New home for owners and their business

December 01, 2001|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

Ask the owners of J&L Sportswear, a newly opened business on Main Street in downtown El Centro, where they hail from and it takes Gerry and Linda Storts a minute or two to come up with a precise answer.

"We've been a bit of a gypsy family," Linda Storts says with a smile.

Californians originally, their last port of call was Russellville, Ark., where Gerry was the high school football coach.

The Storts ran a successful screen printing and embroidery business in Russellville.

When Gerry was offered the position of head football coach at Southwest High School in El Centro earlier this year, it was a given the business would come, too.

Occupying some 1,400 square feet at 729 Main St., the Storts opened their business Aug. 15, only two weeks after arriving from Arkansas.


"We accepted the job at Southwest and moved so quickly that we had no time to arrange for a moving company to move us — we had to move ourselves," Gerry Storts said.

The Storts, along with daughter Carrie, who is store manager, and her friend Heath Howell drove two 25-foot trucks containing all the business equipment (some pieces weighing in excess of 2,000 pounds) their pick up and a fifth wheel travel trailer from Russellville to El Centro.

Linda remembers checking into a local motel when they first arrived and then the family rushing off to Southwest High and sitting on the football field to watch the sun set.

Now that they've had time to settle in locally, the business is up and running.

Gerry Storts said the emphasis of the business is personalization and custom work.

"A customer can bring us an order for one item or they can request a run for 500 of the same item," he said.

Limited only by the customer's imagination, J&L Sportswear will screen print, heat press or embroider a design on just about any fabric the customer can come up with.

Typically that could be a logo or design on T-shirts, jackets, baseball caps, bed linen, baby blankets, throws, even briefcases and stadium seats.

Customers can bring in their own designs or choose from a seemingly endless number of design books at the store.

The company also offers to waive the $125 setup fee to digitalize a customer's own design if the order is for 24 or more items using the same design.

"We're really proud that when someone brings a work order into us, we get the order out on time for our customer … if we say it will be ready in two days, then it will be ready in two days," Gerry Storts said with pride in his voice.

"We've even pulled some all-nighters to make sure we're on time with an order."

An interesting sideline to the business is a baby doll customizing service.

Typically, the customer hands over a photo of a child as a baby and some two weeks later they're handed back a large vinyl baby doll bearing an uncanny likeness to the child.

"People are amazed at just how closely we can match their child," Linda Storts said. "We even had one lady order eight of the dolls. She and her seven siblings presented the dolls to their 82-year-old mother for Mother's Day."

"We've sold these dolls all over the world — England, Africa, Ireland and Australia," Gerry Storts added.

The Storts have a Web site for the dolls at

J&L Sportswear is open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and Saturdays by arrangement. The phone number is 482- 9284.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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