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The Daily Inter Lake

Technical outerwear is no longer just for outdoor enthusiasts.

Corporations and other large firms are now calling on Glacier Clothing Co. of Columbia Falls to embroider their logo onto outdoor gear made by Patagonia, Arcteryx and Gore-Tex, just to name a few.

Glacier Clothing President Bob Upton began with a technical outerwear repair shop in Seattle, Rainy Pass Repair. The company soon grew into a GoreTex-associated company that could retain the product’s warranty even after reworking it to a customer’s specifications.

Glacier Clothing Co. is the embroidery and design shop born from that repair company that gained the respect of outwear industry giants.

But Upton hasn’t been to that Seattle office in over a year.

He said he’s completely embedded in his daughter’s business, which operated out of a converted barn for nearly five years. The equipment, along with 10-year embroiderer Susan Shea, came with Upton to his new shop on Nucleus Avenue in September 2012.

The relocations has been ideal for Upton: a real office space, plenty of shop room for the embroidery equipment and a better facility to bring in the right staff.

Since relocating, Upton has been working to simplify pricing and packaging for the smoothest customer transactions. Details such as colors, measurements and even converting designs to a digital file can get lost in communication. It’s always a technical process, he said, reaching the final design that customers want on their gear.

“It’s that handshake kind of business,” Upton said about his small yet nationally recognized outfit. “This is generally a mom-and-pop-style model, considering the space we have to work with.”

Locally, Glacier Clothing Co. embroiders technical clothing and outerwear for the Whitefish Mountain Race Team, Kimber firearms and Montana Raft Co.

Glacier Clothing also is one of only three embroideries affiliated with Patagonia in the United States.

Glacier Clothing, a three-year-old company, operates under Upton’s original embroidery company, Corporate Image Outfitters. While both companies offer the same service, Glacier Clothing is now the local option for corporations in the Flathead Valley and Montana; Corporate Image Outfitters handles more orders nationwide.

Marketing and sales manager Dennis Torgerson has had a full schedule working for both companies out of the same office. But productivity is the name of the game in the technical outerwear industry.

“We’re trying to fill a niche,” Torgerson said. “And we’ve been able to do business all across America.”

The new shop supports a higher output of products, but the staff has been light. Torgerson and Upton hope the business will become the local go-to for corporations in the Flathead Valley.

“We don’t carry stock designs,” Upton said. “We’ve stuck with the corporate market and we’ve done well there.”

In the shop, Shea, head embroiderer and part-time custom cake designer, appears to be in two places at once — setting up a row of jackets on a multistation sewing machine to stitch logos while a heat transfer pad is warming up waiting for her to press a design on a different order.

The wall behind her is a rainbow of hundreds of spools of colored thread.

“You have to make sure people know exactly what they’re getting, and color is a big deal,” Shea said. “Color is subjective; If something is off we communicate with them until they are sure we’ve gotten it right.”

An average order is between 50 to 100 products, according to Shea. She’s assisted by the quick helping hands of Justin Harmon, who joined the crew three years ago after 10 years of experience embroidering in the Midwest.

Upton said he’s still putting together a full staff, advertising two more positions. The busiest time of the year comes in fall, he said, when he hopes to add another position to the staff.

FOR MORE information, go to www.glacierclothing.com.

Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at slarson@dailyinterlake.com.