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Originally printed in the Scarlet and Black and online at http://www.thesandb.com/community/awards-unlimited-sets-gold-standard-for-personalized-service.html
Awards Unlimited, a local business that specializes in customized clothing and items, has come a long way since its humble 2003 origins. The co-owners, Stephanie and Andrew Hoopes, started out doing some embroidery and heat transfer apparel. Then, they moved on to trophy making and engraving plaques and now they have taken the business to the next level by adding on personalized and customized clothing.
Awards Unlimited was the recipient of the Retail Business Award at the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Awards, which took place on Friday, Feb. 7. According to Hoopes, both she and her husband were notified that their business would be winning an award, but did not have any idea it would be one so prestigious.
“It’s obviously an honor and it makes us feel like we’re doing good things and moving in the right direction,” Stephanie Hoopes said.
The store, located on 931 Main St., offers a variety of products—both readymade and customizable. One of its main products is school spirit or athletic clothing for the local schools in the Grinnell school district, as well as state universities. According to Hoopes, the business has catered to making t-shirts for state tournaments for sports such as football and basketball.
“It’s really fun to be a part of something people are so excited [about]. We take a lot of pride of getting involved in something so important to the community,” she said.
Awards Unlimited also offers custom screen printing and embroidery for almost any type of clothing. Businesses and individuals are encouraged to request customized promotional materials of their choice.
“We can put your logo on just about anything you can imagine,” she explained. “It can be as small as a pen or as large as a folding chair.”
True to its name, the business focuses on producing custom awards and trophies as well. According to Hoopes, Awards Unlimited is very flexible in terms of customers’ needs and can therefore make anything from a single trophy to a whole set.
“We’ll have parents come in wanting to recognize their child’s school achievements, to the local basketball teams and other small jobs like that. We also do big jobs, as well,” she said.
Awards Unlimited’s most well-known returning trophy customer by far is the Iowa State Fair, as the business has been providing many of the fair’s trophies for the past few years. Trophies for the fair’s special events like the Bill Reilly Show, Monster Arm Wrestling and Bench Press are all courtesy of Grinnell’s very own Awards Unlimited.
Although Awards Unlimited has found much success in retailing trophies, plaques and other forms of customized merchandise, the owners have expanded their scope of goods. The latest—and arguably most unlikely—set of products available at Awards Unlimited is its collection of boutique clothing.
“That’s almost a whole separate venture in itself, but it’s really taken off and we’ve seen a great response so far from that,” Stephanie Hoopes said. “It wasn’t really something I saw as going along with what we did, but it actually compliments it quite well.”
Hoopes, a strong believer in the benefits of local businesses, considers community enhancement and economic improvement two key contributions of small businesses. She explained that buying from local businesses keeps more money in the community.
“I have four kids and so you really are supporting a local family and a local business when you give us the opportunity to do a job for you,” Hoopes said. “You’re not lining a major CEO’s pocket, you’re helping send our kids to gymnastics.”
Grinnell prides itself in its economic diversity and Hoopes views this heterogeneity as a crucial foundation for a level playing field, further stressing that local businesses are able to offer equal or better quality compared to larger competitors, while providing more personalized service.
“Just because we’re small town and a small company doesn’t mean we can’t also be competitive with the larger market. We welcome any job, small or large. We want you to be satisfied, to tell your friends, to come back again and again,” she said.