At 10 years old, throwing a baseball against the wall of a brick building, Brian Kemp never imagined he would someday own a 25-year-old business making custom T-shirts and that he would also own that building on Center Street, as well.
It’s all very humbling, said Kemp, a Batavia HS graduate who spent much of his youth living in a house on School Street with a backyard that abuts the building that now houses T-Shirts Etc.
“To think like, I’m probably driving the people inside the building crazy,” Kemp said during a 25th Anniversary celebration for T-Shirts Etc. on Thursday evening. “I’m not thinking of it as a kid like that but now if somebody started throwing a ball against my wall, I might say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ you know. But I would have a little empathy for him because I did it, too.”
Kemp and a partner, with the help of his girlfriend at the time, started T-Shirts Etc on the third floor of the Harvester Center three years after Kemp graduated from high school. Soon they moved into a larger space on the first floor, then to the former WBTA building at Harvester and East Main, then to the former Newberry’s building (now Eli Fish) on Main Street, and finally to his current location at 37 Center St.
A lot of people — a whole community, really — he said, helped him reach this milestone. He gave credit to his former partner John, his former girlfriend, Heather, and to his ex-wife, Beth Kemp.
“Beth and I were married for seven or eight years,” Kemp said. “We’re not married anymore but it was a great time that helped me turn the business into where we are today. We moved the company three times, so she was a very integral part of the business.”
Kemp also said he couldn’t sustain any success without his employees.
“I have a great crew that has weathered the storm of the last few years,” he said. “My current crew consists of my son Parker who runs the print production department, Melissa Flint, who runs the embroidery, shipping, and receiving departments and lastly, Mikah Burdic who is currently working as a production assistant. I am truly honored to work daily with my crew that puts in the work on a daily business producing quality products for our customers. I come here to the shop, hang out and make stuff, and these people make it enjoyable.”
He noted that a lot of his customers were at the celebration.
“All these relationships with our business are personal and have all impacted on my life,” Kemp said. “I’ve got these great boys and this amazing business that we call home here in Batavia. We got our own little piece of Batavia. It’s been fantastic.”
Photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, Kemp, left, with Tom Turnbull, Chamber of Commerce interim president.