Cyndi Buchanan honorably served our country in the Air Force for 10 years, and was in the field of aircraft maintenance. After she left the USAF, she entered the private sector as an Associate Engineer. She had a secret clearance, lived in DC, worked in communications, and made good money. But she wasn’t happy. “DC was just too big,” she said, and essentially by a fluke fell into the custom “T-shirt-Polos-Hats-Etc” screen printing and embroidery business, as her card indicates. A friend said, “Let’s do this,” they ordered the equipment, set up shop in Cyndi’s home state of Pennsylvania, and then started to learn the trade. “Screen printing is hard,” said the woman who is the engineer with the secret clearance, and her wry sense of humor made me chuckle.
They experienced their baptism of fire, (or vertical learning curve, if you will), got good at what they did, made money, and then a family move to Florida made the Sunshine State Cyndi’s new home. “Our family tends to move together,” she told me, and they were in Florida for 20 years. Cyndi has started and sold 4 or 5 screen printing/embroidery businesses, and it was her brother’s family moving to Rogersville that brought her to Alabama the Beautiful in 2013 to start this one. “I had been told that Florence would be the best place to relocate and set up shop, but I fell in love with Athens,” she said. I told her I fully understood her choice, and we talked for quite a while about why and how much we love our town.
Her chief love, as far as the trade is concerned, is designing and screen printing. She will do 4 color process screen printing, which is unusual in this area. She has helped out other vendors prepare for our festival and holiday season, because the local demand for print wear is so high, and she is happy to help.
When I first walked into the Gotcha Covered facility, (which is located at 389 W. Sanderfer, right next to Jimmy Gill Park), I saw a sign that grabbed me. It said, “12 T-shirts for $99,” which is a super deal. I always put myself in the position of being a potential customer when I interview a client, and in this case I genuinely need new T-shirts for my crew, so this was not just a theoretical chat. The shirts need to be black so the ink from the newspaper bundles does not show when we are doing deliveries, and we need to look like we have on uniforms so that store owners remain comfortable when we come quickly striding into their shop to break bundles and put them in racks.
We tossed around a couple of ideas for the new shirts, and I was impressed with Cyndi’s sense of design, style, and practicality. Her prices were fair, she tossed in a “perk,” and the deal was sealed in about 10 minutes. At that point I became a “raving fan pre-satisfied customer,” and I was looking forward to learning more about how she takes care of her clients. “I do my best for a dozen shirts, and I do my best for a thousand shirts, there is no difference,” she told me. “I work with my client, and people feel comfortable that they will get a good product,” she said. Our previous conversation made me a believer.
“People sense that I have a lot of experience,” she said with what struck me as true humility. “Our products are guaranteed, and we stand by them,” said Cyndi. She also added, “We are FAST! Most of the time I can turn around an order in 7 days.” Then she said something that warmed the heart of anyone who appreciates quality service, and it was this: “I see it as a labor of love.” “Nuff said,” I thought. She then explained that it is hard to get good workers, but she has trained a young man “from scratch” who does the screening with the same love she has, “and he is doing a good job,” she said with a smile.
While I was there, a client who himself is a screen wear producer came in and needed some advice on an ink color choice for his order. With skill and speed she suggested a color, and explained why she felt it was the best choice. He agreed, and I was pleased that Gotcha Covered had, in the space of one year, developed such a cooperative working relationship with people who technically are competitors. “There’s enough to go around,” she said. “Amen!” I countered. And, in a little over one year, she has become one of the largest screen wear producers in the region. We will be getting our new custom shirts by the time we deliver the second October edition of Athens Now, and when you see us zooming around Athens in our snappy new threads, you’ll have proof positive that Cyndi Buchanan delivers when she promises, “Gotcha Covered!”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner