By Maddy Vitale
Jody Levchuk, of Jilly’s T-Shirt Factory, said it isn’t about the shirts, suntan lotions, beach chairs, or all the other merchandise he and his brother Randy Levchuk sell it in their Ocean City Boardwalk store.
It’s about giving customers a great experience.
“The whole idea is to create a feeling. We want people to have a good experience – to have fun and come back,” Jody said Thursday, Dec. 14.
The most popular feature at Jilly’s is customers get to design their own shirts. First a customer picks a shirt, either a T-shirt, crewneck or V-neck, then he or she picks the color. The average cost of a shirt is $16 or two for $30. Then comes the fun part. Each customer picks a design from an array of choices, everything from funny to funky, to your name or favorite team, branch of military or law enforcement agency. The design is free. And the screen printer creates your masterpiece in minutes.
“Eight out of 10 sales we do here has something to do with decorating shirts,” Jody, of Ocean City, said. “It becomes a real activity for kids with their grandparents or parents who say, ‘OK, kids, each of you can pick a shirt and design.’”
That sometimes leads to family discussions, “Sometimes they will disagree about the color. ‘You have so much blue,’” Jody joked. “It’s just a really fun activity for the family. We invite kids to watch. We want them to have a fun time.”
The Levchuks opened Jilly’s T-Shirt Factory, 1048 Boardwalk, in 2001. Since then, the business has grown. A couple of years ago they decided to do more wholesale business, which has really taken off. They supply shirts with logos for businesses in the area. They also take orders from people doing fundraisers and have a thriving online business.
It is a vital way they maintain their year-round business. And, much of their whole sale business, began from word of mouth. First a coffee shop in downtown Ocean City put in an order, then a plumber, other businesses followed, and it spread.
“We work hard for our customers, so the word got out,” Jody said.
And with that, Jilly’s employees, such as Vicki Jandras, 19, of Ocean City, can work year-round, not just seasonally, at a business she said she loves.
Jandras was busy with an order to put designs on 100 shirts for a local church.
“We have an order we are working on now for a modern dance company up north,” said Randy, a volunteer firefighter in Union County, who splits his time between Ocean City and Kenilworth. “The best part about it is we are maintaining a year-round presence, keeping customers coming back and employing workers year-round.”
And just as the Levchuks want customers to have a pleasing shopping experience, they also want their employees happy. In all, the brothers own five Jilly’s businesses, including Jilly’s French Fry Factory and two other T-shirt stores. They ask the employees where they would most like to work, and put them there. Jandras found her niche in screen printing.
“I’d be foolish to ask her to move to another property,” Jody said.
The Levchucks’ entrepreneurial spirit came from their parents Paul and Jill, who with their parents, opened Jilly’s Arcade in 1976. Paul and Jill still own the arcade and Jilly’s Dollar Store.
The brothers have plans to open a 2,000-square foot candy store called – what else – Jilly’s Candy Factory, near Jilly’s T-Shirt Factory at 1048 Boardwalk.
“We will have a modern store with a bit of nostalgia mixed in. For people in their 30s and 40s, they will find candy they remembered as a kid, from Bazooka, to Big League Chews,” Jody said. “Anyone could throw taffy on a table and sell it. We want people to experience something special. If they buy a pack of gum great. We want to create a feeling.”
They plan on opening the store in March.
For more information about Jilly’s locations visit http://shopjillys.com/.