Hot Shoppe Design: Jumping from BMX to Apparel

Hot Shoppe Design’s Dave Marietti has come of age with a company he started as a teenager

Dave Marietti, owner of Hot Shoppe Designs was an avid BMX racer and motocross rider when he got a big break to race pro BMX in 1980. Just a few years later, he started a company that made number plates and t-shirts and has hardly looked back since.

“What led me to start this business was when I was racing BMX, I was sponsored by both Torker and a company called Max, which were both owned by young entrepreneurs,” says Marietti. “As a 15-year-old kid, that seemed like the coolest thing to be able to own your own company and fly all over the world doing something you loved. I also tried to emulate another sponsor of mine, Bob Haro, who made number plates and BMX bikes. So I started making number plates in the beginning. They were called Wizard number plates, which I started at 16 years old, and then at 19, I started Hot Shoppe.”
According to Marietti, Hot Shoppe started out primarily doing heat transfers on jerseys and t-shirts. He used a premade jersey and applied a rubberized heat graphic to that — they were basically a regular t-shirt shop.

“I always serviced the racing market but also the local business community,” says Marietti. “The name came about because I used to make number plates in the back half of a small bicycle shop that was maybe 600 square feet. The bike shop was closing, and I had a chance to lease the whole building including the retail space, so I took the whole space, and I called it the Hot Shoppe because I was always going to the shop in back,” says Marietti.

Marietti says he was always into motorcycles even though he didn’t race them, and as a factory BMX rider, he knew the market from a rider/racer perspective when he started his company. Over the years, he has gained a strong foothold in the BMX and motocross markets; however, Hot Shoppe is not a one-trick pony and has reached out to several emerging markets in the last few years, including surfing and professional bullriding.

“Today, I have 27 employees,” says Marietti. “We ship products all over the world, but we’re still a fairly small niche manufacturer. We make everything in the U.S. Because our tag is custom sports apparel, we don’t stock anything — it’s all custom ordered. People will ask us where they can buy our stuff, and we tell them you have to order it. We’ll put our logo on a custom shirt or product we make for you, but everything is made to order and for your exact specifications. There’s nothing sitting on shelves or SKU numbers, for example,” says Marietti. “It’s also great for dealers. For dealers, a custom jersey is an awesome way to help them build their brand.”

According to Marietti, a motorcycle dealer in Texas really takes advantage of the branding opportunities. “They buy jerseys with their own logos featured on them, and they do it in standard color combinations like Honda and Yamaha and then also in KTM’s colors as well. They buy 500 jerseys a year and either give them away when someone buys a new bike or sell them for the same retail price as a Fox or a Thor jersey. It’s promoting their brand, and you can even add co-op branding to promote your line of products. You can add an oil company or whatever it is and maybe get co-op money to help pay for them. The bigger dealers also buy them for employee shirts. That’s where we have a strong presence.”

Marietti says one of their keys to success has been to specialize in custom pieces geared toward smaller shops. Hot Shoppe’s minimum order for everything including artwork is 25 pieces. “It’s a pretty low minimum, and we actually have pricing for one, six and 12 pieces, too,” says Marietti. “When we do the 25, we include the artwork and setup into the price, so it’s just one fee for everything. It’s a painless, cost-effective way to order and especially makes sense for dealers.”

Currently, Hot Shoppe provides the factory team jerseys for Honda, Kawasaki and KTM, as well as crew shirts for Yamaha and some others. Every shirt or piece Hot Shoppe makes is completely custom. “Customers come to us with an idea, and my art department takes that and comes up with whatever design a customer wants — from mild to wild.”

Even though it’s a custom shirt or jersey, Hot Shoppe has several price points that are set no matter what you get. “Say you want our standard, which is like a pullover pit shirt, it’s made of jersey knit fabric so it’s lightweight, breathable and it stretches and has two buttons in the front,” Marietti explains. “That shirt at 25 pieces with unlimited colors, everything included, is $58. We have another price point at $50, $100 and up. From there they can say, ‘we want a pocket or epaulets on the sleeves.’ We can do anything the customer wants from the way it’s cut, color or graphics. Lead time is generally five weeks for a complete order.”

The days of crew shirts or jerseys with embroidered patches that make you sweat to death and restrict your movement are gone, says Marietti. “The sublimation process dyes the shirt, and it doesn’t change the characteristics of the fabric. It’s the newest technology and is used pretty much across the board now. We cut the fabric first and engineer the print to fit the fabric before it’s sewn together. It does two things: sublimation gives you unlimited use of the print and graphics, and we can also line up the seams. If you have a stripe going from your sleeve across your body, now it can be matched perfectly. You couldn’t do some of these in the past, you’d be very limited to where you could print.”

Marietti says his crew is looking forward to SEMA and exhibiting in the Powersports Pavilion for the first time. “We think it will be good for us because we’ve had a lot of success at other specialty shows.”

If you want to find out more about what Hot Shoppe has to offer, visit www.hotshoppedesigns.com or stop by their booth at SEMA, Nov. 2-5 in Las Vegas.

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