A Vernon company is marking 30 years of outfitting businesses and events, and seeing its products star in hit TV shows like Gold Rush.
Hi-Pro Corporate Sportswear and Promotional Products is the North Okanagan’s largest embroidery house. Hats, jackets, gifts, awards and more have been offered by the local company since 1989. Hi-Pro’s products have been sported around town by everyone from business leaders to athletes playing recreational soccer at Marshall Field.
While it’s not usually the Hi-Pro name you see, the business is proud to help local and national clients advertise.
One highlight from its three-decades in business was seeing one of its products on a hit television series in November 2017.
“One of our hat designs for Great West Equipment was shown on Gold Rush,” said Bob Sattler, general manager.
The company started in 1989 when Don Kelly and Dennis Miller bought the struggling Dees Sportswear, located in the Alpine Center. Dees was owned by Ray Bastian, who at the time was making jackets for schools.
Kelly and Miller changed the name to Hi Pro Sportswear. The company was then making melton leather jackets for most of the schools in the valley.
In 1991, the pair expanded to other fabric jackets and in order to meet the need for embroidery on the jackets it was producing, bought a six-head embroidery machine.
“Dennis said it was difficult to purchase the machine at that time because the interest rate was over 18 per cent,” said Sattler.
Despite the cost, the machine turned out to be a huge benefit to the company.
As time went by, overseas jackets started to show up in the market and Hi-Pro stopped manufacturing in the early 2000s and moved from the Alpine Center to its current location on Coldstream Avenue, beside Fishers Hardware.
Over the years the company branched out from supplying jackets and embroidery for schools to the forest industry, becoming the major supplier of jackets for companies such as Tolko, West Fraser, Canfor, Weyerhauser, Pope and Talbot, Riverside, as well as Kal Tire to name a few.
Kelly travelled the province and in the mid-1990s the company expanded into promotional products to meet the needs of its clients. It now offers awards for the health and safety sector, as well as employee recognition programs.
Kelly and Miller sold sold the business to Sattler in January 2007 and retired.
“It was quite a learning experience but coming from the hospitality industry, I knew customer service and wanted to make sure I extended the same attitude to Hi-Pro,” said Sattler.
But just one year after he bought the company, the recession hit, hard.
“I had a great company which made some money only to see the 2008 recession cut sales almost in half,” said Sattler.
“We saw many of the small mills close, the larger mills cut back on safety and recognition awards in order to save money and survive. I must say, at that time I thought, ‘oh my goodness, what did I get myself into?’”
But, bound and determined to succeed, Sattler developed a new strategy and diversified back into schools and mining.
“We started working with Teck, Centerra Gold, Taseko Mines, Shell Albian and many other large companies.”
The forestry industry came back up too and Hi-Pro hasn’t looked back.
Sattler added more ways of decoration besides embroidery, such as screen printing, digital printing, digital transfer printing and vinyl for numbers and names on jerseys and has grown the business to sales of more than $1.5 million
In April 2018, he sold the business to Rob Morris and his partner Sherman Dahl but stayed on as general manager.
Morris said he appreciates the hard work and dedication the previous owners made in building up the company and looks forward to moving it forward in the future.
“With our other venture, Printech, we now can service the advertising and promotional needs of most small or large companies,” he said.
“We still want to concentrate on the level of service Hi Pro is known for over the past years and will continue to be the leader in our industry, not only in Vernon but British Columbia.”