Community shows ‘Tacoma Strong’ support for small businesses impacted by COVID-19

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TACOMA, Wash. -- Community members across Tacoma are wearing their hearts on their sleeves to support small businesses devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. People are participating in the Tacoma Strong t-shirt campaign to raise money during tough times.

Gail Ringrose and her husband own T Town Apparel, a custom apparel printing company in Tacoma. The two created the Tacoma Strong t-shirt movement in March after seeing drastic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on independent businesses in the city.

“We’re doing it out of the love for the surrounding area,” said Ringrose.

Ringrose and her husband partner with area independent businesses creating company logos and printing them on t-shirts, available for $20 each. On the Tacoma Strong website, customers can choose a shirt of the business they would like to support. That business receives $10 dollars for every sale and the Ringrose’s keep the other $10 to pay for expenses like ink and shirts.

Ringrose said so far, they have made approximately 3,000 shirts, totaling to nearly $30,000 they were able to give back to area businesses.

“I had no idea this was going to take off like this. It has been a huge surprise. Then sometimes I get sad because I think, ‘Well, is this the last time we’re going to print this logo?’” said Ringrose.

As more businesses make the tough decision to close because of the health crisis, Ringrose said she and her husband know about the hardships people are going through. They had to temporarily close their T Town Trading Co. retail store, which hurt their income.

“There is emotional stress of that in the back, but we just keep folding a shirt and every time we see it we’re just like okay this is making a difference. And that’s all that matters,” said Ringrose.

The Swiss Restaurant and Pub has a t-shirt available on the Tacoma Strong website. The restaurant has called Tacoma home for 27 years. Now that the business is struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the community is stepping up to make sure it stays open for many more years to come.

“It’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel some days you have to remind yourself because some days can be more painful than others. And it’s nice to have that support,” said Carol Ann McQuade, restaurant co-owner. “It means a lot to us. We’re independent business owners and we believe in our city. They’ve supported us for a really long time.”

Ringrose said they are partnering with 94 businesses and anticipate that number to grow. She said they don’t make much money off of the t-shirt campaign, but they do it to stay busy and to live up to their campaign’s motto: “Stronger than ever when we all stick together.”

“It’s been rewarding to see different logos and meeting all these different people and just creating a nice support group amongst each other,” said Ringrose.

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