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Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Patriots' field goal kicks off t-shirt presses


After a game winning 48-yard field goal kicked by Adam Vinatieri late Sunday night, Mirror Image rolled the presses to print tens of thousands of official Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI t-shirts and sweatshirts that will be trucked to stores throughout New England as of Monday morning.

Even with the Patriots viewed as underdogs, Rick Roth, president of the Pawtucket-based company, was prepared for the unlikely victory over the favored Saint Louis Rams. Scattered on the first floor of his 28,000-square-foot old mill building on Exchange Street, there were hundreds of boxes of Lee cotton shirts, piled high on wooden pallets.

If the Patriots lost, Roth would be only out several thousand dollars for preparation costs that included making screens and mixing ink. It was a gamble that he won when the Patriots won.

According to Roth, 25 employees, along with some former employees who had been called back because of the quick turnaround time required for the job, worked from 9:00 p.m. Sunday throughout the night until 4:00 p.m. the following day. Even with overtime incentives to bring his employees to work, Roth took care of them in other monetary ways. Employees were able to take naps on couches scattered throughout the historic mill building during extensive breaks. Food was provided, too.

Roth, like the rest of the nation, was gripped by the stunning 20-17 Patriots victory that took place in the last seven seconds of the game.

"Unbelievable," Roth shouted jumping up and down after watching the winning field goal. "I really thought that the Patriots were not going to have enough gas to hang in."

Roth, wearing his blue Amnesty International t-shirt and a black and red colored Farm Aid baseball cap, jokingly stated that he might just print Vinatieri shirts all night instead of the planned Patriots Super Bowl shirts.

"He's going to be a hero here in New England, you know," he said. "People will buy them as fast as we print them, too."

Up to 300 shirts (either the gray locker room shirt or the blue shirt, which is the Patriots' color) can be produced an hour by each of three large printing presses, Roth said.

"We're hoping to at least double that number for the entire two days of printing," he said.

Trucks began picking up the Patriots Super Bowl shirts at 5:00 a.m. early Monday morning, delivering them to retail outlets throughout New England, including Bob's Stores, Sears, JC Penney outlets and airport shops, throughout the day.

Of the Patriots win, "It truly is a Cinderella story and it does not get better than this," Roth said. "Patriot fans will buy shirts as fast as we print them for weeks to come."

Like the printing and distribution of the Patriots' AFC championship shirts, Roth expects the latest printing run of Patriots Super Bowl shirts to go smoothly.

"If we're half as prepared as Coach Bill Bellichik, the printing should go extremely smooth, just like clock work," Roth said.

Ralph Galera, of Tampa-based VF Corp., the company that holds the NFL apparel license and hired Mirror Image as one of its New England printers, talked on his portable phone coordinating the printing and delivery schedules throughout the New England region, after the Patriots win. When asked how many Patriots Super Bowl shirts will be printed he quickly responded, "We don't give figures." But Galera acknowledged that it has taken 21 weeks to plan the printing of the official NFL-licensed merchandise.

Pawtucket resident Judy Winters, who heads Mirror Image's art department, along with two other Mirror Image staffers, took the warm shirts off the conveyor belt after they have gone through the dryer. While she readily admitted to not being a sports fan, Winters looks forward to her "fat pay check" for the 20 hours overtime she expects to log in.

As for Roth, the 2002 Super Bowl win by the Patriots could not have come at a better time. "It's winter time and business is usually slow. The Patriots' win gives us an extra boost in our income."

Since relocating to a renovated mill building in Pawtucket two years ago, Mirror Image, a 14-year-old printing company formerly based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has increased its printing volume to over one million t-shirts annually. Its customers include major museums, Samuel Adams Beer, and Hip-Hop Company Academics.

Herb Weiss works for Pawtucket's Department of Planning & Redevelopment.

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