Shirts our Business

Over the past 39 years, Ron Weiss has been printing all sorts of messages on T-shirts, polos, sweats, shorts, gym bags and backpacks – all because he didn’t want to become a doctor.

“It was my parents’ fondest wish. But this seems to have worked out. I very rarely see blood and I haven’t lost anyone yet,” said Weiss, whose Shirts Our Business, moved to 4949 N. Western Ave., in 1986 after outgrowing two Devon Avenue locations.

Since then, Weiss and his 19 employees have created literally thousands of different imprints for everything from the Chicago Underground Film Fest, DANK Haus, Nedersachen Club, Old Town School of folk Music, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, and Ald. Gene Schulter’s ward cleanup campaign.

As in the beginning, Weiss said, most of his employees are still a “close-knit” group recruited by word-of-mouth. Some have been there for 35 years while many have been with Weiss for 10 or 15 years.

“We treat people right, pay them right,” Weiss said. “And unlike a lot of businesses like this, the work rooms are air-conditioned.”

His machines can crank out 300 to 800 pieces an hour – longer for some jobs like the 11-color order being filled that day, Weiss said.

The biggest order he’s ever filled so far was during the Chicago Bulls’ first championship when “we were working 24 hours a day for four days straight. And we’ve done every (Bulls championship) after that. We had licenses to fill the local needs whenever the team won,” he noted.

Over the years, Weiss said he’s turned down at least a few jobs he wanted no part of. “If it harms someone or if it’s derogatory, hateful, we will refuse to print it. This is still America and you still have the right to refuse service,” he said.

Weiss said the biggest change he’s seen in the business has been the replacement of artists’ drawing boards with computers. “The designs keep getting more and more challenging.”

Shirts-Our-Business, Weiss grinned, even has its own mascot, a caricature of an angry man next to the letters SOB.

“I thought SOB would at least get people to look at us,” said Weiss, who says the cartoon isn’t modeled after anyone in the company – especially Weiss himself.

“I’m not usually that angry,” he said, adding that even after all these years, he still loves the job.

“And I’m proud of everything we turn out. If I’m not proud of it, we do it again.

“If you don’t like it, then don’t sell it,” Weiss said.

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