ daughter Jessica, who recently became the county sanitarian, helps out, and a couple of friends are employed at the new establishment, as well. There’s plenty to keep them all busy.
The Bergalls’ goal at the end of the day? Pam says, “We want our customers to be satisfied.”
The Bear’s Den maintains very user-friendly business hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays; and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Check out the shop’s inventory and the latest embroidery and transfer options on their Facebook page.