DES MOINES, Iowa – For the past 100 years, Van Ginkel Athletic Manufacturing has been the go-to for Iowa sports teams trying to outfit their players.
“My grandpa started it in 1922,” owner Joe Van Ginkel said.
Joe Van Ginkel has worked here since he was 12, and remembers what the sewing room used to be.
“It was a bowling alley until 1986 and we needed space for manufacturing,” Van Ginkel explained. “So we closed the bowling alley and now we got space.”
Eventually, Joe took over the business in 2011. It’s not just a place to shop, but a place that creates.
“I think they had trouble during the 30s getting merchandise during the depression, so they finally started to make their own,” Van Ginkel said. “We make letter jackets, we make baseball pants, we make baseball jerseys. We do all kinds of lettering.”
From embroidery to screen printing, Van Ginkel’s staff of nine stays busy making uniforms for little league teams and high schools.
“And that keeps changing, you know what they use for mascot,” Van Ginkel said. “They change mascots, they change logos, so we’re constantly updating.”
Not to mention making products for the military, local businesses, and even celebrities.
“We also did one for Drake when he was in Des Moines,” said Van Ginkel.
Through the course of a century comes some challenges. The pandemic caused Van Ginkel’s to shut their doors on the retail side for a time, but the manufacturing didn’t stop. Employees made face masks.
“It wasn’t a real profit center but I think it made everybody feel like they’re part of the war effort,” Van Ginkel said. “And everybody kept their jobs.”
COVID also caused some shortages with gloves, helmets and balls, as well as concerns with costs.
“Our prices have stayed the same I would say roughly since the 90s,” Van Ginkel recalls. “There really hasn’t been that much inflation on what we sell, but now it’s starting to show its face.”
And then there’s competition with foreign goods, but Van Ginkel says being local sets them apart.
“Well hopefully we produce a better quality product and you can see it and feel it in person,” Van Ginkel said. “We’ve still got easy parking on Ingersoll though it’s a little torn up right now.”
Through road construction and technology changes, Van Ginkel’s has stood the test of time. While the future looks uncertain, he remains hopeful.
“I don’t know what’s to come in the next 100 years,” Van Ginkel said. “I predict there will still be sports.”
Van Ginkel said there’s no family to pass down the business to, but he has no plans of hanging it up anytime soon.