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Common ‘Threads’: New shop to feature local artists’ T-shirt designs

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Oct 2, 2020

Alena Fowler, of Frederick, Md., left, shops in Threads with friend Jennifer Johannes, of Gaithersburg, Md., in September. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Ever since the Turners moved back to Shepherdstown in 2015, they noticed the need for a souvenir shop in town.

Since most tourist towns have successful shops dedicated to selling souvenirs of some kind, husband-and-wife Jim and Kris knew it was a niche waiting to be tapped.

“When you walk around the streets, you have a crystal shop, you’ve got a record shop, you’ve got a lot of great restaurants and bars,” Jim said. “But you’ve got a lot of visitors from Maryland and Virginia, and we didn’t have a souvenir shop.”

After spending 25 years raising their three children in Columbia, Md., the couple knew they were ready to return to their college town. Kris graduated from Shepherd University in 1989, and Jim graduated from it in 1992.

“We loved the small-town aspect of Shepherdstown,” said the Turners’ youngest daughter and Jefferson High School senior, Katie Turner. “My parents wanted to move back to town. We came from a city that was too big and too loud for what we like.”

Threads is open at 133 West German Street Suite 101. Tabitha Johnston

Katie is one of a handful of employees Jim and Kris have hired to staff Threads, their new shop at 133 West German Street Suite 101. The shop’s retail items are primarily T-shirts, along with baseball caps, hoodies, face masks and face mask comfort head bands. According to Jim, the items will be on a regular rotation, as he determines which items are in highest demand by customers. Jim said he is prioritizing selling T-shirts designed by local artists, along with T-shirts from companies that donate their sale proceeds to meaningful causes.

“Everything in the shop goes back to, in one form or other, to giving back,” Jim said. “Every brand that we have in the store, supports a cause. We’ve got some cool things. It’s so new, it’s going to evolve. We tried to have something for everyone!”

The shop’s shirts include T-shirts designed by Shepherdstown artists, with Shepherdstown-inspired graphics; T-shirts tie-dyed by specialists based in Baltimore, Md., and California; T-shirts designed by Kannabis Kings Apparel LLC (of which Jim is a co-founder) to fund the work of the Marijuana Policy Project to legalize marijuana and the Southern Poverty Law Center to decriminalize marijuana; and T-shirts by Baltimore, Md.-based company Puppy Love, which donates 10 percent of its proceeds to dog shelters and rescue groups nationwide.

“The key is, we’re not like your beach T-shirt shop,” Jim said, mentioning Threads is committed to selling quality products. “We use high-end brands in short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, stuff that people want to wear at a reasonable price!”

Currently, the shop is only open on Friday nights and weekends, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. But once the pandemic ends and tourism numbers return to normal, the shop hours will increase.

From left, Jefferson High School 2020 graduate Ryder Collins, of Shepherdstown, hangs out with his friends and Threads employees Ashley Bruntey, of Harpers Ferry, and Katie Turner, of Shepherdstown. Bruntey and Turner are both current seniors at Jefferson High School. Tabitha Johnston

The shop is also offering assistance with designing and printing custom T-shirts, in conjunction with local designers and the Hagerstown, Md. print shop which prints Threads’ Shepherdstown souvenir T-shirts.

According to Jim, owning the shop is the fulfillment of his wife’s dreams to own a retail shop and his dreams to have a local place to sell items with a purpose. In addition, it provides a safe space for his daughter and her friends to work, in a town they love.

“Moving back to Shepherdstown, we’ve never been happier!” Jim said, mentioning he was glad to have filled one of Shepherdstown’s recently-emptied storefronts. “We love the town — we don’t like to see open buildings. After the pandemic ends, I want to be there and be a part of it when everything comes back to life!”

Threads' tie-dye T-shirts are created by artists in Baltimore, Md., and California. Tabitha Johnston

Face masks, face mask comfort head bands and baseball caps are also currently being sold by Threads. Tabitha Johnston