• Amber McManamay

How a shop light became a t-shirt shop

Screens are made by developing photo-sensitive emulsion on a screen with an expensive UV light table – not with a shop light. But we all have to start somewhere, and Souled Out T-Shirts started in a single-car garage exposing screens with a fluorescent shop light.

"I used to expose screens in my basement using a shop light and then wrap them in black trash bags to protect them from light exposure while I carried them to my yard to wash them out with a garden hose. In the dark." - Gene McManamay

Gene and Amber McManamay started Souled Out T-Shirts in Buena Vista, CO as a side-gig in 2010 when they bought a used press setup (including the shop light) from a friend for $1,500. The idea was to give Amber a creative outlet and maybe make a little money on the side. They learned the basics from their friend and jumped right in. With some help from YouTube they figured out how to burn screens, separate art, run a squeegee and cure ink. Pretty soon they were making shirts for friends and small events in town. When they moved into a larger house with a 2-car garage a year later, they decided to make the garage into a print shop and traded in the old press for a newer 6-color manual press and a small conveyor dryer.

Two years later, the demand for custom t-shirts was so great that Gene had to quit his job and become a full-time printer. Amber followed a year later and quit her day job to do custom art and run the business operations of Souled Out T-Shirts. By 2015 they were printing 30,000 pieces a year on a manual press and decided to make the leap to an automatic press, making them the only automatic print shop in Chaffee County. In 2016, they had outgrown the garage and moved into a commercial space on Mill St. in Buena Vista. The demand in Chaffee County and around the country has continued to grown and the Souled Out T-Shirts now has 2 full-time employees, 5 heads of embroidery, and a fully automatic 6-color press. And a fancy UV light exposure table.

In the summer of 2018, Souled Out T-Shirts is once again making a big move and adding a retail location in Buena Vista. The retail store is located at 308 E. Main Street and features original Buena Vista, CO t-shirts, hats and hoodies. The production facility on Mill Street is now printing several of their own t-shirt lines in addition to custom wholesale work from around Chaffee County.

So, if you want to see how a shop light turned into a T-Shirt, stop by 111 Mill St. and tour our production facility. If you just want to buy an awesome shirt, come visit us at 308 E. Main Street.