Fans of Camas hoping to wear their hometown pride on their sleeve won’t have to look too far, thanks to the opening of a new business, Papermaker Pride, in downtown Camas.
Located in a second-story studio above the Arktana boutique, at 417 N.E. Fourth Ave., Papermaker Pride offers a full range of Camas-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, baby onesies and other apparel in sizes that range from newborn to 5X.
Owners Karen Gibson, Sheryl Obegi and Jamie Reimer came up with the idea for Papermaker Pride last summer after their now-seniors had completed their junior year at Camas High School.
Gibson’s son, Jack, plays football with Reimer’s son, Rush, as well as lacrosse with Obegi’s son, Mason; and the families had become friendly over the years.
Gibson, a graphic designer, had thought about starting her own T-shirt line, and the idea popped up again when she and Reimer were on a 1,900-mile road trip with their sons, exploring colleges in Pacific Northwest during the summer of 2019.
Reimer, as it turned out, used to sell swimsuits on Florida beaches and thought the concept of creating Camas-themed shirts would be a big-seller in the Camas-Washougal area.
After their road trip, the women brought the idea up to their friend and neighbor, Obegi, a third-grade teacher at Grass Valley Elementary School whose enthusiasm and positive energy appealed to the would-be entrepreneurs. After discussing the idea with her daughter Mia, a business major who thought the plan sounded like a winning idea, Obegi was sold.
Within a few weeks, the women had pulled together six different T-shirt designs and had product ready to sell at a Camas Days booth in July 2019. Their first design came courtesy of the Camas High football team members, who had already settled on a theme for the 2019 season — “The Revenge Tour” for the team’s quest to win back its state championship trophy.
After getting permission from the Camas School District’s athletic director to use the Camas athletic logos on their designs, the women went to work creating various Camas High sports team-themed logos for their shirts, stickers and caps.
The Camas Days experiment went better than they expected.
“It was so well received,” Obegi said. “And people were asking us to do different designs, so we started adding to what we already had.”
By October 2019, the women had secured a space for their new business. Artist Heidi Curley was vacating the spot above Arktana in favor of a home-based studio, and the landlord wanted to know if the Papermaker Pride crew might be interested. They moved into the space in November and had their ribbon-cutting during the Downtown Camas Association’s First Friday event in early December.
The business has already generated profits for the Camas High football program — the women told the team’s head coach, Jon Eagle, they would donate a percentage of their profits to the team, to help buy new headsets, throughout the 2019 football season. In the future, the business owners plan to still donate a portion of their profits to Camas schools, but will give the money to the Camas Athletics Boosters Club, so the funds can be used for programs throughout the district’s middle and high schools.
Although many of the products sold at Papermaker Pride are linked to Camas athletics and schools — including shirts touting the Grass Valley Zebras and Prune Hill Penguins — other shirts and products, such as the “Ski Camas, Livingston Mountain” and “Cottonwood Beach Surf Club” designs, are geared toward Camas fans who may not be linked into the schools.
Although it’s still in its infancy, the business has already found success, possibly due to the women’s savvy use of teenagers to help gauge designs that might be a hit with Camas youth. In October, the business brought on a Camas High School senior, 17-year-old Tommy Kelly, who was looking for a senior project for his DECA class, which teaches business, marketing and management skills to high school students.
Aside from helping around the shop, Kelly has been conducting marketing research for the Papermaker Pride business, to gauge the marketability of the business’ new designs. He’s also been sharing the designs on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Eventually, Kelly will write a full report on his marketing research and give a presentation about what he’s learned to his high school peers.
The business has already “gone international,” jokes Obegi, thanks to customers who have taken the Camas-themed products as gifts to people in places like Australia, Paris and Mexico.
“People have told us, ‘This is exactly what Camas needed,'” Gibson says.
To see the full range of products available at Papermaker Pride, visit the shop at 417 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas when the “We’re Open” sign is out; or check the business out online at pap ermakerpride.com or by searching for “Papermaker Pride” on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.