Local business JNJ Apparel creates unique Tuscaloosa gear

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Emilee Boster

In 2004, University of Alabama student Nick Wright believed Tuscaloosa needed an additional T-shirt company for Greek organizations. With his brother Michael Wright, Nick Wright turned this idea into a business.

Originally on UA’s fraternity row JNJ Apparel designed and produced unique T-shirts for Greek events and organizations. 

Now, JNJ Apparel has moved far beyond its basic roots. In addition to its website storefront and manufacturing facility in Northport, the business recently opened a physical storefront in downtown Tuscaloosa.

With eight graphic artists, the company creates a whole lot more than fraternity and sorority T-shirts: They locally design, print and sell student organization merchandise, company T-shirts and local business gear. 

“Our purpose is that we strive to create a best-in-class product and a company that people love. And that’s for the people who work here and the people who we service,” Michael Wright said. 

Before opening the downtown Tuscaloosa storefront, JNJ Apparel sold merchandise primarily online by taking custom orders from organizations and selling JNJ Apparel-designed gear including Alabama sports team attire and Tuscaloosa memorabilia.

Now, they sell those items at their new store, which opened in September 2022. Across from the Tuscaloosa Federal Building and Courthouse, JNJ Apparel has a bright red awning over the entrance and a large window sign with the words “Not Your Basic Bama Shirts” above a dozen different T-shirt, sweatshirt and sweatpants photos. 

Inside, the store features racks of uniquely Tuscaloosa and Alabama gear. Along the wall is apparel of Alabama sporting teams like men’s basketball and football. Some sweatshirts feature vintages design and commemorate past Alabama National Championships, like one new arrival that says “Alabama 1964 National Champions” and features Alabama star quarterback Joe Namath. For those looking for a step up from T-shirts, they also carry attire like embroidered polo shirts and quarter zip collared shirts.

One rack features their Local Merch collection: T-shirts and sweatshirts showcasing logos of popular Tuscaloosa restaurants and bars. 

This Local Merch collection started more than two years ago. When business around town started slowing down with the spread of COVID-19, JNJ Apparel decided to give back to local businesses by designing T-shirts for them and offering them for sale on the JNJ Apparel website.

Businesses involved in the collection include Rama Jama’s, Buffalo Phils and Hooligans. JNJ gave a percentage of sales back to those businesses and raised more than $120,000 for them in all.

Many of those local businesses stayed connected with JNJ, so when the downtown Tuscaloosa storefront opened, the businesses OK’d their branded merchandise for sale in store. Currently, JNJ Apparel features merchandise for companies including InnisFree, Gallettes and Druid City Brewing Company

The store also contains racks of Gameday Last Chance merchandise, which is apparel from past football season’s games. This gear is part of a collection JNJ Apparel started in 2011 where they create unique T-shirts for each Alabama football game. JNJ posts the game’s design a week before kickoff on social media and puts it up for sale. 

Not all in-store merchandise is T-shirts and sweatshirts, though. Some tables in the store hold $5 Gameday buttons, clear bags approved for clear-bag policies at Bryant-Denny Stadium and Coleman Coliseum, Alabama plastic cups and embroidered hats. 

“We do have a lot of university stuff, but we are set apart from the other companies just because all of our designs are locally done and everything is also produced locally,” said JNJ Apparel Retail Store Manager Ashlyn Lee.

All merchandise sold in store is hand-designed by the company’s graphic artists in Tuscaloosa and screen printed in Northport.

The facility is also expanding with a new JNJ corporate office directly beside the manufacturing facility and its recent addition of a fourth screen printing press.

“It’s really helping our production speed up, and it’s very exciting to add a fourth press to our operation,” Wright said.

JNJ Apparel also creates T-shirts for campus organizations at other schools like Auburn University and the University of Georgia, which they promote on their social media as well.

JNJ Apparel’s storefront is located at 1926 University Blvd. in downtown Tuscaloosa. Anyone interested in ordering merchandise for their business or organization can make a request online or call the company directly.

The company’s graphic artists will work with the organization and customize the design and colors for merchandise and can even help set up an online storefront so a business can sell its own apparel.

Categories: Local News